48 hours in Townsville
Townsville has some serious pros over its more well-known neighbours when it comes to tropical holidays – there’s more sunshine and less rain, you don’t have to compete with swarms of tourists, the dining scene is robust, and there’s that unmistakable North Queensland charm that will have you relaxed in no time.
You might be on the doorstep of reef and rainforest, but there’s more than enough to keep you busy smack bang in the centre of town.
Here’s how to get the most out of a weekend in Townsville.
7PM: Arrive footloose and fancy-free
If you’re road trippin’, all roads lead to Townsville thanks to a top guy called Bruce (Highway).
If you’re flying in from down south, the beautiful thing about the capital of the north is you can ditch the office on Friday afternoon and be in the tropics within a couple of hours.
6AM: Wakey wakey rise and shine
You could drive to the top of Castle Hill for incredible 360-degree views, but there’s a whole lotta eating ahead. It’s opportune to get moving and burn some energy while you can.
Townsvillians are an active bunch and every day over 2500 activewear-cladded fitness freaks march to the top of Castle Hill. If you’re up for a challenge, try the ‘goat track’. It measures about 10 on the burning-calf-ometre (the hill falls just metres short of being classed a mountain, after all). Push through it as you’ll be rewarded with a picture-perfect sunrise setting.
Do yourself a favour and bring your camera, SPF30+ and water bottle – there’s a tap at the top to refill.
9AM: Beet it to breakfast
By now your blood sugar levels are crashing and hangry-ness just got real. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to breakfasts in Townville, but there’s new clean eating options available now, too.
Drop into Paleo Café on City Lane for their delicious smashed avocado on paleo toast or beeline it to The Beet Bar who serve up wholesome and organic foods.
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or meat eater, you will find something delicious to get your motor running. Think fresh salads, quiches, pressed juices, smoothies, raw desserts, and acai bowls. It’s enough to hyperventilate in a superfood stupor. (Tip: The Bounty Bowl topped with coconut yoghurt and cacao nibs is a great place to start.)
Once your belly is nourished, hire a bike from Outer Limits Adventure and check out the city’s boutique shopping circuit.
12PM: Lunch like a local
On a sunny day, which is about 320 days a year, views of Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island take centre stage here. Don’t be fooled by the island’s uninhabited facade, there’s a thriving community and a range of accommodation options for your next weekend away.
Head to the rock pools at the northern end of The Strand for a dip, wander through the artwork at the Jezzine Barracks or take an afternoon siesta in the shade.
5PM: Wine and dine at City Lane
Townsville’s laneway dining and bar precinct, City Lane, is an unexpected but welcomed surprise. Modern and relatively new on the scene, it’s a local’s hangout on the weekends and a favourite for after-work Friday drinks. It’s the perfect place for a progressive happy hour tour as roaming between the hotspots is encouraged.
Grab a lemon meringue martini from Donna Bionda and wander over to Shaw & Co. to enjoy a local lobster roll with fennel remoulade.
9AM: Enjoy coffee culture
It’s easy to walk past Hoi Polloi Espresso Bar from Flinders Street so follow your nose – this hipster joint brews good coffee.
The hole-in-the-wall café has loads of personality with random knick-knacks like a framed photo of Ryan Gosling, creepy gnome mugs and a curious collection of retro microscopes.
Missing the Denham Lane entrance is not an option as Belgium muralist ROA and self-taught Kiwi stencil artist HaHa have used the walls as a giant canvas, adding to Townsville’s already banging street art scene.
11AM: To market, to market to buy a…
Take a leisurely stroll down Flinders Street and head to Cotters Markets, which spills between Stanley and Denham Streets every Sunday from 8:30am – 1pm.
Prepare for a sensory overload as stall holders show off their locally grown fruit and veg, handmade artisan breads and pastries, indie fashion and exotic plants and flowers.
12PM: Townsville Brewery and Malt Restaurant
Pub grub this ain’t! If you like your brew fresh and frothy, allow the barkeep to serve up a Townsville Bitter that’s been brewed and bottled just metres from where you sit. It feels cosy here with the dark timber bar, leather seat booths and dimly lit surroundings.
A Townsville icon at over 100 years old, the building was once the Townsville Post Office and military communications headquarters during World War II.
3PM: I scream, you scream, gelato!
Just like Romeo, you and Juliette’s will come together in a dangerous union of love. Sweet, creamy, freshly-made gelato love that is. Nestled under giant fig trees, this family-owned meeting place is a must-do for coffee (some say the best in town), sweets, and of course, gelato.
They’ve got all the classics but the special occasion flavours are way more fun. The bright blue and yellow swirls of the ‘North Queensland Cowboys’ flavour caught my eye following their premiership win, tickling childhood memories with its bubblegum sweetness.
5pm: Start planning your next visit
It’s time to head home, but before you do, suss out what’s coming up on Townsville’s event scene. During the winter months, the city hosts signature events like the Australian Italian Festival and Australian Chamber Music Festival.
Accommodation can fill up quickly so it’s worth planning your return well in advance. Yes, that means you can have more gelato, too.
Inspired for your next Queensland holiday? See these hot holiday deals!