Townsville is a Pandora’s Box of mysterious shipwrecks and colourful marine life, cuddly wildlife and tropical forests, wild rodeos and outback towns. Here are classic things to do Townsville.
Enjoy Townsville’s beachfront by strolling along the Strand, which is a vibrant recreation area with stretches of green lawn, trees and trickling fountains, large colourful waterslides filled with kids cooling off on a hot day, and paved areas for power-walkers, rollerbladers and cyclists.
Surrounded by a hinterland of tropical rainforests, Townsville is also close to historic gold mining towns, the outback, islands and the Great Barrier Reef.
2-Museum of Tropical Queensland
Follow the voyage of HMS Pandora at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. In 1791, the ship was sent to capture the Bounty mutineers but sank after hitting the Great Barrier Reef.
The Queensland Museum has been excavating the wreck and is piecing together the Pandora puzzle, most of which is displayed in Townsville, a museum that prides itself on its focus on Maritime Archaeology.
There is a replica of the ship, scenes from the journey and ancient relics dug up from the ocean. Peek into the behind-the-scenes window at the far end of the Great Gallery and watch the taxidermy team at work.
3-Castle Hill Lookout
The huge pink granite monolith that towers some 286 metres above the city is aptly named Castle Hill and is the place to get a birds-eye view of Townsville and the surrounding area, from Cape Cleveland to Cape Pallarenda.
There is a sealed road with vehicle access, along with two main walking tracks that lead to the top. If you’re a hiker, take the Goat Track, which starts from Hillside Crescent and leads up the eastern ridge.
The warm tropical waters makes diving possible all year around and Townsville is the gateway to one of the best scuba diving sites in Australia, the SS Yongala wreck.
The Yongala leans on her starboard side, 30 meters below the surface and provides a magical setting for a kaleidoscope of an ever-changing water ballet as soft coral trees sway gently with the current while vibrant fish dart around the wreck.
A luxuriously appointed passenger and freight ship, SS Yongala sailed into the eye of a cyclone in 1911, vanished into the ocean and was only discovered in 1958.
An open water certification is the minimum requirement for this dive. If diving is not your forte you can still get nose-to-nose with reef sharks, stingrays and sea turtles at the world’s largest coral reef aquarium, Reef HQ.
Home to 130 coral species and 120 fish species, as well as hundreds of varieties of sea creatures such as sea-stars, sea-urchins, sea-cucumbers, worms and sponges, this aquarium (which is the size of 50 family swimming pools) is also unique because the environment created for these creatures is open to the elements.
Thousands of reef organisms that are housed there receive natural daylight and moonlight, rain and storms, just like the natural reef.
Take a 25-minute ferry ride to Magnetic Island where you can sleep in the forest among the wild koalas at Bungalow Bay.
Park rangers from the Wulgurukaba (or the canoe people), the island’s Aboriginal traditional owners will introduce you to an assortment of reptiles – among them are a sleepy crocodile, a python, a fiery Frill-necked lizard and a blue-tongue lizard – most of which you will get to hold.
Pull on your cowboy boots and join the thigh-slapping, whip-cracking locals at Black River Rodeos where an action-packed Rodeo is performed by the best bull-riders, barrel-racers and bareback riders from all over North Queensland.
7-Cheer on the Cowboys
Join in the cheering at a National Rugby League match, a version of football which has attained cult status in the states of New South Wales and Queensland.
Soak in the electric atmosphere of a game when the local team, the North Queensland Cowboys, is in town and you’ll have as much fun watching the spectators as you will the sport.
Visit the ghosts of Charters Towers, which is a beautifully preserved gold-mining town that once boasted a major stock exchange.
The Charters Towers Stock Exchange was linked to the world via telegraph and during the heady days of the gold rush, this small stock exchange in the Queensland Outback had a major influence on the international financial markets.
The Queensland Heritage Trails Network project has kitted up a few of the main historical sites with high-tech production facilities that bring the gold rush to life.
The Ghosts of Gold Heritage Trail is narrated by ghostly figures from the past that appear as holograms on widescreen plasma sets.
The trail includes One Square Mile (lovingly renovated buildings within the heart of town), the old Stock Exchange, Towers Hill gold site and the Venus Gold Battery historic gold milling site.
Start your evening watching a brilliant sunset with a glass of champagne at the top of Towers Hill; there’s a short film that will put you in the mood for gold.
Spend a few days in tropical luxury at Orpheus Island. Like its namesake, the mythological Greek father of song, who was believed to have the power to charm wild beasts and coax the trees to dance, Orpheus Island, exudes its own brand of magic.
Translucent waters lap gently along the shores of gorgeous palm-fringed bays. There is abundant marine life – thousands of species of fish, colourful clams and hundreds of coral species – in the island’s surrounding waters.
Feeding sessions of tame diamond-scale mullet are one of the resort’s trademarks, as is a candlelit fresh seafood platter set out on the jetty and a spectacular seaplane landing on the waters around the island.
Take a peek into the ocean at the Cairns marine aquarium, which has plenty of exhibits.