The largest tropical city in North Queensland, Townsville has a population of 200,000 people and an average of 300 sunny days per year. While it’s a great tourism hotspot because of its access to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef, it doesn’t solely rely on tourism. The economy is supported by a variety of industries, including government administration and defence, agriculture and mining, and because of this, the city has a completely different vibe compared to tourism-driven Cairns. It feels like a city with deep roots and happy inhabitants that are friendly and welcoming.
Just off the coast is Magnetic Island, a popular holiday destination that was named by Captain Cook in 1770 after his compass went haywire when passing the island. There are heaps of beaches, walking tracks and lagoons on the island, and it only takes 25 minutes by ferry to get there from Townsville.
The Bindal and Wulgurukaba People were the first people to have lived in the Townsville region. While there were a few visitors to the area, including a brief pass by of Captain Cook’s fleet in 1770, settlement started in 1866 when a bloke called Robert Towns agreed to provide financial assistance. Incidentally, Townsville was named after him and two years later, the settlement grew quickly as the port and service centre for the goldfields in the west. With the addition of pastoral and sugar industries, Townsville’s population bloomed from 4,000 people in 1882 to 13,000 by 1891.
During World War 2, Townsville was a major military base and hosted around 90,000 American and Australian troops. It was bombed three times by the Japanese and was a major offensive launching base for the battle of the Coral Sea. And, as do all places in the tropics, Townsville has fallen victim to a few cyclones.
Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium
Learn about the Great Barrier Reef and the creatures that reside there at the world’s largest coral reef aquarium. For more information, check out our article here…
This beautiful 2.2km stretch of beachfront parkland is dotted with playgrounds and picnic areas, and features a water park, a few restaurants and the Strand Rock Pool, and manmade saltwater pool that’s free from stingers and biters.
A visit to Townsville isn’t complete without ascending the 268m to the top of Castle Hill. This pink granite monolith overlooks the entire city and was one of the earliest sites named by the explorers who surveyed the area in 1864. Whether you do it by car along the 2.6km winding road or the goat track on foot, the view from the top is incredible. What impressed us the most was the amount of people walking, running and riding their way up the road towards the top – there must have been hundreds!
The inner city park is the oldest botanic garden in Townsville and was first set up in 1870 as a garden of food bearing plants to feed the settlement. These days, it includes a hedge maze, succulent and cactus gardens and bird aviaries.
Kissing Point & Jezzine Barracks
Kissing Point overlooks Cleveland Bay and was originally built in the 1800s as a fort to defend the harbour from the threat of foreign attack, particularly from the Russians. Jezzine Barracks was built on the headland and occupied by military right up until 2006. In 2009, the area was handed over to the community of Townsville and turned into a heritage precinct that commemorates the military and aboriginal heritage of Kissing Point headland. There is a great display of war history and a lookout over the bay to Magnetic Island
Food & Drink
The Townsville Brewing Company
The old Townsville post office was converted into a brewery, restaurant and function centre in 2001 and offers a great range of beers and awesome lunch specials. Definitely worth stopping in.
This coffee shop sells one thing and one thing only – coffee. They roast, brew and sell beans at this outlet, and after putting them to the taste test, we give them the Melbournian tick of approval. The coffee was strong and flavoursome and they know how to froth soy milk so that it’s silky and smooth.
Two Brothers Café
Just around the corner from the Information Centre is a café that serves up burgers and rolls named after famous brothers. Choose between a Leyland Brothers Burger with chicken, swiss cheese and bacon or a Mario Brothers deli roll with roast beef, grilled sweet potato and marinated mushrooms. Sounds good to us!
Information & Accommodation
The Information Centre is located in Bulletin Square, just off Flinders Street in the centre of town. There are a few cafes nearby and public toilets as well.
The closest YHA to Townsville is on Magnetic Island, which makes it the perfect place to stay while you explore the island. To make a booking, call (07) 4778 5577 or visit https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/qld/townsville-whitsundays/magnetic-island/
About 30km out of town is Bluewater Rest Area. It’s spacious and offers toilets, a playground and overnight stays for self-contained vehicles – no tents.