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 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 & Magnetic Island are home to some very iconic adventures.
We think one of the best things to do on Magnetic Island easily has to be visiting the rock wallabies at Geoffrey’s Bay. These adorable little creatures live in the boulders in this are and are such a sight to find. Always keep a lookout, because they keep a similar colour to the rocks, allowing them a bit of camouflage.
It is an absolute gem to visit these guys up close. Visit at around 5PM and you’re to find these beautiful Australian animals ready to say hi to you.
It turns out that Alma Bay in Magnetic Island has been voted the #2 best beaches in Queensland by Queensland Surf Living Association. It’ a gorgeous beach with giant beautiful boulders protecting the bay and is hands down our favourite beach on Magnetic Island. Alma Bay faces due east and has two prominent granite headlands which run out for 300m at either end of the beach, giving it a bit of seclusion.
The Forts Junction Hub provides an entry point to the National Park walking track network. Car parks and bus stops provide easy access, toilet and drinking water facilities are in place, and interpretive displays make this the ideal spot to start and plan your experience here.
Being one of the most popular tracks on Magnetic Island, The Forts walk leads to fascinating historic WWII fortifications and infrastructure, where the Australian Coast Artillery Units operated the complex from 1943 until the end of the Pacific War in 1945.
Starting on Horseshoe Bay Road at the turn-off to Radical Bay, the track ascends, sometimes steeply in certain spots, to follow a ridge behind the bays before arriving at the ruins of the Forts complex operated during WWII. Along the way, stop to take in the breathtaking views. Don’t forget to look up for koalas (don’t worry, they aren’t drop bears) dozing off in the trees along the track. The 360 views from the top of the fortifications are more than worth the walk.
Discover two of the best places to dive in the Great Barrier Reef, just off of Townsville! With the first Museum of Underwater Art in Australia (known as MOUA), and the best dive wreck in Australia at Yongala dive site, you’re literally quite spoilt for choice at these incredible sites to choose between.
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 dive and snorkel accessible.
The second equally attractive site along the Great Barrier Reef is the 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.
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!
Just a short ferry ride from Townsville, this awesome little stop off on the north of the East Coast trail is a must-do. Explore this island on foot or with the epic soft-top 4WD Barbie cars. Top-notch hikes, world-class beaches, historical WWII history, amazing views, and even better snorkelling, this place can’t be missed. This Base Hostel Magnetic Island deal includes everything you need to check out this beautiful part of the East Coast such as 2 or 3 nights in 6 bed dorm accommodation at Base Magnetic Island (shared A/C dorm), return ferry transfers from Townsville, as well as…
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.
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. Once you have made it to Townsville, Magnetic Island is only a 40-minute ferry ride away.
Yes. The island does cover reception for all service providers and many places have WIFI, so you shouldn’t worry about being off of the grid.
Yes. Magnetic Island remains a significant cultural site for Wulgurukaba people. If you come across any cultural artifacts or pieces of land, please respect them.
To save your time from hiking around so much on the island, we recommend hiring a car to save you the trouble, and we definitely say the mini ‘barbie’ cars are our favourites. Zip around the island in miniature style.