You’ll be hard pressed to find any ‘must do’ list for Townsville without this local hot spot! The Strand is a thriving beach foreshore with 2.5km of walkway, stunning views across to Magnetic Island, outdoor gym equipment, and more playgrounds than the kids will know what to do with, including the free water park. The Strand Jetty is also the best location to view the Ocean Siren – a 16m art installation part of the Museum of Underwater Art project (Tip: visit at sunset to watch her change colours in response to sea temperatures).
Local Tip: Hire a stand-up paddle board for some active fun in the sun from In The Loop (Flinders Street, Townsville) – bikes, kite-boarding lessons and water sport equipment also available.
If you’re keen to get up close and personal with some Aussie wildlife, head to Billabong Sanctuary. With natural bushland to explore and a 2-hectare billabong at its heart, the Australian native animal wildlife park is home to over 50 native species including kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, parrots, and even the snappy variety – with mainland Queensland’s biggest crocodile, Krakatoa at 5.1m (and his croc mates)!
For a bit of tropical history, you can’t go past the Museum of Tropical Queensland*. It is here you will discover about life onboard an old sailing ship and get insights into the stories of the region’s rainforests and reefs. Or dive deeper – figuratively – with a visit to the world’s largest living coral aquarium and the official headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium**. The perfect place to learn all about Nemo and his friends – without getting wet – enjoy regular shows and visit a functioning Turtle Hospital – this air-conditioned attraction is one for young and the young at heart.
For an unforgettable sunset and to really soak up the best views of the city, take a hike to the top of Castle Hill, an iconic attraction which stands proudly at 286m in the centre of Townsville City. Castle Hill offers vehicle access as well as several popular walking tracks – including the Goat Track and Cutheringa Track, which are frequented by more than 2,500 locals a day! The 360-degree views of Townsville at the top are well worth the journey. After you’ve seen the sights from above, don’t miss the urban inner-city Street Art Trail for stunning murals which will lead you through the city centre.
*The Museum of Tropical Queensland will be closed for roof works until early 2021. Please check https://mtq.qm.qld.gov.au/ for the latest updates.
**Reef HQ will be closed for upgrades for a period of time in 2021. Please check www.reefhq.com.au for the latest updates.
On the trails: Off the beaten track, take the Bald Rock to Mount Marlow trail or the Shelley Cove trail to appreciate the wilderness of Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park. Tip: Tackle the trails on bike for a truly invigorating mountain-bike experience.
Take a short 20-minute ferry ride with SeaLink Queensland across to the locally nicknamed “Maggie”, where the adventure is up to you.
Spend the day (or ideally days) exploring the 23 beaches and bays dotted around the island, either by car (if you travelled by Magnetic Island Ferries car barge) or hire topless jeep with Magnetic Island Adventures. If you want to experience some of the most remote and exclusive beaches on the island take a discovery tour with Aquascene Charters or go luxe with a Beach Club Picnic.
Make a splash along one (or both) of the self-guided snorkelling trails at Geoffrey Bay and Nelly Bay and get an up-close-and-personal look at the wonders of the coral reef – right off the beach! Or for the more adventurous, hop aboard your very own sea kayak to paddle the calm waters on an eco-accredited tour with Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks.
If nature and wildlife is also your thing – you’re in luck – because Magnetic Island is also home to Northern Australia’s largest colony of koalas in the wild!
Tip: Wake before the sun and take the gentle stroll along the Forts Walk – it’s the best place to spot a furry companion, and also a pretty sweet sunrise vantage point… can’t beat a 360-degree view! Want a local’s point of view – take the Fort Walk tour with Magnetic Island Best Bus Tours.
End the day sailing the high seas on a luxury yacht with Big Mama Sailing, or Pilgrim Sailing. Both tours offer a sunset sail – so kick-back and relax while you sip a champagne and take in the watercolour skies across the horizon.
Take your island-hopping adventure to the next level – literally, with a scenic flight over Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef with Townsville Helicopters or Nautilus Aviation. With flights ranging from a 10-minute scenic tour, to a more indulgent remote island picnic – this luxury upgrade is an epic way to see Townsville North Queensland’s island oases.
Further off the coast of Townsville is the majestic underwater playground of the Great Barrier Reef. Get amongst the magic of this world-class spectacle, with a dive or snorkel trip to the outer reef. Take a tour with Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive or for the more experienced divers, head out with Yongala Dive to SS Yongala – Australia’s best dive site and one of the world’s top wreck dives!
Townsville newest underwater attraction and first-ever underwater building, the Museum of Underwater Art’s ‘Coral Greenhouse’ at John Brewer Reef is also absolute must.
Embrace the natural beauty of the Paluma Range National Park, the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Here you can relax in the cool mountain air of the Paluma Range. A favourite swimming spot for locals, Big and Little Crystal Creek (yes, that’s right – it’s a two for one) run year-round with fresh mountain streams surrounded by cool rainforests. Paluma is exactly what you would expect of a picture-perfect picnic spot.
On the trails: Take the road less travelled and wander the trails snailing through the Paluma region, including Witt’s Lookout, Birthday Creek Falls and Jourama Falls Track.
Little Crystal Creek arched stone bridge (c. 1930) is not only heritage-listed but is also surrounded by pristine waterfalls with small pockets of water making perfect swimming holes. A littler further north is also the magnificent Jourama Falls, with rockslide formations, clear pools, and picnic areas.
You'll be amazed when you stand in front of Wallaman Falls, the Southern Hemisphere’s highest permanent single-drop waterfall, located in Girringun National Park – just outside of Ingham. In between the forest clad ridge tops and rainforest lined gullies and creeks, Wallaman Falls stands at a staggering 268 metres. Let a local lead the way with North Queensland Tours offering guided walks to Wallaman Falls and other Wet Tropics locations!
An avid hiker? Conquer the multi-day Djagany (Goanna) Walk which follows an old forestry track through she-oaks, open forest and rainforest (permit required). Hiker's Delight Itinerary
Closer to town, the TYTO Wetlands is also a must-see – particularly for the hobby twitcher. Over 110-hectares of rehabilitated wetlands, TYTO is home to unique flora and fauna including over 240 species of birds and many Agile Wallabies. With extensive walking tracks, bird hides and viewing platforms, it is a great way to get up close and personal to wildlife.
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Explore further and experience the awe of the Outback on the Outback, History & Heritage Itinerary.