Fresher than its tropical neighbours, Townsville provides a fascinating contrast for the overlander just a short boat-trip from Magnetic Island or the Barrier Reef. Enjoy seafood barbecues, water-side fun and a micro reef display at the stunning Reef HQ Aquarium.
Twenty minutes leads you into tropical rainforest north, or wetlands southward, supporting stunning birdlife near the seafood capital.
Magic at twilight and a photo-bomber extraordinaire, Castle Hill pulls in the locals and tourists with its views overlooking Townsville and Magnetic Island.
The pink granite mount has a fabulous energy about it, as crowds explore numerous tracks for eagle-eyed scenes.
American soldiers used it as a post in WWII, a bunker testifying to its history—much like the ‘Scramble’ a.k.a. Ladies’ Track, favoured by unauthorised guests in the day. Just one of many official and unofficial well-worn tracks blessed with views, suitable for walkers of varying abilities.
RIVERWAY LAGOONS, PARKLAND & A TIPPING BUCKET ON THE STRAND
Safely play year-round at the Riverway Lagoons, sheltered by raintrees and overlooking Ross River. Handrails and lap-lanes welcome waders of all abilities with sand for epic castle-building. Here, the kids can play in view of banana lounges on sheltered timber decking, at the northern end of a cosmopolitan promenade.
But it’s not the only water-splash area on the Strand. A giant splash park with tipping bucket set amongst playground beats the midday heat. (There’s also a large pool with waterslides further inland).
Palms line this 2km beach-fronted promenade suitable for bikes, prams and walkers with pathways leading off to picturesque picnic spots, dining, the aquarium, a marina and pier.
Coast the island in a mini moke for an idle afternoon at this ultimate island-dwelling holiday destination. Sunshine, coral, palm-fringed views and beer-o’clock are just a 20-minute ferry ride from Townsville.
You’ll find some of Australia’s prettiest beaches here including Horseshoe Bay, one of 22 on the island. There are top snorkel sites east of the island including Alma and Nelly bays. And Australia’s largest population of koalas at Bungalow Bay Koala Sanctuary, with private tours and koala cuddles available.
Aquascene Charters leads out to the SS Adelaide wreck.
ANIMAL ADVENTURES AT BILLABONG SANCTUARY IN NOME
About 15km south of Townsville, you’ll find quiet getaways and animal attractions in Nome Townsville, home to the Billabong Sanctuary. Feed kangaroos, greet turtles at the water line, hold a python, meet birds of prey and pat a koala for the cost of an entry fee. And for an extra $10 you can feed a freshwater croc.
The friendly rangers really help make this small welcoming animal park.
BOWLING GREEN NATIONAL PARK
From Billabong Sanctuary, you’re not far from Alligator Creek, which staircases into deep pools at Bowling Green National Park.
Bowling Green is a significant Ramsar-listed wetland where green, loggerhead and flatback turtles, brolgas and magpie geese rely upon its sheltering wetlands.