Australia is a wonderfully diverse island continent with a seemingly endless list of itinerary worthy sights, but there is no better way to find an authentic local experience than by visiting a thriving regional destination like Townsville, Queensland. We were born, married and became parents in this North Queensland city. Living in North Queensland for so many years we’ve developed an arsenal of fun things to do in Townsville Australia and Magnetic Island and I’m happy to share our Townsville experiences with you.
This post is a treasure trove of information on what to see and do in Townsville, but if you are time challenged and wondering the best way to see some major highlights, we suggest booking a tour or ticket combination through Get Your Guide.
We use Get Your Guide as a booking agent ourselves and recommend them. Read about our experience booking with Get Your Guide when we visited Whitehaven Beach from Airlie Beach here.
GET YOUR GUIDE TOURS AND TICKETS FOR TOWNSVILLE ACTIVITIES
What You Will Find in This Post
Weather in Townsville Australia – Townsville vs Cairns
Photo of Victoria Bridge Townsville with the Central Business District, Sugar Shaker (Hotel Grand Chancellor) and Townsville’s blue skies.
One thing I learned while living in North Queensland is that Townsville and Cairns have a long history of friendly one-up-man-ship. As a resident I can vouch that Townsville wins the best weather debate hands down.
Cairns, 347 km north of Townsville, is smack bang in the middle of the Wet Tropics, while Townsville lies at the northern end of the Dry Tropics. Although skies are usually sunny in Townsville whatever the season, most people agree, the best time to visit North Queensland is Winter, i.e. June/July and August.
Townsville weather is either hot and humid (wet season) or less hot and humid (dry season). In summer aka the wet season, expect the occasional tropical downpour. It might rain for days, but it most likely won’t.
I’ll tell you why.
Townsville’s dry micro-climate is due to it’s position inside Cape Cleveland. The rain bearing South-Easterly winds bypass the bay and city altogether, hitting the coast further north near Rollingstone. In the dry season May to October Townsville gets a little parched looking, but The Strand and Gardens are kept welcoming and green.
It might be the rebel in me, but I love how Townsville defies weather forecasts and remains steadfastly dry.
Anyway, this never-ending supply of blue skies allows for maximum enjoyment of the many things to see in Townsville and Magnetic Island. If there was a Townsville vs Cairns cloud free days competition, Townsville would win hands down. Yass!
The Sugar Shaker is local talk for the Hotel Grand Chancellor. You can’t beat it for position, position, position right in the centre of Flinders Street, with great views and a pool on the roof.
Fun Things to do in Townsville Australia
Cooling off at Strand Waterpark Photograph by Jan Robinson
With it’s promenade walkways, multiple swimming spots, playgrounds and updated water park, a visit to the Strand is one of the best things to do with kids in Townsville. Actually, Strand Townsville is ever-popular with all age groups, locals and visitors alike. It’s the place to walk the dog (on lead), jog, skate, roller blade, cycle, exercise and meet people. Walking the Strand with an ice-cream from Juliette’s Gelateria, is one of our favourite things to do in Townsville at night.
The Museum of Underwater Art Townsville (MOUA) Sculpture
In December 2019, MOUA Townsville located the Ocean Siren statue on a pylon 30 metres off-shore near Strand Jetty on the Strand Townsville.
During daylight hours the sculpture is a natural looking concrete structure with engraved features, but after dark it responds to live water temperature data from Davies Reef Weather Station on the Great Barrier Reef. As the water temperature changes so do the coloured lighting from within Ocean Siren. (See video by Jan Robinson below)
Sculpture Inspiration and Muse year 6 student Takoda Johnson is a descendent of the Wulgurukaba Tribal Owners.
Another and this time underwater sculpture, has installed at John Brewer Reef for snorkellers and scuba divers to enjoy. At March 2020, the finer details of how the John Brewer Reef installation will be accessed has yet to be approved, with a proposed unveiling in April 2020.
In the not so distant future there will be even more underwater statues at Palm Island, North-East of Townsville and Magnetic Island off-shore from Townsville.
The Strand Rock Pool
People of all ages love the Strand Rock Pool because it’s a great place to cool off in Townsville. With the sloping grass surrounds, covered BBQ’s, ocean fishing decks, playground, flying fox and natural rock climbing, there’s no wonder it is popular. The one huge pool caters for paddling, swimming, diving and wheelchairs with fresh filtered seawater for safe swimming North Queensland style. It’s one of our favourite free things to do in Townsville too.
Regardless of whether the Rock Pool Cafe has the best seafood in Townsville, it certainly has fantastic views over the Rock Pool to Magnetic Island. Opposite is Odyssey on the Strand Townsville where I’ve enjoyed many long lunches and beside them is the exciting new Shorehouse restaurant.
Jezzine Barracks on the Strand
Behind the Rock Pool on Kisssing Point is the 40 million dollar, 15 hectare Jezzine Barracks redevelopment.
It’s a lovely park to enjoy in the cool of late afternoon. A path leads from the carpark, to the headland where information boards share Townsville’s aboriginal heritage and the city’s role in WWII. A Military museum opens Wed/Fri/Sun 9 am to 1 pm and board walks overlook the Coral Sea with playgrounds, BBQ’s and picnic areas. From the top there is a series of steps leading back down to the Rock Pool, completing the circular walk. These aren’t lit so take your phone or torch to light the way.
While on the subject of the Military in Townsville, did you know it has the largest defence force base in Australia?
Dining Strand Townsville – Eyre Street and Gregory Street/Strand Corner
The strand extends for 2.2km and mid-way at the corner of the Strand and Gregory Street is a dining hub including the Seaview Hotel, Coffee Club Townsville Strand, plus C-Bar Strand and Longboard, both of which have absolute waterfront on the Gregory Street Headland.
