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Between the Outback and a Coral Sea - A City Guide to Townsville

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Proud of its average 320 sunny days a year, Townsville sits with the outback in its backyard and the aquamarine Coral Sea on its doorstep. Home to a colorful mix of students, military personnel, and "old-timers," it mixes easy-going country town with modern city. More than merely a springboard to Magnetic Island, 8-kilometers offshore, it offers a world-class aquarium, many restaurants, swimming, and a palm-lined promenade.

The view from Castle Hill


The lookout on Castle Hill, the pink monolith that watches over Townsville, is an ideal spot to get your bearings. You can drive to the top, but taking one of the walking tracks is a great heart starter. You’ll hike through untamed bush to a soundtrack of buzzing cicadas. Sweeping views of the outback, coastline, and the city spread below await you. Early evening is the best time for your hike, when the heat lets up and Magnetic Island, sitting just off the coast, is bathed in orange light.


Strolling and swimming on The Strand


A stroll under the swaying palms that line The Strand is great at any time of day, whether you’re watching the sun come up over Magnetic Island, or the lights of the city come on at dusk. Dotted along the more than 2-kilometer esplanade you’ll find eateries with to-die-for views, a water park for the kids, and shady picnic spots. The sand is golden and the water crystal clear, and you’ll find protected areas for safe swimming all year round. The Rock Pool at the northern end is a great family-friendly spot for a dip.


  • Longboard Bar & Grill, The Strand Headlands, 80 Gregory St., Townsville QLD 4810; Tel: +61 7 4724 1234; Website: Longboard Bar & Grill

  • Juliette’s, Shop 7/58 The Strand, Townsville QLD 4810; Tel: +61 7 4721 5577; Website: Juliette’s


Riverwalk and the city center


A stroll along the Riverwalk pathway that runs along the lazy Ross River is a scenic start to your city exploration. The bushland walk is dotted with swimming lagoons, cultural attractions, public art, and plenty of waterfront refreshment stops. The wide city-center streets are rich in refurbished colonial buildings, mixed with modern architecture. You’ll find lots of eating and drinking spots clustered on Flinders and Palmer Streets either side of Ross Creek. Flinders Street is also home to the interactive Museum of Tropical Queensland.


  • Riverway Arts Centre, 20 Village Boulevard, Thuringowa Central, Townsville QLD 4818; Tel: +61 7 4727 9797; Website: Riverway Arts Centre

  • Museum of Tropical Queensland, 70 - 102 Flinders St., Townsville QLD 4816; Tel: +61 7 4726 0600; Website: Museum of Tropical Queensland


Wildlife encounters, on land and underwater


Immerse yourself in the Great Barrier Reef - without getting wet - at Reef HQ. The world’s largest coral reef aquarium is home to a vast array of colorful marine creatures, in addition to vivid coral. You can pay a consoling visit to sick and injured marine turtles at HQ’s Turtle Hospital. For a hands-on wildlife experience, Billabong Sanctuary offers encounters with more than 100 native animal species. You can cuddle a koala or a wombat, hold a crocodile, or even wrap a python around your shoulders, if your dare!



Magnetic Island


Townsville is the perfect springboard for trips to Magnetic Island. Fast and regular car and passenger ferries get you there in 25 minutes. You can stay for a few hours or a few days, and do as little or as much as you like. Two thirds of the island is natural bush, and 25 kilometers of walking tracks get you to secluded, golden beaches. There’s a choice of accommodation and eateries, and things to do from diving and snorkeling to boat tours, horse riding, and more.