Taking in Townsville

Townsville offers that quintessential ‘Aussie’ holiday; those that are seeking a true, varied taste of Australia can do so here without having to fly from one part of the country to the other. You can easily experience the reef, rainforest, wetlands, waterfalls and Outback all in a day.

It’s a city perfect for families, couples and friends alike thanks to a diverse culinary trail, adventure pursuits and world-class events and entertainment. It’s also a gateway to the resplendent Great Barrier Reef.

There’s really no bad time to visit, though try and avoid the summer heat (and stingers) and venture north when it’s cool. You won’t be hard pressed on finding things to do during autumn and winter.


The city may be pint-sized but it still packs a punch. And fortunately for visitors, it’s easy to navigate on foot. Don’t miss the world’s largest living coral aquarium of Reef HQ Aquarium. In conjunction with the adjacent National Reef Education Centre, the attraction offers fun, educational activities and displays in the form of a 20-metre viewing tunnel, turtle hospital and talks and presentations about the Great Barrier Reef. 

Once you’ve had your aquatic fix, wander over to the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Brimming with cultural and natural interpretations, interactive displays include everything from dinosaur fossils to shipwreck artefacts. Kids will love the MindZone science centre and you can even load and fire a cannon during your visit.

Also in the CBD is the 2.2-kilometre long beachfront promenade, The Strand. The heart and soul of Townsville, this palm-lined boulevard offers plenty of fun in the sun with bike paths, safe swimming beaches, water park, collection of chic bars and restaurants and sprawl of picturesque picnicking spots with views of Magnetic Island.

‘Maggie’, as she’s known to locals, is just 25 minutes by ferry. Spend at least a few nights here enjoying the island’s ‘magnetic’ splendour. Think pristine pine-fringed bays and enough hiking, scuba diving and swimming opportunities to keep even the most outdoorsy type satisfied.

Also a short distance from Townsville is the Billabong Sanctuary. Home to some of Australia’s best wildlife encounters, you can meet all your favourites – and many more – in a bushland setting on the shores of a billabong. Cuddle up to koalas and wombats, feed roaming kangaroos and have your photo taken with long, yet harmless pythons (if you’re game). There are plenty of interactive shows throughout the day run by the knowledgeable and entertaining park rangers.

Food and drink

Gourmands and gourmets alike will be unequivocally spoiled by the quality of the Townsville’s natural larder. Can it get much better than a seafood picnic with fresh tropical fruits and local beers by the water? The answer is yes.

Dining is serious business here and while it’s not up there just yet with the likes of Melbourne or Hobart, the tastes of Townsville are certainly worth writing home about.

Palmer Street is the best place to find a meal, with an eclectic mishmash of small- to large-scale restaurants interspersed with casual cafes, international bistros and lively bars. Try award-winning Michel’s for a romantic Australian-French fusion experience or up-and-comer Jam Corner for a relaxed brunch or dinner.

The latest development along Flinders Street East sees the continued evolution of Townsville as a cosmopolitan hotbed. Pumping nightclubs and swanky bars are housed within turn-of-the-century colonial buildings. The Brewery is a must-do while in town. A local icon, their ales and fine pub grub is second to none.

If you’re not feeling too dusty from the night before, return to the area for the Sunday morning Cotters Markets held in Flinders Street Mall where you’ll find a variety of produce, hot food, crafts and antiquities.

And on the first Friday of each month, begin your night out by wandering through the local wares, entertainment and flavours of The Strand Night Markets at The Strand Park.

Festivals and events

Beer aficionados can take their passion for the beloved liquid gold during the North Queensland Home Brew Competition. This Magnetic Island event sees experienced and novice brewers put their knowledge and skills to the test. Attendees can simply make their way around the event sipping and savouring a selection of the Tropical North Queensland’s best home brews.

There’s perhaps no more iconic festival ‘up north’ than the legendary Groovin’ The Moo. Held during April and May, festivalgoers of all ages can unplug from everyday life and delve into an unforgettable day out with a mostly homegrown musical lineup including Hilltop Hoods, Ballpark Music, Sticky Fingers and The Preatures.

For an even bigger dose of good vibes, make sure you plan your visit over the five days of the Townsville Culture Festival in August. The event showcases the cultural depth of Australian society through music, dance, creative arts, craft workshops, international cuisine and sports. 

For the rev-heads, Townsville is set to heat up with high-octane action in July with the Castrol Edge Townsville 400. An event not to be missed, the thrills continue from the race track to the Saturday night concert in the Super Top. Kids haven’t been forgetting either with a whole host of excitement awaiting in The Disney Zone.

Words by Anna Howard - Published May 2015
Quick Facts 
Population Approx 170,000
Area 140.2 km2
Time Zone GMT +10
Languages English (official)
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
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