In early 2020 a new Italian Restaurant, Shop Six Pasta Bar at 5/58 the Strand opened next door to Juliettes Icecreamery under the big trees. Our friends report great food, good menu and casual atmosphere – Townsville Style.
Getta Burger near the Souvlaki Place in Gregory Street has some very affordable and tasty burgers including a vegan burger that gets daughter’s tick of approval, or try the fish and chips at the Harold’s Seafood on the Strand Townsville – it’s a Townsville institution.
Continuing up Gregory Street toward Castle Hill pass Vietnamese Restaurant Lotus Saigon on the left where we regularly rendezvous with our Hanoi Vietnam travel buddy. It sure brings back lots of food memories. On the right is our favourite Japanese Restaurant GYO.
Go left at the corner of Eyre Street and be amazed by the night fairy lights and food and footpath displays leading to the excellent Balabite Israeli Street Food Restaurant and newcomer Grandma’s Home Style Cooking next door – both open by day also.
Dining Strand Townsville – Rock Pool end
The Fish Inn Cafe is located at the Rock Pool itself and diagonally opposite is Odyssey, a Mediterranean restaurant. Two up from Odyssey is Shorehouse Restaurant which forms part of the Shoredrive Motel – a dog friendly accommodation option right on the Strand.
- Bars, Cafes, Restaurants
- Holiday Accommodation
- Townsville Water Park is a top thing to do in Townsville for kids of all ages – Lifeguard – closed Tuesdays outside of holidays TEMPORARILY CLOSED BECAUSE OF 2019 FLOODS.
- Rock Pool Townsville total sea-water turnover every 3 hours, marine stinger-filtered, Lifeguard – closed for Cleaning Thursdays, Free Entrance, Onsite Family Restaurant)
- Strand Fitness Townsville
- Two Ocean Stinger Enclosures with Lifeguards
- Tobruk Memorial Baths – Entrance fee applicable
- Waterfall – man made on the Rock face opposite Tobruk baths
- Boat Marina – with Casino backdrop (The Ville Resort-Casino)
- Three Playgrounds – one with picnic tables within a fenced enclosure for young kids
- Half-basketball court
- Strand Jetty – with shade sails and fish cleaning centres
- Anzac Park Townsville Fountain – This old school colour changing fountain is another of our romantic things to do in Townsville.
- BBQ’s (Gas) – free
- Three Amenity Blocks including showers (Water park, Strand Park, Rock Pool)
- Skydive Townsville has tandem dives that land on the Strand from $395.. talk about fun things to do in Townsville!
Tip. Pack skateboards, scooters, picnic supplies including blanket, bathers, hat and sunscreen.
Castle Hill Townsville
Strand Park (home of the Strand Night Markets) with Castle Hill in the background Photograph by Jan Robinson
When thinking of what to do in Townsville, remember that Townsville residents are fitness fanatics. Join the 3000 locals who climb Castle Hill each week. Walk the road, climb the goat track or go up one way and down the other, the choice is yours, just get out there and do it! We’re devotees of the Goat Track up and the road down.
The best time is after 4 pm when the goat track on the ocean side is shaded and the west facing road catches the setting sun.
Allow half an hour to explore the various Castle Hill Lookouts at the summit. Strollers go via the road both ways or if using a baby pack use the Goat Track. The Castle Hill Townsville Goat track, is probably the most popular free exercise in Townsville, but you can also drive to the summit. Drivers please beware of people using the road.
The summit offers spectacular views across to Magnetic Island, the Port, north to Pallarenda and on to Rattlesnake Island and the Palm Island group. There are also great night time views across the city and suburbs.
If time permits, go during daylight and again at night. You won’t regret it.
The TCC is currently upgrading/adding walking tracks to Mount Louisa in the Suburb of Mt. Louisa. I can’t wait to try them.
Townsville Botanical Gardens
Looking Up Queens Gardens Photograph by Jan Robinson
Known as the Queens Gardens, these botanical gardens are located between The Strand and Castle Hill. Paths wind through lush tropical undergrowth, beneath massive trees and into open grassed areas great for picnics. There is a hedge maze, a fountain that works sometimes, bird aviaries, a basic amenities block and great views of the Castle Hill rock face.
Another Botanic Garden to visit is the Palmetum near Ross River in Annandale suburb.
Anderson Park Botanical Gardens is situated across from Pimlico High and beside the Kokoda Swimming Pool.
These three gardens are all totally different but beautiful.
Dan Gleeson Gardens on Thuringowa Drive is closed due to 10,000 bats now calling it home.
Townsville Museum of Tropical Queensland
Townsville Museum Exterior Photograph by Jan Robinson
Who would think a Museum would be a top contender for the best Townsville activities for kids. Did I say dinosaurs?
Even if you are not an avid museum lover, I know you will enjoy the Museum of Tropical North Queensland. Displays on living in the tropics, exploring rainforests and the exciting Pandora Gallery, combine to make it one of the top things to do in Townsville.
HMS Pandora was sent to capture the mutinous crew of the Bounty in 1790. It subsequently struck the Great Barrier Reef and sunk. I promise that you and the kids will not be bored by this Museum. Insider tip – there is an on-site cafe and fantastic floor to ceiling river and hill views.
The museum is full of fun Townsville things to do with kids and adults. Allow two hours if it’s sunny – more if it’s one of those rare occasions when it rains.
Reef HQ Townsville
Predator Tank Reef HQ Photograph by Jan Robinson
Run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Reef HQ is the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world. The Aquarium sits on the banks of Ross Creek, in the same building as the museum.
It is divided into two parts – the Predator Tank – and the larger 2.5 million litre living coral reef aquarium. They are separated by a walk through tunnel where sharks swim lazily overhead. It’s pretty impressive. Then there are the free standing mini displays containing sea horses, crustaceans and the like. There is even a mangrove eco system with barramundi hiding amongst the roots.
