Fun in the sun! The hottest guide to Townsville and surrounds

You beauty. Welcome to Townsville. Credit: Megan MacKinnon

Looking for a memorable North Queensland getaway? This sunny city has all the right ingredients for a fun-filled escape.

Sparkling by day and night: Townsville city and Ross Creek. Credit: Megan MacKinnon

With 300-plus days of sunshine each year, Townsville quickly finds itself on the radar of many visitors. And it’s just one of myriad drawcards to this vibrant North Queensland city.

Beautiful beaches, gorgeous gardens, and easy access to prized islands are major lures. Then there are surrounding World Heritage-listed treasures, first-rate attractions for all ages, and the ever-present backdrop of imposing Castle Hill.

And yet still there’s more.

It’s time to get to know terrific Townsville.

Day-trip paradise: Nearby Magnetic Island is idyllic. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Quick facts

  • Founded: 1864.
  • Location: Situated on Cleveland Bay; carved by the Ross River and Ross Creek.
  • Population: 190,000 plus.
  • Named after: Merchant and entrepreneur, Robert Towns.

Townsville's rich history is tangibly evident through its glorious heritage buildings.

Must-do Townsville experiences

Clearly, embracing the outdoors is vital when visiting this sun-drenched city.

Feel Townsville’s heartbeat at The Strand, a picturesque, palm-lined beachfront promenade that offers 2.2km of entertainment. Highlights include bike paths and walkways, picnic spots, easy access to the beach, an action-packed water park, and restaurants and bars offering sparkling water views.

The Strand has widespread, all-ages appeal. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Or get your bearings with a climb to the top of Castle Hill, the iconic granite monolith that keeps watch over the city. Centrally located and accessible by vehicle or on foot, Castle Hill provides spectacular 360-degree views from atop. This outlook is particularly breathtaking at sunrise or sunset.

Fit for a king: The views atop Castle Hill are sensational. Credit: Megan MacKinnon

Island hopping

Exploring nearby Magnetic Island is another essential experience when visiting Townsville. Regular 20min ferry rides reach this star-studded island and its vast assortment of attractions.

Striking secluded beaches, craggy boulders, and sprinklings of rainforest are among the varied landscapes, while the island is home to wildlife that includes rock wallabies and koalas.

It can all be spotted on a network of walking trails: The 4km return Forts Walk is among the standout paths.

Or hit the water: Swimming, fishing, and sailing are among many aquatic-related leisure activities to enjoy here. Also, Magnetic Island is part of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, so expect first-rate snorkelling and diving opportunities.

Majestic Magnetic Island is awash with appeal.

Beaches in Townsville

Aside from those incredibly inviting Magnetic Island beaches, try these stretches of surf and sand closer to the city.

  • The Strand: Central, golden sand, lined with palm trees.
  • Rowes Bay: Easily accessible from BIG4 Rowes Bay. Great views to Magnetic Island.
  • Saunders Beach: Attractive stretch 30km north of the CBD. Reliably crowd free.

There's plenty to love about The Strand beach. Credit: Megan MacKinnon

Diving deeper

Various diving and snorkelling tours are available from Townsville to the Great Barrier Reef, and Lodestone Reef is one of the most popular sites.

The city is also a departure point for another iconic underwater experience. Exploring the SS Yongala wreck is a favourite with experienced divers and ranks as one of Australia’s best shipwreck dives.

Lodestone Reef is a popular dive site. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Indoor activities in Townsville

If it happens to be raining – or to beat the heat – these Townsville attractions all make for an enthralling visit.

Reef HQ Aquarium: A first-class attraction that offers an entertaining and educational ‘visit’ to the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet. Excellent viewing opportunities of the reef’s immense marine life.

Maritime Museum of Townsville: Comprehensive coverage of the region’s rich maritime past. The SS Yongala feature is seriously captivating.

Reef HQ Aquarium provides a fantastic introduction to the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet. 

Credit: Commonwealth of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)

Museum of Tropical Queensland: More maritime stories abound alongside exploration of rainforests and reefs. Plenty to hold interest for all ages.

Army Museum North Queensland: Expertly retraces the regional presence of the Australian Army through a vast collection of exhibits and stories.

Perc Tucker Regional Gallery: Housed in an outstanding heritage building. Key focus on North Queensland art.

A wide variety of themes can be explored at The Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Credit: Museum of Tropical Queensland

Something different

Join a military history tour to explore a compelling past. The city is home to one of the Australian Defence Force’s largest bases and its military heritage is firmly entrenched. Tours incorporate various sites and extensively retrace this fascinating subject.

A rare moment when the sun was not shining in Townsville.

For families and wildlife lovers

Spend the day at Billabong Sanctuary to get up close with a wide assortment of native wildlife and other creatures. Interactive experiences include turtle feeding and racing, a free-flight bird show, a crocodile-feeding exhibition and the chance to pat dingoes and hold koalas.

Big tip: It’s best to check all talk and show times prior to visiting to get the most from your visit.

Billabong Sanctuary has plenty of thrilling hands-on experiences, but this doesn't extend to the crocodile-feeding exhibition.

Credit: Courtesy Billabong Sanctuary

Budget tip

If you have time to spare, rather than money, then wandering around Townsville’s beautiful botanical gardens is the way to go. Each has a rich offering of plant life, and walking and cycling trails to admire it all.

  • Anderson Gardens: Largest of the quartet covering 25ha. Huge collection with strong emphasis on dry tropics plants.
  • Queens Gardens: Townsville’s oldest botanic garden, established in 1870. Spotted near the base of Castle Hill; colourful rose garden among its highlights.
  • The Palmetum: Lives up to its name. Features one of the world’s largest and most diverse palm collections.
  • Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens: Beautifully manicured with wide variety of wildlife among its key features.

Queens Gardens bursts with bloomin' goodness. Credit: Megan MacKinnon

Budget meets culture

A couple of other free attractions in Townsville demand attention.

Street Art City Walking Trail: View 20 impressive colourful works from renowned street artists. Dedicated trail maps are available.

Jezzine Barracks: Massive heritage precinct that commemorates local military and Aboriginal heritage. Showcases extensive artwork and includes a coastal walkway, barbecue area, and more. Home to aforementioned army museum.

Where history meets sweeping views: Jezzine Barracks. Credit: Townsville Enterprise

Quenching a thirst

Beer lovers will strike gold at Townsville Brewery. It’s a local institution, established in 2001 well before the craft-beer craze took hold. The brewery punches out a solid mix of regular lagers and ales as well as seasonal varieties – and the tasting paddles are pretty generous! Better yet, the onsite Malt restaurant features loads of tasty tucker.

Another great find is The Courtyard, which serves up delicious American-style street food alongside craft beer within the trendy City Lane and City Arcade precinct. Just look out for the gnomes!

The gold (liquid) flows at Townsville Brewery. Credit: Courtesy Townsville Brewery

National parks near Townsville

Paluma Range National Park marks the southern starting point of the sprawling Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site, and a visit here rewards strongly.

Key features include rainforest-covered Mount Spec (60km north of Townsville) and Jourama Falls (90km).

Further afield is Girringun National Park, home to Wallaman Falls. This is Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall, so for list tickers it’s worth the 160km journey north to reach!

A list-ticker's must: Mighty Wallaman Falls. Photos rarely show just how big it really is.

Where to stay

BIG4 has your Townsville accommodation needs sorted with two fantastic parks. Click below.

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