We think Townsville is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Australia. Here Ariana Potamianakis shares 100 things to do in this wonderful place.
100 things to do in Townsville
There’s no denying Townsville‘s street cred can’t stop/won’t stop thriving.
Packing the perks of a city (hello fine dining and boutique shopping) minus the fast pace and zombie-like inhabitants, all the while sitting pretty between the reef, rainforest and outback, it shouldn’t come as a surprise why.
So the next time you head to the sunshine capital of the state, check out these 100 must-dos.
1. Grab a scoop of creamy deliciousness at Juliette’s Gelateria on The Strand. Actually, make that two and walk it off with a stroll from the rock pools down to the Marina.
2. Make an entrance worth bragging about when you jump from 14,000 ft and land on the beach at The Strand or Magnetic Island with Skydive Townsville.
3. Become a master of the waves and winds when you learn to kite surf with Intheloop.
4. Couldn’t get the hang of it? Opt for a calmer approach to the waters with their stand-up paddleboard hire instead.
5. Head to the rooftop bar at glam-packers resort Rambutan to feast poolside on tacos, fried chicken, and lazy cocktails.
6. Did you know one of the world’s Top 10 dive sites lies just off the coast of Townsville? TheSS Yongala is a total bucket-list shipwreck, but if you haven’t got your creds yet for this advanced dive, you can start from scratch and tick off all the certifications in one trip withAdrenalin Snorkel and Dive or Yongala Dive.
7. There’s no denying the SS Yongala is the main drawcard for keen divers, but if you’re a novice or you’re just keen to explore the underwater world some more, there’s theGothenburg and wreck dives off Magnetic Island to keep you busy.
9. Tuck into the best breakfast in Queensland as crowned by the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence at JAM Corner in Palmer Street.
10. Get a bird’s eye view of Townsville or ‘Maggie’ on a scenic flight with Red Baron Sea Planes. If you’ve got the nerve (and stomach) for it, ask the pilot to throw in some adrenalin-pumping manoeuvres!
11. Don’t forget your camera as you stalk the alleys and laneways hiding the city’s secret street art trail.
12. On the hunt for some new threads and homewares? Shop ’til you drop with this handy guide to the city’s best boutique shopping.
13. For a short and sweet cardio fix, hit up the Goat Track on Castle Hill (don’t let the first part of that sentence fool you, because your buns will still feel the burn).
14. Tick off an Australian wonder when you road trip two hours north-west of Townsville toWallaman Falls – the highest permanent single drop waterfall in the country.
15. Try ice-cream and sorbet flavours made from almost every fruit you could think of at everyone’s favourite pitstop, the Frosty Mango.
16. Cross your fingers and hope to find a nugget when you pan for gold at The Miner’s Cottage in Charters Towers.
17. Make a day out of the outdoor gallery at the Jezzine Barracks. The recently renovated parklands has been decked out with a scenic coastal boardwalk, an ethno-botanical trail, and over 30 specially commissioned art installations commemorating the military and Aboriginal heritage of the site.
18. If you want to continue on the military history trail, pop in to the Army Museum.
19. Watch a cane fire burn in the sugar cane capital of Australia, Burdekin (crushing season starts in June and can run until the end of the year).
20. If you’re in need of a nature escape, head to the misty mountain village of Paluma, where freshwater crystal creeks and Wet Tropics Heritage-listed rainforest walks await.
21. Bid in a cane toad race on a Wednesday night at the Arcadia Village Hotel on Magnetic Island. It’s all in good fun and proceeds are donated to the Surf Life Saving Club.
22. Go bat-to-bat at the largest amateur cricket carnival in the southern hemisphere, the annual Goldfield Ashes.
23. Did you know it’s estimated over half the population of Ingham is of Italian descent? And what do Italians like to do? Eat. Or force you to eat. So beat them to the punch and stock up on continental delights at the Italian delicatessen known as Lou’s Food Emporium.