During school holidays check their facebook page to see what kids activities are planned. Kid specific activities are usually held in the morning, while the best coral reef viewing is on a sunny day around lunch time. On-site cafe, souvenir shop and the venue is wheelchair friendly.
Townvsille Diving and Snorkelling
The ultimate dive from Townsville is the wreck of the S.S. Yongala, considered Australia’s top dive site. It’s one of the world’s top ten wreck dives with good year round water temperature. Approximately 3 hours and 90km off-shore, the Yongala is for experienced divers only. For a shorter boat trip drive south to the town of Ayr from where the trip to the S.S. Yongala only takes 30 minutes.
Although most people think Cairns or Port Douglas when they want to visit the Great Barrier Reef, you can do so from Townsville. Read about it here.
Riverway Townsville is 13 km and 20 minutes from the Strand and attractions include:
- Riverway Swimming Pool Townsville – two fantastic free lagoon pools. With a joint size of 3 olympic pools, the top lagoon has lap lanes and disabled access and the lower lagoon is just for fun with a toddler area.
- CBar restaurant overlooking the top infinity pool through full length glass windows
- BBQ’s – free
- Beautiful landscaped gardens beneath huge rain trees
- Delightful views of the River
- Riverway Cafe and Riverway Arts Centre (performance venue)
- 400 carparks
- Wheelchair friendly
- Diagonally Opposite Willows Shopping Town in Thuringowa Central
- Cross River Walking track
- Bird watching
- Free Movies Friday evenings (May to December) Check the Townsville City Council’s Whats On webpage.
- Foot Bridge from Weir School Carpark to Riverview Tavern (another of our romantic things to do in Townsville)
- Close to Cannon Park Townsville Entertainment Hub (Cinema, Restaurants and a Pub)
Riverway contains our favourite winter walking route. We do the circular route starting at Weir School, past the lagoon pools, crossing the river on the pedestrian walkway under Vickers Bridge, along the other side of the river by Riverview Tavern (and Mocha Mecca Cafe) and back across the footbridge to Weir School.
The Strand is a well-known outdoor venue in Townsville – Riverway is less so. It’s kind of a local secret.
Where to Stay at Riverway
Jacana Apartments are mid-rise apartments built directly on the banks of the Ross River. Surrounded by huge rain trees and parkland they are a great place to stay. The apartments are not exactly a budget option but are easily accessible from the A1 Bruce Highway, are close to Willows Shopping Town, 1300 Smiles Stadium, the James Cook University and Townsville Hospital. Being fully self-contained apartments they have the cost saving benefits of your own kitchen and laundry.
JACANA APARTMENTS Riverway are a good place to stay here.
Bird Watching Townsville
The view from one of the hides on the Town Common. It’s such a peaceful place to be.
Townsville Common Photograph by Jan Robinson
With Ross River running through the suburbs of Townsville from Ross Lake to Cleveland Bay, the birds of Townsville are many and varied. At just 6km from the CBD, the Town Common, known for it’s water birds including Brolgas and Cranes, is a handy bird watching area on the way to Pallarenda, while Magnetic Island is the place for seabirds. Bird watching is a wonderful free thing to do in Townsville – if you love watching birds that is. Read more about bird watching areas here.
Good Morning Coffee Traders at Charters Towers Road, Townsville Photograph by Jan Robinson
Townsville has a thriving coffee/cafe culture best described as an addiction. The places we recommended below make great Coffee, are in different locations around the City, and some cater to special dietary needs.
- Hoi Polloi in arty Flinders Lane, CBD,
- Fat Dogz Cafe Townsville at Cannon Park, Kirwan is an outdoors only venue/fast/friendly/free doggie biscuits plus NQ Cowboys pop in after training,
- Good Morning Coffee Trader at 293 Ingham Road, Garbutt (Close to Airport) in-store & drive through, plus another at Castletown Shopping Centre, Hyde Park. Their cafe and drive through at 195 Charters Towers Road, Hermit Park is housed in the old ANZ Bank building – a great transformation! I’m quite besotted with Good Morning Coffee Trader *****.
- Botanical Style, Homewares and Coffee. 120A Charters Towers Road, Hermit Park. Great Coffee and gorgeous homewares spread through three rooms. I dare you to visit without buying something previous for your home.
- Coffee Dominion CBD roasting their own since 1998 with Australia-wide distribution. Good Morning Coffee Traders use their coffee.
- Juliettes – 58 The Strand, North Ward (next to Coffee Club Townsville in the Strand Dining Hub and around the corner from Freelance Coffee). We’ve included this as the perfect allrounder for the whole family to enjoy and especially for it’s ambience, prime location and ice-cream.
- Wattles and Wagtails – coffee shop opening Saturday 24/4/21 in the historic Queens Hotel on the Strand.
- The Spirited Goat – The Precinct (near Mint Indian) Fairfield Waters. My go to when working. It gets packed at lunch time as it is close to the Lavarack Army Barracks. Sit inside or in the breezeway. BACK OPEN AFTER THE 2019 FLOODS.
- Ottos Fresh Food Market Warrina Currajong – The german bakehouse and deli with a cult following now has a new menu with a vegan option. Yes Avocado halves filled with marinated mushrooms served with artisan sourdough I’m looking at you.
Townsville Cafes catering to special diet needs.
In recent years Townsville has really stepped up to cater for special dietary needs.
Eden Cafe Townsville, Rising Sun – Gluten Friendly and Eden Earth Plant Based Cuisine (Vegan). Eden has a loyal Vegan following and do take home vegan meals. They also do great beef Burgers and showcase local artists. SADLY EDEN CAFE HAS NOW CLOSED DUE TO PERSONAL REASONS.
