In this 2021 guide to Townsville, we’ll take you through some of our favourite things to do in this tropical Australian city. From its world-famous botanic gardens to shipwreck dives, there is great variety in Townsville. As a smaller city, it is often overlooked, but we’ll tell you all the hidden gems you can find in Townsville.
Magnetic Island offers visitors a high chance of spotting wild koalas and almost definitely rock wallabies. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can snorkel or dive at the nearby Great Barrier Reef, where you can tick one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders off your bucket list. We also recommend heading to the Palmetum, where you can see one of the world’s greatest public displays of over 600 palms species.
Photo by Brock Cook on Unsplash.
9 Things You can Do in Townsville
1. See the Great Barrier Reef on land at ReefHQ.
ReefHQ was established to show people the reef on land, making it more accessible and affordable for the general public. Furthermore, the founder, Dr Graeme Kelleher, was a chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and established the ReefHQ aquarium to help gain awareness and support to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
The aquarium shows visitors the different species that can be found at the Great Barrier Reef, in addition to educating people about the impact of climate change on the reef. It’s recommended you visit ReefHQ before going to see the real thing, so you’ll already know about the species you may see and the bleached coral.
2. Walk or bicycle around the Botanic Gardens.
The northern tropical city of Townsville is blessed with the perfect weather for its three elegant botanic gardens. The gardens all have walking and cycling trails, with Anderson Gardens being the only one that also has vehicle access. While each garden is unique, they all have great plant and wildlife diversity incorporating international collections.
As Townsville’s largest botanic garden, Anderson Gardens is 25 hectares of lush greenery, including tropical trees and wildlife, complemented by its grand walkways and neat grooming. The gardens were initially an arboretum, which has expanded to become a botanic garden since its opening in the 1930s.
The gardens are open to the public daily, offering its beautiful array of flora and fauna for all to admire.
The Palmetum is another spectacular botanic garden. Stretching for 17 hectares, the Palmetum offers one of the greatest public collections of palms in the world.
The collection of palms is arranged in an assortment of habitats, from dry to wet tropics. With 300 species of palms displayed here, many are rare or nearly wiped out, which is another reason why the Palmetum is so important.
The Queens Gardens are not only the oldest gardens in Townsville, but are also a divine example of a tropical colonial garden of that era. Sitting at the base of Castle Hill, the gardens offer a beautiful view of the hill’s pink cliffs which lie behind.
Dating back to the 1870s, Queens Gardens was once used to test and trial acclimatising economic foods and plants during the era of colonisation.
3. Take a trip to Magnetic Island.
Have you heard of Magnetic Island? If not, then you’re in for a treat. Magnetic Island, colloquially known as Maggie, is not only possibly the most beautiful island you can find, but it is also home to wallabies, koalas and other Australian wildlife.
Fun fact: Magnetic Island was named in 1770 by James Cook, who thought his ship’s magnetic compass was affected by the island.
Only 8km from Townsville, the island offers visitors relaxing beaches, a rocky landscape and flourishing wildlife. You can hike, scuba dive, kayak and swim at the island, just to name a few of the recreational activities offered here. Furthermore, more than 50% of the island is a national park, offering plenty of nature walks that take you through the native scenery of Magnetic Island.
If we haven’t enticed you enough, then wait until we tell you about the koalas. Magnetic Island is one of the best spots in the country to see koalas in their natural habitat, with an estimated population of 500 koalas on the island.
The Forts Walk.
The Forts Walk is an hour and a half round trip hike, taking you through the island offering panoramic ocean views, remains from World War II, and great opportunities to spot koalas in the above trees.
Castle Hill is a notable landmark in Townsville, a large hill ‚ or monolith, sitting in the city centre. The near 300 metres tall hill consists of pink granite and is a beautiful sight. Moreover, it also offers beautiful sights. Climb (or drive) up Castle Hill for spectacular views of Townsville, especially at sunrise or sunset.
This Townsville icon was once used as a lookout point for US soldiers during WW2 and was nearly destroyed when they wanted to use its materials to build a bridge across to Magnetic Island. Lucky for us, they didn’t destroy this beautiful Townsville icon that we can admire today.
5. Snorkel or dive at the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is not only one of the world’s Natural Wonders, but it is also only 2.5 hours away from Townsville… See you there! If I could write how many different kinds of marine animals you can see out on the reef, I would. From swimming with sea turtles and grey nurse sharks to trying to spot a “Nemo,” this may be the best thing you can do in Australia.
Although the reef is still astounding, it’s not what it once was. Make sure to learn about coral bleaching and decreasing biodiversity before you go so you can identify bleached coral and learn about how we can help save our Australian wonder.
6. SS Yongala Dive.
The SS Yongala was a passenger ship travelling to Cairns from Mackay in 1911. However, when hit by a cyclone, it never reached its destination and took its 122 passengers down with it… The SS Yongala shipwreck was only found 50 years later in 1958 by divers, which is now an internationally renowned wreck dive.
Besides the remarkable sights of the shipwreck, you can also observe the abundance of sea life, which has embraced the wreck. You can embark directly from Townsville and do a day dive that includes food and drink in the package.
7. Take a dip at Riverway.
Riverway is a riverfront parkland attraction combining leisure and the arts in with the natural environment. Stretching for 11 kilometres, the buzzing area includes lagoons, boardwalks, free barbeques, the Arts Centre, and cultural and sporting facilities.
Stroll along the stunning Riverway, take a dip in the lagoon or enjoy the art displays at the Riverway Arts Centre for the perfect relaxing day in Townsville. Even better, dogs are allowed (as long as they’re on leash)!
8. See Magnetic Island from The Strand.
The Strand is a beachfront promenade stretching for 2.5 kilometres through Cleveland Bay. Besides the spectacular views of Magnetic Island, the walkway also offers playgrounds, the Strand Water Park, calm beaches, shops and restaurants.
9. Hold a koala at Billabong Sanctuary.
Billabong Sanctuary first opened in 1958, with the aim to educate school groups on the conservation of native animals and their habitats. Furthermore, the park has won many awards over the years and has been recognised as an accredited Advanced Ecotourism Attraction.
The park has a 2 hectare billabong, supplying enough water to last through the dry seasons. Billabong Sanctuary also nurtures breeding colonies of kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles and black cockatoos — just to name a few.
The park is open 9:00AM – 2:00PM, 364 days of the year (everyday except Christmas). You can choose from a variety of experiences, like holding a koala or baby crocodile to feeding turtles.
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