How to have the perfect Townsville getaway
In tropical North Queensland, right between Cairns and Mackay, sits a thriving city that sits directly on the coastline. Townsville is considered Queensland’s unofficial second capital, and it’s no wonder; it’s a big city with a sophisticated small-town feel.
Here’s all the information you need to plan a perfect Townsville holiday.
Despite often being the second choice to Cairns, Townsville has so much to offer the discerning traveller and should not be overlooked. Not only is it less crowded and more affordable, but it combines a diverse range of experiences—stunning islands, wonderous reefs, a thriving food scene, and a strong military history—meaning it’s ideal for those looking for more from their holiday.
Adventurers have ample outdoor activities to enjoy, from hiking in luscious greenery to bike riding on, and diving off, mountains. Townsville is full of jaw-dropping natural wonders and enriching historic experiences that allow you to step back in time and get a sense of some of the town’s colourful past. The city is also an impressive culinary hotspot, with world-class restaurants on offer that would be at home in any of our more traditionally recognised food meccas.
When to visit
Boasting more than 320 days of sunshine per year, there’s never really a bad time to go on a Townsville holiday. But if you’re not a fan of heat and humidity, it’s best to take your trip between the winter months of June and August; you’ll be blessed with blue skies, warm days and cooler nights.
If you’re coming in August it’s worth making sure your trip coincides with Magnetic Island Race Week, which brings boatloads of sailing festivities and excitement to town.
What to do
With a breathtaking landscape ranging from bright blue waters to lush rainforest, there’s always a new natural wonder to explore in Townsville. Castle Hill, Townsvill’s pink granite monolith, is a must-visit for its countless walking tracks. And if you’d rather be in water than on land, snorkel to your heart’s content in the world heritage Great Barrier Reef, which is right on your doorstep.
There are a number of ways to experience the reef, including world-class snorkelling and scuba diving options. If you can’t get there, the Reef HQ Aquarium—the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium—is the next best way to get an insight into what makes the reef so special.
The Townsville coast is dotted with tranquil islands waiting to be discovered. Magnetic Island, boasting 23 beaches and bays and an abundance of wildlife, is just a 25-minute ferry ride away. If you’d rather travel in the air, head over to Orpheus Island; the only way of getting to this picturesque location is via helicopter. If you’re an adventure seeker, Hinchinbrook Island is a great option; it’s a national park with long sandy beaches, rainforests, mangroves and the epic 32-kilometre Thorsborne Trail.
The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA), anticipated to open by mid-2020, will also be a winner for all ages. As the only underwater art museum in the southern hemisphere, MOUA will be a significant asset not just to Townsville and neighbouring areas, but to Queensland and Australia as well. MOUA will be a hub for vital marine science and research, and will shed light on reef conservation, restoration and education.
And in case you manage to find time for a bit of retail therapy, we’ve put together this handy shopping guide to help you stock up on all your holiday essentials (and non essentials).
Where to eat and drink
Townsville is a surprise culinary mecca, filled with little foodie hubs well worth exploring when you’re in the mood for something delicious.
At Flinders Street East, you’ll find a diverse range of restaurants, pubs and bars serving up cuisine from all corners of the world. From Chinese to Italian and Mexican to Irish, you’re bound to find something you love. Other popular streets for good food include Palmer Street and The Strand.
Townsville’s first creative laneway precinct, City Lane, takes inspiration from New York and is decked out with street art and funky decor accordingly. Open from day to night, this vibrant venue features a collection of bars and eateries—such as Born Wild (the city’s first clean-eating restaurant), Donna Bionda (a cosy Italian eatery), and Taphouse (a self-pour craft beer bar).
A fairly new addition to Townsville, popping up in August 2019, is Otto’s Market Precinct. Just a 10-minute drive from the city centre, located in Warrina Shopping Centre, this is a one-stop-shop for gourmet dishes and fresh food from local farmers and producers.
The Pier Restaurant and Bar is Townsville’s ultimate seafood destination. Featuring a modern Australian menu, the passionate team is dedicated to showcasing the best produce North Queensland has to offer. Fresh seafood from local markets grace the dishes, such as the crab- and barramundi-steamed dumplings with sweet chilli sauce, or the seafood chowder—combining prawns, bugs, fish and calamari in a velouté sauce.
If you’re simply looking for somewhere to dig into a hearty breakfast, this list of Townsville breakfast spots will come in handy.
Best day trips
Magnetic Island National Park is home to beautiful bays, a large wild-koala population and many walking tracks. Forts Walk is a four-kilometre hike that will lead you to fascinating pieces of WWII history.
For a guided tour of the magical land, join the multi award-winning Aquascene tour. Aquascene is one of Queensland’s signature tour experiences that allows you to discover places you wouldn’t find on your own and connect with fellow travellers. While a day trip from Townsville is a must-do on your stay, you can easily spend an extended 48 hours on Magnetic Island.
If you want to have a taste of Italy (minus the long-haul flight) visit the town of Ingham. This town, less than a 90-minute drive north of Townsville, is well-known for its Italian population and influences, thriving birdlife and stunning natural scenery. So expect to indulge in a lot of pasta, gelato and espresso while taking in some stellar views.
Drive one hour west of Ingham (two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Townsville), and you’ll find the breathtaking Wallaman Falls, Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall. Check out these tips on how to take the best photos while you’re there.
World-heritage-listed Paluma Range National Park is the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The 90-minute drive from Townsville will be worth every second when you get to experience the breathtaking pieces of nature this historic town has to offer—including the rainforest walk, swimming holes, waterfalls and mountains.
You can also reach the outback on a day trip, 140 kilometres south-west of the city at Charters Towers. This is a town worth exploring for its rich Australian history and heritage. To immerse yourself in an authentic outback encounter, visit Texas Longhorn Wagon Tours to sample damper and billy tea, and meet a bull with a Guinness World Record (for having the longest horns, in 2013).
Where to stay
There are plenty of places to rest and reset on your Townsville holiday. From couples to backpackers, or the whole family, Townsville has options for everyone.
Iconic casino-resort The Ville is a chic stay with fabulous dining and entertainment. Rambutan Resort is a boutique backpackers nestled in the CBD, and there are various family-friendly apartments such as Grand Hotel Apartments on Palmer Street.
If you’re planning on staying overnight at Magnetic Island, Peppers Blue on Blue Resort is a great option overlooking the marina, while Leisure Island Resort at Nelly Bay is geared more towards families, with their self-contained units.
If it’s a high-end experience you’re looking for, Orpheus Island Lodge is the accommodation of choice. Orpheus Island Lodge is a beautiful island resort accommodating just 28 guests. It’s an all-inclusive stay with luxurious rooms and premium food. As an added bonus, the Great Barrier Reef is right on the doorstep.
Find more accommodation options for your Townsville holiday here.