Paleo Cafe Townsville, CBD once strictly Caveman, but now rebranded as Born Wild Wholefood + Espresso. Gluten Free, Wholefoods Menu. At the corner of City Lane and Flinders Street.
Mocha Mecca Cafe Townsville, Douglas – a large proportion of Gluten Free cakes and meals. This cafe pioneered Gluten Free Cafe Food in Townsville. Basically the menu is normal with a lot of gluten free concessions, especially in the sweets department. I love breakfast or morning tea in the outside courtyard with my gluten free girlfriend. The park and river views are so peaceful.
The Beet Bar Townsville, CBD house made guilt free food – Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Meat. Popular lunch venue.
City Lane Townsville
City Lane is a lively arcade modelled on the laneways of Melbourne. City Lane has nine food and dining venues and although it is open during the day it really pumps on Friday and Saturday nights. Choices include Korean, Japanese, Greek, American, Italian and 4 for $14 beer paddles at the Tap House. It’s a great place to hang out with a group of friends. Don’t miss the huge wall mural and street art in the courtyard out back.
Townsville Street Art
Street Art by Belgian Artist ROA, Townsville Photograph by Jan Robinson
Did someone say Townsville Street Art? There is a great mix of street art in Townsville’s CBD, including works by ROA, The Run Collective, HAHA, Beastman, Fintan Magee, Lee Harnden and more. Hunt them down in Denham Lane, Ogden Street, City Lane, Sturt Street, Melton Terrace and Flinders Street.
The above painting of Croc and Turtle by Belgian artist ROA, can be found in the Sturt Street Carpark of the Cowboys Leagues Club, CBD. Other favourites are near Hoi Polloi Cafe (2) and behind City Lane. Take a look at this in-depth post on Townsville Street Art, the artists and works.
More ROA Street Art near Hoi Polloi Photograph by Jan Robinson
Wine and Paint and Yoga
Arc Yoga is a small and personal yoga studio in Tavern Street Kirwan. Owned and run by Yoga teacher Maria, an inspiring young Mum who also offers Groovy kids yoga classes, Arc (meaning Shine in Sanskrit) holds small friendly classes for all ages and abilities. I’ve been to many yoga classes at Arc Yoga and always leave feeling stretched and at peace with my world.
Especially popular are it’s fun fortnightly Arc Yoga Wine and Paint evenings. If you want a fun evening of painting and laughter with friends, BYO bottle and the rest is provided. $50 per person and look on their facebook page. Plan to include this fun thing to do in Townsville in your itinerary.
Townsville Markets have something for everyone. I love discovering collectibles at Label Traders, finding a special hand made gift at Strand Night Markets and buying fruit and vegetables from Willows Markets, but it’s all totally subjective. Our artist daughter loves Renegade Markets. Markets are fun things to do in Townsville.
Townsville Art for sale at the Sunday Cotters Market.
Cotters Market Art Stall by Jan Robinson
Cotters Market Townsville – Every Sunday 8.30 a.m. till 1 p.m. Arts, Crafts, locally grown fruit and vegies, new and pre-loved clothing, relaxed open-air atmosphere. A favourite with locals and tourists alike. Flinders Street/Flinders Square Townsville CBD. The longest running market in Townsville.
Strand Markets Townsville. First Friday of the month February to December (2nd Friday in July). Great Venue in Strand Park right on the ocean. There is nothing better than the buzzing atmosphere, 200 stalls including plenty of food stalls, plus live music. There is an amazing variety of art on sale and this is a great place to pick up an unusual gift or souvenir. 5 p.m. till 9.30 p.m. Love, Love, Love it.
Renegade Markets Townsville. Second Sunday of the month, rain, hail or shine at the ‘Marian School’, 140 Corcoran Street, Currajong. Mostly undercover. Handmade items a cut above the rest.
Mundingburra Markets – Replacing the now closed Label Traders Market Townsville. Third Sunday of the Month. Vintage. Recycled. Hand made clothes. Designer. Antiques. Collectibles. Jewellery. Mundingburra State School, 77 Ross River Road,Mundingburra. Check their facebook page for confirmation of dates. Cheap take away food on site. This is my kind of market.
Willows Markets Townsville. Every Sunday morning 7.30 to 11.30 a.m. jewellery, clothing, art, food (some Vegan). If you are staying in Kirwan this is the place to pick up your fruit and vegetables.
Riverway Night Markets Townsville. Third Friday of the Month. After work – February to December.
Perc Tucker Art Gallery is named after a past mayor of Townsville. Perc was elected in 1976 and died in 1980. Well known and respected by locals he made himself available to any function, no matter how small. His colourful character was celebrated in the gallery naming in 1981. Situated in a Heritage building at the corner of Denham and Flinders Street, it is free and the exhibitions are varied and interesting.
Cotters Market takes place out the front of Perc Tucker Gallery so pop in and have a look while you’re there. It’s air-conditioned and don’t miss the second floor.
Pinnacles Art Gallery at Pioneer Park, Kirwan, is located in the beautiful Riverway Precinct. The gallery is a dynamic art space with a focus on New Media.
Best Restaurants in Townsville
Mint Indian Gourmet Restaurant, The Precinct by Jan Robinson
A Touch of Salt Townsville. The modern Australian food served at this CBD restaurant is consistently good and we think it’s one of the best places to eat in Townsville. We’ve had many family celebrations both inside the restaurant and in the Ross Creek courtyard. Connected to Palmer Street South Townsville by Victoria Bridge Townsville, a dedicated foot bridge. $$$
Look at the Touch of Salt Facebook Page to see the innovative measures they have taken to ensure their restaurant dining meets and exceeds the current advice from health authorities.