24. And on that note, don’t forget to om nom nom your way through the town’s annual Australian Italian Festival. (Word of warning: don’t wear tight pants.)
25. Don your best cowboy boots on a horse-drawn wagon ride with Texas Longhorn to meet JR, the bull with the longest horns in the world according to Guinness World Records.
26. Get a hands-on encounter with creatures of the Great Barrier Reef at the world’s largest living coral aquarium, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium.
27. Spend four days hiking through a smorgasbord of changing landscapes and habitats from rainforest to paperbark country on Hinchinbrook Island‘s Thornsborne Trail. But before you set off, make sure you double and triple check this packing guide.
28. Stock up on fresh produce and handmade knick-knacks at the Cotters and Willows Rotary Markets on Sundays.
29. Learn how to load and fire a six-pounder cannon at the star attraction of the Museum of Tropical Queensland, the HMS Pandora.
30. Ride bareback through the ocean on a bush to beach horse riding tour at the Horseshoe Bay Ranch on Magnetic Island.
31. Feed a freshwater croc and cuddle up to a dingo at the Billabong Sanctuary.
32. B-ball fans should keep an eye out for home games of the Townsville Fire. The two-time defending WNBL champions are the only female professional sporting team of any discipline in the northern half of Australia! #girlpower
33. Love birds in need of a little RNR should book in some downtime at Classique Bed and Breakfast. This charming old Queenslander is its own little slice of paradise in the city’s heart, so while you’re minutes away from all the action, we wouldn’t blame you if you’d rather hole up in your rustic love nest instead. (PS. The tropical fruit platter at breakfast will blow your mind.)
34. From palms and pandanus to cacti and succulents, plant lovers will be in heaven exploring the city’s botanic gardens – Anderson Park, Queens Gardens, Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens and The Palmetum – all within a 20-minutes drive from the CBD.
35. Have brekkie with the koalas at Bungalow Bay Village on Magnetic Island. As well as having a morning snuggle from these cuties, you can stuff your faces with an Aussie-style breakfast of jaffles and toad-in-a-hole (our version of eggs cooked in bread).
36. Go old-school on date night with a trip to Tors Drive-In Cinema in Charters Towers.
37. Celebrate the rich history of Townsville on a walking heritage tour of the city. You can download the self-guided trails from here.
38. No boat? No worries! You can reel in a barra and learn how to wakeboard all in a day at the Barra Fun Park. There’s even an aqua playground for the youngins (and young at heart!).
39. Drink the infamous Kopi Luwak coffee – aka cat poop coffee – at the Heritage Tea Rooms for $50 a cup. Known as one of the most expensive coffees in the world, it is produced from coffee beans which have been digested by an Asian civet cat. #delish
40. Play a piano on the beach at Radical Bay.
41. Dine at the award-winning Kobe Restaurant (they won best steak restaurant in NQ at the 2014 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence) before trying your luck at the casino.
42. Strike out (in the best way) at Kingpin Bowling.
43. Hop aboard Pilgrim for a sip and sail sunset cruise off Magnetic Island.
44. Go back in time to the gold rush era of Charters Towers on a tour at the Venus Gold Battery.
45. Take your camera on a landscape adventure through the farmlands and lush green canefields between Burdekin and Home Hill. Fun fact: On the way you’ll cross over the Burdekin River Bridge (also known as the Silver Link), which at 1,103m long is longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
46. Tempt your taste buds at Townsville’s New York-inspired laneway dining precinct, where you’ll find everything from a Mexican cantina and sushi bar to Italiano and paleo delights.
47. Go topless (by car, that is) when you hire a moke and cruise around Magnetic Island.
48. Try Queensland’s best signature cocktail (as awarded by the Brisbane Times in 2015), The Fairy Floss Windmill, at Shaw & Co. It’s a deliciously zesty mix of vanilla vodka, elderflower liqueur, cranberry and apple juice, with a twist of lemon and topped with strawberry fairy floss.
