It may not enjoy the same high profile overseas as Cairns, but Townsville is fast becoming recognised alongside its northern neighbour as an important gateway to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, wet tropics rainforest and the quintessential Outback experience.
The unofficial administrative capital of North Queensland and fastest-growing region in the state, Townsville has undergone something of a transformation in recent years, building a reputation as a first-class holiday destination in its own right. It doesn't hurt that the mighty North Queensland Cowboys are reigning NRL champions!
You will find excellent accommodation in Townsville, along with wonderful dining, entertainment and nightlife options, as well as natural and historical attractions that will appeal to all the family.
First-time visitors look skyward to the red granite of Castle Hill, and the view from the top across the city and out across the sea to Magnetic Island. The island, just a 25-minute ferry ride from the city, is a paradise for lovers of the beach and water sports.
Back on the mainland, take a stroll along The Strand, a two-kilometre-long beachside promenade offering walkways and cycling paths, a water park, play equipment, swimming spots, cafes and restaurants. Stopping for gelato at Juliette's is a must.
Culture buffs will find several museums and galleries in Townsville. A must for nature lovers is Reef HQ, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, which may give you a taste for a snorkel or dive trip to the reef, or one of the best wreck dives in the world, the SS Yongala, which is located further south in Ayr.
Eat & Drink
Buzzing bars, fine restaurants offering a world of cuisine, great pubs, superb coffee, artisan bakeries... Townsville has the lot! You can eat your way from the upmarket restaurants on upmarket Palmer Street, to the key entertainment venues in Flinders Street, and al fresco cafes on and near The Strand.
One unique experience combining history, craft beer and fine food together is at the iconic Townsville Brewery in Flinders Street. Don’t miss the Malt Restaurant beer tasting plate – craft beers specially matched to a range of starters.
You can also enjoy fresh food, arts and culture at the Cotters Markets every Sunday in Flinders Mall, while the Townsville Cultural Fest held in August each year offers an international food hall.
Being a key regional business centre as well as tourism hot spot, you will not be stuck for a place to stay in Townsville no matter your budget. Accommodation options include fully serviced hotels and motels as well as self-catering apartments, with the majority in the CBD close to entertainment and retail, on or around Palmer Street near some excellent restaurants, or on the Strand with its leisure facilities and ocean views.
One of the funkiest new places to stay for a bargain is Rambutan - a self-confessed 'glampackers' abode complete with rooftop pool bar and Americana-inspired restaurant.
The city shopping heart is Flinders Mall, which boasts a range of specialty and retail chain stores. On Sundays between 8.30am and 1pm Flinders Mall is transformed into the venue for the popular Cotters Markets where you will find arts, crafts, food and more. Market fans should also look out for the Strand Night Markets on the first Friday of the month between May and December.
One of the coolest places to buy and browse at the moment is City Arcade, with sister venue City Lane providing a handful of stylish places to refuel in between boutique hopping. Townsville also has its share of major shopping centres outside the CBD, such as Stockland Plaza and Castletown.
Townsville Like a Local
Magnetic Island is Townsville’s favourite playground and attracts thousands of locals each year as well as visitors who are “in the know”. Take in one of more than 20 beaches, where you can swim, snorkel, walk, or fish.
More than half the island is designated national park. It’s great for a day trip but also makes for a great extended stay, with a range of accommodation from budget to high end available on the island.
If you have time up your sleeve, journey north of Townsville and visit Wallaman Falls, the longest single drop waterfall in Australia at 268 metres, or make like a local and take a refreshing dip in the secluded Crystal Creek.