Jam on Palmer Street a go to spot for breakfast in Townsville, and dinners too. We’ve had many family and friends get togethers here. Indoor/Outdoor dining with river and city views. Connected to the city by Victoria Bridge foot bridge. $$
Mint Indian Gourmet restaurant at the Precinct in Fairfield Waters has fabulous indian food and is good for smaller dinner parties. The waiter here is one of those old guys who remembers your order without writing it down. Top Notch Indian Food and good wines. $$
The Balcony Restaurant Townsville is situated in the Townsville CBD in a lovely heritage building. Another breakfast in Townsville spot, The Balcony is accessed by a tall polished timber staircase. It has an air-conditioned old school dining area and a balcony eating area with views of the historical Post Office building and Flinders Street. $$
GYO Japanese in Gregory Street North Ward has been around for years and serves the best Japanese Food in Townsville. On Friday night the line of hopefuls extends through the courtyard onto the footpath, so be sure to book. Even Townsville Celebrities without a booking get turned away on Friday nights. $$
La Cucina Pizza and Pasta BYO, Forest Avenue, Kirwan. Our favourite hidden gem in the suburbs. My favourite dish here is Chicken Cacciatore with Salad and the gnocchi is traditional home-made. Casual Eating and Italian ambience, with loyal Pizza and Pasta Take-Away customers. $
Cool river views from the deck of Riverview Tavern by Jan Robinson
Riverview Tavern (Douglas) is best for drinks and eats on the deck overlooking Ross River. We love the deck, but there are also air-conditioned areas. They have Modern Pub accommodation, close to James Cook University and Townsville Hospital. If you’re on the other side of the river, park at Weir School on Ross River Road and use the cross river footbridge to reach the pub.
Sunday Drinks at the newly revamped Quarterdeck (Breakwater) with it’s DJ, Dance-floor and Maggie Island views. Located at the-Ville Casino. Think Share Plates, Seafood, Tacos, Steaks and Burgers. Don’t miss this one.
Friday Afternoons at The Brewery Townsville, (Flinders Street CBD) rock. Located in the historic Townsville Post Office building, the Brewery recently renovated the tower clock, which hasn’t worked forever. They deserve kudos for this feat, so pop in and see where they brew Townsville Bitter and more. Craft Tasting Paddle. Outside deck appealing in the afternoon.
Friday Afternoons overflow at The Wild Goose Brews and Chews, Flinders Street East, CBD. From 6pm every day except Monday and from 12 noon Fridays. Our son told us about this one so maybe it’s for the younger crowd!
Things to do Around Townsville
Paradise Lagoon by Jan Robinson
Barra Farm Townsville
Situated at 505 Allambie Lane Kelso this is a Water Fun Park and a Barra Fishing Farm. Open from 1st September through the Summer months. No need to worry about marine stingers and crocodiles here!
For morning tea or lunch and some slightly cooler weather head to the Ivy Cottage Paluma, a rainforest retreat North Queensland style. On the back verandah of the old cottage, indulge in a Devonshire tea with home-made jam, amidst the birds and butterflies of the Paluma World Heritage Rainforest. It is 77km north of Townsville along the Bruce Highway – read directions here. It is so beautiful and relaxing on the back deck and if asked staff will point out some walks through the Paluma Rainforest.
Hervey Range Tea Rooms
Continue out of town on Hervey Range Road and at the top of the range to find the Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms located in the old Eureka Hotel (1865). Everything from Civet Poo Coffee (it’s a real thing) to scones and high teas. Sit in the garden with it’s walks and fairy garden or within the historical inn. 50 km and 40 minutes from the Townsville CBD. Every day (except Xmas) 9 am to 4 pm. These tea rooms are included in the Full Day Tour mentioned above.
Swimming and Picnics
Crystal Creek North Queensland
Swimming is part of cooling down when living in North Queensland. Swimming picnics at Paradise Lagoon (that’s it in the photo above) at Big Crystal Creek on the way to Mt. Spec and Paluma, or Little Crystal Creek Townsville swimming holes on Mt. Spec road are big winners for us.
Townsville’s northern beaches are on the way to Mt. Spec and Paluma. Deserted and beautiful they are great for picnics and long beach walks.
- The first beach north of town is Bushland Beach, known more for the pub’s counter meals and swimming pool than the tide challenged beach itself.
- Then comes Saunders 30 km north (free overnight camping) with 6km of beach,
- Toolakea (Bluewater Creek) 40 km north,
- under the radar Toomulla (48 hour camping),
- Balgal (Rollingstone) 60 km north with a licensed cafe and creek boat ramp, stinger enclosure Nov-May. Balgal Beach has 48 hour free camping as does Rollingstone Creek back on the highway. Turn off before Rollingstone Bridge to get to Balgal Beach.
They grow the best pineapples in the world at Rollingstone. Buy from road side stalls or at Rollingstone Service Station on the highway.
Beware: There could be saltwater crocodiles on the northern beaches and creeks.
Alligator Creek Swimming Hole is to the South of Townsville in Bowling Green Bay National Park. This is a safe freshwater swimming spot without crocodiles. It’s great for BBQ’s, swimming and rock hopping to a waterfall. Don’t leave food in bags on the ground – the bush turkeys will steal it. Hang it from a tree, place it in a secure esky (cooler), or leave it in the car.
Map Townsville CBD to Magnetic Gateway Village Caravan Park to Billabong Sanctuary and Alligator Creek Townsville.
Mount Stuart Townsville
Photo of Mount Stuart as seen from Castle Hill Reservoir by Jan Robinson
Mount Stuart with it’s landmark television towers and beacons, provides the backdrop for Lavarack Barracks, the largest defence force base in Australia. It’s a 25 minute trip from the CBD on Stuart Drive en-route to Charters Towers. There is a viewing platform at the summit with views back to Townsville and Magnetic Island.
At 5km, this mountain road is longer than Castle Hill road and is generally considered suitable only for more serious walkers. The road is mainly used by vehicles (as opposed to walkers) and mountain bike riders use the technical downhill trails on either side of the public road.
