From hiking to the summit of Castle Hill to diving the the Great Barrier Reef, here is our list of the best things to do in Townsville!
You may know this North Queensland destination for its palm-lined promenade ‘The Strand’, and as the gateway to the natural wonders of Magnetic Island and the world-heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.
However, as the largest urban centre north of the Sunshine State (and home to local legends, the North Queensland Cowboys), there is so much more to explore!
Townsville is a great place to come to experience life like a local by enjoying stunning hikes, eateries, night markets, botanical gardens, as well as a great place to anchor down to explore the natural wonders of Tropical North Queensland.
Once you know what to do in Townsville, you’ll end up coming back again and again.
Table of Contents
The Best Things to Do in Townsville
In the city itself you can spend your days biking, walking up Castle Hill, exploring the family-friendly public art trail, going to the Strand night markets, and hanging out with the wild koalas and wallabies on Magnetic Island or at the Billabong Sanctuary.
READ MORE: Heading further north? Don’t miss our epic guide to the best things to do in Cairns!
Then, within just a few hours drive, you can immerse yourself in ancient palm-filled gullies of the wet tropics, explore misty mountain villages of Tropical Queensland, cool off in freshwater crystal creeks, experience the thrill of standing beneath Australia’s tallest single drop waterfall, and discover the underwater world of reefs, wrecks, sea turtles and more.
In case you’re still wondering if you should linger longer than you originally planned, our list of the top things to do in Townsville will convince you to stay for a few more days at least!
Jump on a boat and head out to the Great Barrier Reef – one of the best things to do in Townsville! Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
1) Climb Castle Hill
This iconic pink granite monolith is more than just a scenic backdrop to the city. With a number of trails ranging in difficulty and length, it’s a popular hiking trail for locals and tourists alike.
Spend a few hours climb the walking tracks to the top to see this city from above with a 360 degree panoramic view of this tropical Queensland city and Magnetic Island.
Can’t beat the views from the top of Castle Hill! Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
2) Explore the Great Barrier Reef
Townsville is one of the best ports to access the UNESCO World Heritage Site Great Barrier Reef.
This stunning natural wonder boasts the world’s largest collection of coral reefs and diverse marine life, and is definitely a top contender for things to do in Townsville.
Experience a day on the Great Barrier Reef (and combine it with the can’t-miss MOUA) by booking an epic day trip here.
After a 2 hour ride to the reef, you can spend a the day snorkelling or diving this underwater world, seeing everything from reef sharks to sea turtles and the abundant beauty of the coral reef.
- Opening Hours: tours start around 7am and return around 4pm
- Address: Pick up from Townsville or Magnetic Island
Jump on a boat and head out to the central Great Barrier Reef – one of the most spectacular natural wonders on the planet. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
3) Take a Walk on the Strand
Take a walk along this scenic coastal boardwalk down by the palm-laden foreshore overlooking Magnetic Island.
Spend the day going for a croc-free swim in the lagoon or rent a stand up paddle board from In the Loop (call them at 0415 837 484).
In the evening head to Strand Park to check out the Strand Night Markets and the range of food stands, homewares, fashion and crafts.
If you’re an ice-cream lover, be sure to grab a scoop at Juliette’s Gelateria and try Townsville’s favourite gelato.
- Opening hours: First friday of the month 5pm-9:30pm (mar-dec)
- Cost: Varies
- Address: Strand Park, North Ward, 4810 QLD
The Strand hugs Townsville’s stunning coastline – Definitely worth dedicating an afternoon to strolling around. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
4) Swim in the Freshwater Creeks in Paluma Range National Park
Just 80km north west of Townsville, this national park is the southern gateway to north Queensland’s wet tropics where freshwater crystal creeks and rock pools are plentiful.
Head to the misty mountain village of Paluma for a walk amongst the rainforest and see the region from above from McClelland’s Lookout.
Once you have finished soaking up the beauty of Paluma Range National Park, be sure to stop at Paradise waterhole at Big Crystal Creek and explore the cascading water holes under the beautiful stone arch bridge in Little Crystal Creek.
These are a great place to stop for a swim, a picnic and unwind for the day, all within the amazing Townsville region.
Ethel Creek Falls is just one of the gorgeous freshwater swimming holes you’ll find close to Townsville. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
5) Enjoy a Platypus Safari
If you are hoping to see a platypus in the wild, then be sure to book in a platypus safari at Hidden Valley Cabins.
Stay the night to relax and unwind in this tropical Queensland paradise, and awake refreshed to spend a few hours spotting the bubbles of submerged platypus and learning more about these beautiful creatures.
With a 98% success rate, this is a perfect spot to learn more about our billed friends in their natural environment.
- Cost: $229 (accomodation and tour)
- Address: 67 McLennan Rd, Hidden Valley, 4816, QLD
READ MORE: Don’t miss our list of all the best things to do in Airlie Beach, just a quick drive further south!
