Townsville Destination Guide
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.
You will find excellent accommodation, wonderful dining, entertainment and nightlife options, as well as natural and historical attractions with 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 to Magnetic Island is a must-see. The island, a 25-minute ferry ride from the city, is a paradise for lovers of the beach and water sports. From Castle Hill, it’s down to the family-orientated Strand, a two-kilometre-long beachside promenade offering walkways and cycling paths, a water park, play equipment, swimming spots, cafes and restaurants.
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.
Buzzing bars, fine restaurants offering a world of cuisine, great pubs, superb coffee, artisan bakeries … Townsville has the lot, from riverside eateries to the key entertainment venues in Flinders Street, the restaurants and cafes on and near the Strand, to the dining precinct of Palmer Street, across the historic Victoria Bridge.
Offerings run the gamut, from budget fare through to fine dining. One unique experience: history, craft beer and fine food together 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.
As a key regional administrative and business centre as well as tourism hot spot, you will not be stuck for a place to stay in Townsville no matter what 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.
The city shopping heart is Flinders Mall with a range of specialty and retail chain stores. On Sundays between 8.30am and 1 it is transformed into the venue for the popular Cotters Markets, the largest of its type in North Queensland. 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.
Townsville also has its share of major shopping centres outside the CBD such as Stockland Plaza in Aitkenvale (more than 140 specialty stores and major retailers) and Castletown Shopping World at Hyde Park (more than 130 stores).
Townsville like a Local
Magnetic Island is undeniably Townsville’s aquatic 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, swim, snorkel, walk, or fish – more than half the island is designated national park. It’s great for a day trip but also for an extended stay and offers a range of accommodation from budget to high end.
Back on the mainland, a relatively new water-based haven is making waves with locals: the Riverway precinct is a combination of cultural and entertainment hub, parklands and swimming lagoons, all beside the Ross River, about 20 minutes from the CBD.