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Townsville

Destination Information

When you think of Townsville, North Queensland, you’d be forgiven for comparing this bustling regional city to other metro areas, as it does certainly offer amazing dining and bar options, street art, and inner city vibes. We think this North Queensland hub, and gateway to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef should be on your travel list for this and many more reasons.
With its beautiful and bustling foreshore, The Strand, 20-minute Sealink ferry access to Magnetic Island, accessible historic outback towns, ancient rainforests, and waterfalls all within easy driving distance, world class hikes, cheap and luxurious accommodation, Townsville is home to some very iconic adventures.

Castle Hill

Castle Hill stands tall at the heart of Townsville, and offers the best views in the city looking over the water and towards Magnetic Island. A massive pink monolith towering over anything else in Townsville, it serves as an ideal landmark for visitors to orient themselves. You can drive there or enjoy a scenic walk, and take in the panoramic 360-degree views of everything below. Getting a snap of the sunset as it dips below the horizon is definitely worth the trek.

Beyond its role as a prominent city landmark and scenic lookout point, Castle Hill holds significant historical importance. During World War II, the hill’s strategic position was utilised by American soldiers. Legend has it that these soldiers proposed demolishing the hill and using its rock to construct a bridge to Magnetic Island. Today, a World War II observation bunker stands as a reminder of Castle Hill’s military past, adding another layer of intrigue to this iconic site.

Museum of Underwater Art

Townsville offers two of the best places to dive within the central Great Barrier Reef. The first is the Museum of Underwater Art in Australia (known as MOUA), and we can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything like it.

MOUA is the first of its kind in the southern half of the world and also acts as a platform to encourage discussion around reef conservation and restoration, as well as the indigenous history and their connection to the reef. Located on the John Brewer Reef, it is essentially an underwater greenhouse with a beautiful mix of art and science. It’s a staggering 72m and fringed by coral reef, easily accessible by dive or snorkel.

SS Yongala Shipwreck

By far one of the best shipwreck dive sites along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the SS Yongala dive site. This famous site beholds a shipwreck that was once a luxury passenger steamship that sank during a cyclone.

In the early 1990s, the shipwreck disappeared with no survivors and wasn’t found for decades. It has since earned itself a reputation for being home to some of the best diving in Australia as it is mostly intact and now as a flourishing eco-system of underwater wildlife. You will need a dive certificate to access it, however.

Paluma Range National Park

The Paluma village and rainforest is a very special place that is worth visiting on a day trip from Townsville. Nestled in the misty rainforest, the village is embedded in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and surrounded by national parks.

The weather is significantly cooler than the heat that Townsville faces, so if you’re looking to cool down in the Summer months, it’s a good idea to head here. In many months of the year when the mountain is covered in mist, you can smell the smoke from the wood stoves and backyard fires throughout the village.

If you choose to visit Paluma, the McClelland’s Lookout is one of the best spots to take it all in. The lookout is surrounded by plenty of spots for a picnic and a chill out. From there, you can continue along the surrounding rainforest paths in several different directions. In our opinion, the Witt’s Lookout path has an upper and lower lookout worth visiting.

The tracks through the Paluma rainforest are abundant with rainforest life, including the ever so famous bush turkeys, and hundreds of species of birds. Be sure to take your time to appreciate the sounds and smells this magical place provides, and definitely don’t miss out on the fairy-tale looking waterfalls, such as Cloudy Creek Falls, Ethel Creek Falls, and 20m cascading Birthday Creek Falls. So pack some hiking gear, snacks, a picnic, and maybe a victory beer for your lookout spots, and you are ready to go!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Townsville?

Rainfall is usually quite a high percentage in the summer months of December-March, so we definitely recommend hitting the peak season which tends to fall in the months of June-October, where the weather is still very nice and tropical.

How do we get to Townsville?

Townsville is a 15-hour drive north of Brisbane and 4.5 hours south of Cairns. Flights are also available from other cities in Australia from most flight retailers. The most popular way to travel to Townsville is with the Greyhound bus, or by hiring a car/campervan and doing the scenic drive along the coast yourself.

How do I get to Magnetic Island from Townsville?

Townsville is on the mainland of Australia’s East Coast and is the closest town/city to the beautiful Magnetic Island. You can hop on a quick 20 minute Sealink ferry from Townsville’s Breakwater Terminal to Nelly Bay on the island. They run regularly from early in the morning to late into the evening.

Can I go snorkelling or diving near Townsville?

Absolutely! Most people don’t realise that Townsville is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and offers some world class snorkelling and dive spots. Check out the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) or the SS Yongala Shipwreck dive tours above. Magnetic Island, just a short ferry ride away, also offers fantastic snorkelling opportunities around its coral reefs.

Are there any good hiking trails near Townsville?

Yes, Townsville has access to several excellent hiking trails catering to various skill levels. Castle Hill, located in the heart of Townsville, offers stunning views of the city and surrounding landscape. The nearby Paluma Range National Park offers beautiful bush walks leading to gorgeous creeks and cascading waterfalls.

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