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The best things to do in Townsville

With 300-plus days of sunshine each year, Townsville quickly finds itself on the radar of many visitors.

It’s just one of myriad drawcards to this vibrant North Queensland city, backdropped by the imposing site of Castle Hill.

Beautiful beaches, gorgeous gardens, and easy access to prized islands are major lures, too.

And yet still there’s more.

It’s time to get to know terrific Townsville.

Welcome to Townsville. Credit: Megan MacKinnon.

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.

Nearby Magnetic Island is idyllic. More below. Credit: Melissa Findley.

Essential Townsville experiences

Clearly, embracing the outdoors is vital when visiting this sun-drenched city. And we've identified two key sites that are not to be missed...

The Strand

Feel Townsville’s heartbeat along this picturesque, palm-lined, beachfront promenade. 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 and Events Queensland.

Castle Hill

Get your bearings with a climb to the top of this iconic granite monolith, which 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: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Day trip to Magnetic Island

Exploring Magnetic Island is another essential experience. 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.

Majestic Magnetic Island rocks. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Soak up Magnetic Island's beauty 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. Also, Magnetic Island is part of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, so expect first-rate snorkelling and diving opportunities.

The Forts Walk has its visual rewards. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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 Tasman - 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.

Dive sites near Townsville

Various diving and snorkelling tours are available from Townsville, and some with a difference. This trio is worth keeping in mind:

  • Lodestone Reef: Part of the Great Barrier Reef and one of the most popular sites to access from Townsville.
  • SS Yongala wreck: A favourite with experienced divers. Ranks as one of Australia’s best shipwreck dives.
  • Museum of Underwater Art: Features an assortment of globally-significant artworks created by a world-renowned underwater sculptor.

A gallery with a difference: The Museum of Underwater Art. Credit: Tourism and 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 ops 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 is a leading attraction. Credit: Commonwealth of Australia.

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.

Explore a wide variety of themes at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Credit: Tourism and Events 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.

Townsville for families

Aside from the attractions listed in the indoor section, Billabong Sanctuary is a family essential. Get up close with a wide assortment of native wildlife and other creatures. Interactive experiences include turtle feeding, a free-flight bird show, a crocodile-feeding exhibition, and the chance to pat dingoes and hold koalas. Stay directly opposite Billabong Sanctuary at BIG4 Eco Resort Townsville.

Billabong Sanctuary has plenty to entertain. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Free things to do in Townsville

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: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Gardens aside, the cost of visiting this duo is counted in calories only...

Street Art City Walking Trail: View 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, BBQ area, and more. Home to aforementioned army museum.

Hit the street art trail. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland.

National parks near Townsville

Paluma Range National Park

This 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 Mt Spec (60km north of Townsville) and Jourama Falls (90km).

Paluma Range bursts with goodies. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Girringun National Park

While there is plenty to explore in these massive surrounds, the hero here is Wallaman Falls. This is Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall, and it makes for a spectacular sight. The falls are reached roughly 170km northwest of Townsville.

Mighty Wallaman Falls. Photos rarely show just how big it really is. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Townsville accommodation

BIG4 has your Townsville accommodation needs sorted with three fantastic parks. See below.

Related Parks

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