49. Mountain bike through the open woodland and rocky shores of Cape Pallarenda on the ‘Under the Radar’ trail.
50. Two words: platypus safari. Why? Because Australia. The platypus safari at the Hidden Valley Cabins has a 98% success rate of spotting these duck-billed cuties, earning them the title of one of the top six places in the country to spot them by Australian Geographic no less.
51. If your secret superhero power would be to fly, then you need to book in a sesh with NQ Flyboarding ASAP and turn those dreams into a reality.
52. Catch a home game of the North Queensland Cowboys – the 2015 NRL grand final champions!
53. Discover the flourishing bommies and historical wreck relics that lie beneath the waters off Magnetic Island on these self-guided snorkel trails.
54. Unleash your inner Robin Hood in a game of Archery Tag at the XFire Games.
55. History doesn’t need a textbook when there’s the Charters Towers Historical Walking Tour. After just 1.5 hours, you’ll come away with a trivia master’s knowledge of the town’s golden days and a new appreciation for 1800s architecture.
56. Spot wild koalas when you hike to military history on Magnetic Island’s Forts Walk.
57. Hop on a trike tour with Crikey Trikey Joy Rides, because as well as seeing the sights in style, it will be the only time you have a good excuse to wear a leather jacket in North Queensland.
58. Birdwatchers will be in paradise at the Town Common Conservation Park – up to 280 species have been recorded here, so be sure to keep a close eye at the bird hides and observation points along the Freshwater Trail.
59. Make like a local and get your caffeine fix from the funky Hoi Polloi Espresso Bar down Denham Lane.
61. What do you get when you combine body paint, fire twirlers, international DJs, and up to 3000 groovy souls, and plonk them all on Magnetic Island? A night that you may or may not remember at BASE Backpacker’s monthly Full Moon Down Under Party.
62. Pour your own brew at The TapHouse craft beer bar in City Lane.
63. Treat your pooch to a day of sun and sand at the off-leash Pallarenda Beach.
64. Bay hop to the local snorkel and fishing hotspots around Maggie on a half-day tour with Aquascene Charters.
65. Head to the TYTO Wetlands at dusk to spot the resident birds for which the wetlands was named after – the endangered Eastern Grass Owl (Tyto Capensis). Your best bet of spotting them is from the observation deck.
66. The Townsville region ain’t just the breeding grounds of NRL champions, but also Australia’s most successful professional female golfer, Karrie Web. So if you’re passing through her hometown of Ayr, stop in for a round at her local golf club.
67. Who knew there was an art to the printmaking business? I didn’t, and if like me you were completely unawares to its talent, check out the biannual Compact Prints exhibition at the Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, showcasing national and international artists working in traditional and digital print media.
68. Rest assured you won’t actually find snappy reptiles at Alligators Creek, just crystal clear swimming holes and day hikes through the tropical rainforests of Mount Elliot.
69. Catch a sorbet sunset from the best spot in Charters Towers, Towers Hill.
70. Take your fishing adventure to new heights when you scout the most elusive and untouched locations via heli.
71. It’s not often one seeks out a giant carpet snake, but if you’re passing through Burdekin, you’ll want to take a look at this one. The 60-metre artwork is a depiction of Gubulla Munda, the Aboriginal totem and protective spirit for the Birri Gubba people.
72. We know we plug it in almost every Townsville post, but you can always rely on The Strand for delivering hours of family fun. You could easy spend a day to and fro-ing from the rock pools and water park (eds note: closed until late 2016 for renovations) before cooking up a feast on the free BBQs.
73. Treat your better half to a night of fine dining in the CBD’s premier foodie strip, Palmer Street.
74. Indulge in a relaxing reiki massage at Hands in Harmony. While working out your pains and aches, hand and healing energy is used to loosen blocked energy so your mind and body are in a state of total relaxation and well-being. #bliss
75. Meet the rock wallabies on Magnetic Island when you take to the national park walking tracks.
76. Most people know of the epic coastal and city views atop Castle Hill, but for the ‘bigger picture’, you can’t beat the Mount Stuart lookout. You’ll get the lay of the land with panoramic vision to the north and south of the region from Paluma down to the Ross River Dam, then east overlooking the city suburbs and offshore islands.