Townsville Rockwheelers Mountain Bike Club know all the best mountain bike tracks on Mount Stuart and in the Townsville region.
Things to do in Charters Towers
Photo of the Gold Battery Charters Towers by Jan Robinson
The distance from Townsville to Charters Towers is a mere 134 km. Charlies Trousers is a great place for a glimpse of the Australian Outback. This 1870’s gold mining town is a vibrant country town of 8,000 people today. The town holds quaint reminders of it’s birth in the Gold Rush days when the population swelled to 25,000.
Whenever we arrive in Charters Towers the world slows just a little – well maybe a lot. The heat is different for starters – it’s a dry heat that reminds me of cattle, ringers and rodeos. To my mind Charters Towers is where the outback begins.
What better place is there for some country music?
The Charters Towers Country Music Festival is held at the Charters Towers Showground in May each year. The festival celebrated it’s 41st year in 2018.
Check out some nice old pubs like the Royal Private Hotel (1888).
The largest Amateur Cricket Comp in the southern hemisphere – the Charters Towers Goldfield Ashes – is held here each Australia Day, with 250 cricket teams participating.
Embrace the gold mining past at the Venus Battery Charters Towers. and take a look at the Stock Exchange building (yes back in the day they had their own stock exchange).
Texas Longhorn Charters Towers – Take a Texas Longhorn Wagon Tour – 10 km north on the Gregory Development Road.
Tors Drive-In Charters Towers – Do you remember Drive-In theatres? Well Charters Towers still has one, so make it a date. Afterwards plan to camp the night and sit around the camp fire at Bivouac Junction Caravan and Camping Park.
Go North to Tyto Wetlands at Ingham
Tyto Wetlands Collage by Jan Robinson
Located at Ingham, 112 km north of Townsville, Tyto Wetlands is a 90 hectare natural wetland home to 230 bird species. It is one of only a few places in the world where the TYTO Capensis endangered owl can be found (at dusk). Tyto Self-Contained RV Parking $10 per van per night. Book and pay at TYTO information centre.
A further 51km west of Ingham is Wallaman Falls Queensland, the largest single-drop waterfall in Australia at 268 metres. On the coast near Ingham is the fishing village of Lucinda. You can read about the trip from Townsville to Lucinda here.
The waters off Lucinda are a boating paradise. The Hinchinbrook Channel connects Lucinda to Cardwell in the north.
The off-shore tropical islands of Pelorus and Orpheus are great places to camp, snorkel, fish or stay in the luxurious Orpheus Island resort.
Go South to Billabong Sanctuary
Image Sheila Brunskill; Billabong Sanctuary
Overseas visitors and Aussie families love interacting with the Australian Animals at Billabong Sanctuary Townsville. Our young family was always excited to spend a special day out at Billabong. From 9.10 a.m. till 4.40 p.m. there is a full line-up of wildlife shows or you can choose to walk around the billabong at your own pace.
Animals include Kangaroos, Echidnas, Koalas, Emus, Dingoes, Cockatoos, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Snakes, Lace Monitors, Salt and Fresh Water Crocodiles.
Opening Hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Locals Tip: Take your bathers along and cool off in the on-site swimming pool. Take an esky with a picnic lunch – picnic tables provided.
Things to do on Magnetic Island
Photo of Magnetic Island from The Strand Townsville by Jan Robinson
Strictly speaking, Magnetic Island is a suburb of Townsville and many locals live there, commuting by ferry each day for work. Maggie is a fondly-guarded holiday destination and I class it as one of the best things to do in Townsville.
Pack the family car and drive onto Fantasea Magnetic Island car ferry (bookings required) on the south side of Ross Creek. Twenty minutes later your tropical island holiday begins. I never tire of that instant On Holiday feeling and Magnetic Island is such a great value destination in more ways than one.
We mostly take our own vehicle, but cars and scooters can be hired through Magnetic Island car hire companies. You can even go topless (car hire that is) or catch a Magnetic Island bus from the ferry terminal. The bus is a great option if you want to go directly to Horseshoe Bay and maybe stop off at Arcadia on the way back. Nothing beats a car for versatility though.
There are many National Park walking tracks and a multitude of palm fringed beaches to relax on.
Look for wild koalas on the Forts Walk Magnetic Island, snorkel in Florence Bay or visit cute Radical Bay, feed the rock wallabies, enjoy a West Point Sunset or a quiet counter lunch at Picnic Bay. We like to snorkel at Florence Bay, but there are also two dedicated snorkel trails – one at Nelly Bay and one at Geoffrey Bay.
Horseshoe Bay Magnetic Island is furthest from Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal. It’s the bay for water-sports including Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks, has an attractive almost deserted long horseshoe shaped beach, a lively waterfront bar and island style cafe strip. There is a handy small supermarket and a couple of casual boutiques selling clothes and beach requirements.
Horseshoe is also the bay for horse-riding. There are 2 hour trail rides down to the beach both morning and afternoon, where you can change into bathers and ride bareback in the ocean. My horse refused to go fully into the water, he possibly sensed my reticence.
Another time our young kids rode horses around the paddock, led by staff with us watching on. Doesn’t sound too interesting hey? But they loved it and I wasn’t a complete nervous wreck.
Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay and Arcadia all have shops, restaurants and accommodation choices.
Check out the island ambience at Man Friday’s Mexican, one of Nelly Bay’s restaurants, with party lights overhead and dim lighting it has a very casual feel. Set in the garden of a house, the local possums come out at night to be fed – typical of the things to do on Magnetic Island.
Magnetic Island backpackers choose between Base Magnetic Island (full moon party Magnetic Island), Arcadia Hotel Magnetic Island and Bungalow Bay (YHA) at Horseshoe Bay. Bungalow Bay has three wildlife presentations a day which are open to the public. Purchase tickets at reception.
There are plenty of resorts and holiday homes available for rent on the island.
Townsville Accommodation Guide
Accommodation Townsville Strand*
The Strand Townsville offers some great holiday accommodation in Townsville that is near Townsville Airport (4.7 km or 8 minutes away by car). The QCWA Kissing Point Units are air-conditioned and located opposite the Rock Pool and seasonal (Nov/May) stinger enclosure. They have a grand position with an affordable price tag.
A popular budget accommodation option behind the Strand, offering double rooms and dorms is Foreign Exchange Accommodation – Beachside.
There are motels catering to all budget levels along the Strand, including Strand Motel Townsville, Aquarius on the Beach, Waters Edge, Ocean Breeze by the Strand (actually one street back but with some Strand views) and Mariners North (higher priced with absolute beachfront) at the far end of the Strand. This end of the Strand is close to Breakwater Terminal where Sealink passenger ferry connects to Nelly Bay Marina Magnetic Island.
CLICK HERE FOR ACCOMMODATION CLOSE TO STRAND BEACH TOWNSVILLE.
Accommodation Palmer Street South Townsville. Foodie hub with accommodation options connected to the CBD by a foot and traffic bridge. Accommodation in the Palmer Street area includes Townsville Central Hotel, Allure Hotel & Apartments, Grand Hotel, Quest, Park Regis Anchorage, Oaks Metropole, Rydges and budget option Adventurers Backpackers Resort. Palmer Street is closest to Fantasea Car Ferry to Magnetic Island
Accommodation Bowen Road is located near the southern entrance to the City. This is where you will find motels with car parking outside your room. It is easy to find Bowen Road Townsville accommodation when arriving by car from the south. Try Billabong Lodge, Coolabah Hotel, Q Express and Raintree Motel. Bowen Road is 5-6 km from Townsville Airport.
Accommodation Flinders Street West CBD, Townsville L’Abode, Central Holborn and Central Islington and Central Kensington Apartments all by Vivo are high rise apartments, closest to Townsville Train Station. For something different in the same area try Classique Bed & Breakfast, a traditional Queenslander Style Home.
Accomodation CBD, between Flinders Street East and West, is the budget accommodation option of Civic Guesthouse.
Accommodation Flinders Street East CBD. More an entertainment hub than an Accommodation Hub, Flinders Street East is home to Rambutan Townsville, a fairly recent arrival on the scene.
We love this Flashpacker style accommodation with rooftop pool, pool side cabanas, bar swings and casual open air restaurant. It’s the place for the party crowd to gather before hitting the town and for everyone to enjoy a relaxed lunch.
Reef Lodge Backpackers is cheap, clean and quiet backpacker accommodation, located just around the corner from Flinders Street East in Wickham Terrace. It is close to Sea Link Breakwater Terminal for the Magnetic Island Ferry.
CLICK HERE FOR TOWNSVILLE AND MAGNETIC ISLAND HOSTELS.
Caravan Parks Townsville.
Choosing the best caravan park in Townsville depends on your location requirements. We recommend Townsville Tourist and Lifestyle Village if you wish to be located near Riverway, Willows Shopping Town or 1300 Smiles Stadium Townsville (home-ground of the NQ Cowboys). We enjoyed our week-long stay at this spotless park. Amenities are new, spacious, well-maintained and wheelchair friendly. Swimming Pool.
Secura Lifestyle Magnetic Gateway is a relaxed and spacious pet friendly caravan park at the southern entrance to the city. From there it is a 9km straight run through the suburb of Railway Estate to the city and the Strand. It is close to the Townsville Turf Club, Fairfield Central Shopping Centre and is on the road south to Alligator Creek Swimming and Billabong Sanctuary. Amenities are airy older style, spacious, clean and wheelchair friendly. We enjoyed our two week stay here. Swimming Pool. See above map.
Rowes Bay Beachfront Caravan Park, has an enviable location, opposite a 7 km long beach, running from Rowes Bay to Cape Pallarenda, plus it is close to the Strand and City. There is a bike/running track between road and beach, culminating at the beach suburb of Pallarenda. We have not stayed here so can’t make a personal recommendation.
Read our free camping guide for the Bruce Highway which includes free camps near Townsville.
Townsville has some awesome events and everyone gets out to support them. Find them here.
The North Queensland Cowboys (NRL)
The North Queensland Cowboys NRL team have their home ground at 1300 smiles stadium in Kirwan. Don’t miss this if you are an NRL fan. It’s a lovely sitting out in the balmy night air and the vocal crowds add to atmosphere. You can take your own food into the stadium as long as it is home made and doesn’t have any commercial packaging. Only soft sided coolers are allowed and no alcohol can be brought in. The most popular home game of the year is always the Cowboys vs. Broncos, both Queensland teams.
Photo of The New Townsville Stadium – Queensland Country Bank Stadium by Jan Robinson
In February 2020 the new North Queensland Cowboys Stadium opened.
New Townsville Stadium name: Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
New Townsville Stadium Capacity: 25,000 people.
New Townsville Stadium Address: 2 Pride Close Railway Estate, across the river from the Townsville CBD.
It is located 1.2 km from Townsville CBD. By foot it is accessible via:
- Lowths Bridge to the north of the Stadium.
- Little Fletcher Pedestrian Bridge south of the Stadium.
- Reid Park Active Transport Bridge (by stairs only).
More information here.
Townsville Fire (WNBL)
Townsville Fire is Townsville’s team in the Womens National Basketball League. They play at Murray Sporting Complex and I think their games are more entertaining and fun to watch than mens’ games. I’ve been several times and loved it and I’m not even a big basketball fan.