77. Kick up some dirt on a 4WD adventure to Ollera Creek.
78. Fish off the jetty at Picnic Bay. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a turtle or a dugong!
79. If it’s a night on the town you’re after, put on your dancing shoes and head to Flinders Street.
80. From May to December each year, The Strand Night Markets light up the park on the first Friday of every month with live music, entertainment and a plethora of stalls, so bring the family (fur babies included) and get perusin’.
81. Vroom vroom your way to victory on the track at Pitstop Karting. (Tip: Go on cheap Tuesdays for $15 sessions!).
82. Smash plates, learn the Zorba, and, as my Yia Yia would say, eat darling, at the annual Glencore Greek Festival.
84. So far we’ve covered Magnetic Island exploration by snorkel, boat and plane… but what about a stretched yellow Jeep? Adventure #likeaboss with Tropicana Tours and discover hidden bays you can’t access with the 2WD hire cars and learn what everyday life is like for the people who call the island home.
85. Fancy yourself quite the beer connoisseur? Then you’ll want to taste test the award-winning cold ones brewed around the clock (and metres away from you) at the Townsville Brewery.
86. Ahoy there, matey! Seafarers and nautical buffs will get a kick out of the Maritime Museum of Townsville. The small but impressive museum even has its own model boat building room and lighthouse (which was relocated from its original home on the rocky islet of Bay Rock).
87. Uncover the gruesome and spooky past of Charters Towers on a ghost tour through the old city center after dark.
88. Knock back a bottle of Whitebreads fizzy goodness. The company is one of the oldest surviving small town manufacturers of soft drinks – serving for the past 120 years – and is the beverage of choice around these parts, so drink up!
89. Fancy a pub with no beer…. outrageous, I tell you! But that was once the case for The Pub with No Beer at Lees Hotel in Ingham, made famous by Slim Dusty. Thankfully, this predicament is no longer the case, so head on over, grab a cold one, and learn the legend for which it got its name.
90. Spend two days trekking through ancient palm-filled gullies and open forests on the Wet Tropics Great Walk.
91. Travel back 45,000 years on a day tour of Mungalla Station and learn the incredible history of Nywaigi Aboriginal culture and the role the Cassady family played in protecting their people during the European settlement.
92. From ballet and comedy skits to live music and art performances, if it’s a good night out in Charters Towers you’re looking for, you’ll find it at The World Theatre.
93. Whether you’re a lap enthusiast or err towards lazy lounging, when it starts getting hot (which let’s be honest is most of the year here in North Queensland), head to the RiverwayLagoons to cool down.
94. Rise and shine for a morning paddle with Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks. Setting out from Horseshoe Bay, you’ll stalk the coastline, drifting over seagrass beds and coral gardens, before stopping at a secluded bay to fill up on a tropical brekkie.
95. Bliss out in your own private paradise at Orpheus Island Resort. It may be pricey, but with everything included in their luxe accommodation packages – gourmet meals, unlimited use of water equipment, and island tours and activities – it’s so worth it.
96. Get a taste of the real-life fast and (not so) furious at the V8 Supercars Castrol Edge Townsville 400 as they race through the streets of Townsville
97. Big on beef? Experience first-hand the excitement of a live cattle auction at theDalrymple Sales Yards. It might not be the first place on your sightseeing list, but with beasts worth more than a Mercedes, aren’t you just a little bit curious to see what all the fuss is about?
98. Learn to sail at the Townsville Yacht Club on their social Wednesday Twilight Sails.
99. Snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef to your heart’s content on a camp and dive safari to Pelorus Island with Remote Area Dive.
100. If you haven’t already, download our FREE ebook and discover the other reef experiences you never knew existed off Townsville.