Townsville 400 V8 Supercars
Townsville 400 V8 Supercars are loved by car racing enthusiasts and it is a friendly up close track to watch the action on. Much of the road is purpose built and it is a favourite with drivers. I’ve been twice and enjoyed walking past the pits, sitting on the hill and having a few beers in the sunshine. My friend and I did have to ask our neighbours who was in the lead though.
Everyone appreciates the top line band at the Saturday night race concert. The event has been held in July each year since 2009.
Palm Creek Folk Festival
Daughter and I make the Palm Creek Festival a mother and daughter week-end. We camp in the Pumpkin Patch or the Orchard and revel in the casual ambience, catching up with friends, eating from the fabulous food caravans, drifting from stage to stage and being wowed by the variety of acts. We take our moon and star fire-pit, get smoky and drink some mellow wines.
2019 Palm Creek Folk Festival will be held 6-9 June.
Biennial Sculpture Festival held on the Strand. Strand Ephemera dates in 2019 the dates are 26th July to 4th August.
History of Townsville
The Old Townsville Railway Station
Old Townsville photos show Victory Day Celebrations out the front of the Old Townsville Railway Station at the end of World War II. Looking at the facade of this late 19th Century Railway Station you might well be transported to Europe. With it’s three storey red brick and cream trims, ballustrades, arches and pillars it is a nostalgic sight.
The Ticket Hall with it’s original tiles has an honour board of Railway workers from WWI. I remember standing at the ticket counter with my parents before being shepherded through to the platform. Porters pushed luggage trolleys as last farewells were said.
Photo of the old Townsville Railway Station by Jan Robinson
On the platform is the marble drinking fountain and luggage trolley.
Photo of the rear of the Old Townsville Train Station by Jan Robinson
The station can be found in Flinders Street west on the corner of Blackwood Street opposite the Great Northern Hotel. Continue west past the station and turn left, into the carpark at the Central Islington Apartments. From there access can be gained to the back of the station and the platform where story boards tell of it’s history and where you can see old photos of Townsville.
In 2017 a group of Paranormal Investigators Townsville declared sections of the old train station to be haunted.
This is a popular place (for those in the know) to take photographs of family groups and special occasions.
Read more about the Old Townsville Railway Station.
Historical Walking Trails.
Townsville’s Inner City area is brimming over with beautiful old buildings. They have moved with the times and now house a collection of nightclubs, restaurants and galleries. You can admire them in Flinders Street and Palmer Street or collect some brochures and explore the Heritage Trails in more detail.
Trail 1 – Civic Pride – Traces the growth of the heart of Townsville’s CBD.
Trail 2 – Early Townsville – Reveals the city’s earliest port-related commercial precinct in the original heart of the city.
Trail 3 – South Townsville & Port – Tells the story of the industry and residences of this working class suburb.
Townsville Information Centre is at 280 Flinders Street in the CBD. I collected our brochures from the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
Townsville WWII History
Townsville has an interesting war time history with WWII battlements remaining both on the mainland and Magnetic Island. It is a little known fact that Townsville was actually bombed by the Japanese in WWII. My mother’s family lived amidst a huge deployment of American Soldiers at the suburb of Stuart and she used a troop train to get to work. Visit the museum at Jezzine Barracks The Strand or take the Military History Tour above.
Townsville Heritage Centre
Over the years, Miner’s cottages have been relocated from Charters Towers to Townsville’s older suburbs like South Townsville and West End.
From March to November you can explore old buildings dating back to the 1800’s at the Townsville Heritage Centre at 5 Castling Street, West End. Currajong portrays the house of a fictional prominent family, Workers Cottage is the oldest identifiable residence and Farmhouse is representative of the area in the old days.
Build your own list of Townsville experiences.
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Wow what an epic post Jan! I have been to Townsville three times either for work or just passing through but it definitely deserves more exploration! Have pinned so next time I am going will be consulting your post to inform my planning!
Hi Tracy. I hope it is a helpful post. Let me know if you want to know anything else.
This is a very comprehensive guide on what to do and see in Townsville. I will pin this for future travel planning. I never knew that Townsville was drier that Cairns. I have definitely learnt something new and I will look forward to visiting here one of these days.
Thanks Kathy. Yes Townsville certainly is drier. If it has recently rained it is nice and green, but soon after everything starts drying out. Some years it rains more and the green is maintained. Townsville has the Ross River Dam which was desperately low for years but last year it rained in the catchment area and it rose to 98% full!
Hi Jan. Townsville looks like a great place to visit. I must admit I have been to Cairns. That was back in 1980, and I did enjoy my time there. If I ever get back to Australia, I’ll make a point of visiting Townsville. I love the turtle and the croc street art.
Hi Nancie, Cairns is the tourist centre of the north, Townsville is more of a home grown centre. Magnetic Island is great for a relaxed holiday.
I’ve heard such good things about Townsville, but “hot and humid” and I are not friends. 🙂 Sounds like winter would be an excellent time for me to explore.
Hot and Humid – We lived in it for much of our lives. I do like it to a certain extent but I’m loving the lesser heat down here on the Sunshine Coast.
I camped in Townsville in 1983 when I was backpacking. Sang Stairway to Heaven on accoustic guitar with a fellow camper – dreamy fella with long hair 🙂 and drank way too much wine. I wrote poetry sitting on the beach at sunrise pining for Dave who I’d just met (still have some of those dreadful moony poems!) and loved everything about Townsville. I’ve been back once but would love to linger longer and discover more fun things to do in Townsville from your fabulous guide.
I think it’s great that we did such crazy things in our youth and how lovely that you did end up with Dave!
Lol! And now it’s 31 years and counting! Sharing your fab post on Pinterest right now 🙂
Never heard of Townsville Australia before reading your post. Very impressed by your extensive guide 🙂
Hi Kathy, Thanks for your feedback. Would you be interested in me doing a guest post on Townsville on your site?