6) Take a Day Trip to Magnetic Island
Just a short 20-minute ride by ferry across Cleveland Bay is the beautiful Magnetic Island. This nature-rich oasis is a great place to go snorkelling, hiking and diving, or just kick back and enjoy some island tours.
The best way to get around Magnetic Island is by car but it doesn’t have to break the bank: If you don’t already have your own vehicle, simply take the ferry over and rent one on the island.
Once you’re there, you are spoilt for choice for all the incredible activities and attractions to explore in North Queensland’s best adventure island destination!
Only have one day here? Follow this Magnetic Island Day Trip Itinerary.
Head to Forts walk to experience the fascinating historic fortifications and 360 degree panoramic view from the top of this WWII site.
Don’t forget to look up as you may spot a wild koala! Be sure to grab a snorkel trail map (you can grab these from various locations around Magnetic Island for $5), before making your way to the rocky shores of Alma bay in Arcadia to go snorkelling on the self-guided snorkel trail looking for marine life, arguably Maggie’s most popular beach.
Finish the day by visiting the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay and exploring Horseshoe Bay, or going on a sail sunset cruise.
Love it so much you want to stay the night? Then be sure to book in a night at Bungalow Bay Village in Horseshoe Bay where you can have the chance to eat an Aussie style breakfast breakfast with wild koalas!
With beaches like this, it’s little wonder a day trip (or weekender) to Magnetic Island is one of the best ways to enjoy all that Townsville has to offer.
7) Explore the City’s Botanic Gardens
Nestled around the old city center, there are four botanical gardens to explore.
Anderson Botanical Gardens is the largest with over 25 hectares with a strong emphasis on dry and tropical plants, while Queens Gardens is the oldest, with a few small hedge mazes, an aviary and an oasis set on a backdrop of the monolith of Castle Hill.
The gates of all the gardens are open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
If you’re looking for more outdoor fun, check out the family friendly free water park, nearby Town Common Conservation Park or go for a swim in one of the Olympic swimming pools.
Take a break from the gorgeous beaches and head to Queens Gardens for a leisurely stroll in paradise. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
8) Step Back into the Gold Rush Era in Charters Towers
Drive an hour and thirty minutes west and take a step back in time to the gold rush era to Charters Towers.
Formerly known as “The World” (a nickname given to the town when it was the second largest city in Queensland), this town is rich with history, museums, tours and architecture of its colonial past.
Stop by Venus Gold Battery to learn more about the gold rush, try a Whitbreads cordial from the local stores and finish the day watching the sunset from atop Tower Hill.
- Opening hours: Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the Heritage Festival from 10am
- Price: $25 pp
- Address: Corner Millchester Road & Jardine Street Charters Towers, Queensland, 4820
Take a trip to Charters Towers to learn more about the Gold Rush era. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
9) Experience Australia’s Largest Single Drop Waterfall
Located two and a half hours north west is the iconic Wallaman Falls. After driving the graded ascent, winding through ancient palm filled gullies, you can park your car and walk to see the falls.
While you can see the full length of the waterfall from a viewing platform from above, the experience of standing at the base is a whole other world.
There is nothing quite like being submerged amongst the dense world-heritage listed tropical rainforests feeling the spray from this cascading beast of a waterfall.
Don’t miss Australia’s largest single drop waterfall, Wallaman Falls. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
10) Billabong Sanctuary
The Billabong Sanctuary is a great place to experience the very best of north Queensland native wildlife in action.
Here you can see croc feeding shows, pat a wombat, feed a cassowary, see a free flight bird show and is one of the few places in the world where you can hold a koala and a baby croc if you’re up for it!
- Opening hours: 7 days 9am-4pm
- Price: Entry $40
- Address: 11 Country rd, Nome, QLD, 4816
Spot a cassowary at the Billabong Sanctuary. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
11) Enjoy a Snack at Harvey Range Heritage Tea Rooms
Just inland of Townsville, this rustic heritage hotel turned heritage tea rooms offers high tea with a view.
Sit back and enjoy a range of cakes, pastries, sandwiches with bottomless tea and plunger coffee or, if you’re feeling brave, you can also try a one of a kind cup of Kopi Luwak (aka. cat poo coffee) known for its smoother, sweeter flavour, for $50 a cup!
- Opening Hours: All Day Breakfast 9am-1pm
- Cost: $20-$35 per person for high tea
- Address: 37 Thorton Gap Rd, Hervey Range, QLD, 4817
READ MORE: Discover more of Queensland’s amazing regional cities with our guide to what to do in Rockhampton!
12) Go to Foodie Heaven in Otto’s Fresh Food Market
Take the morning to meander through the artisanal deli, fresh produce, local goods and find yourself in foodie heaven as you smell the alluring fresh bread smell emanating from the German-style bakehaus.
If you’re a fan of baked goods, be sure to try one of Otto’s many doughy delights such as their pretzel doughnut twist or mouthwatering true sourdough bread.
- Opening hours: 7am-7pm (excluding sundays)
- Cost: $5-25
- Address: 3-5 Illuka St, Carrajong, QLD, 4812
13) Experience the Classic Tors Drive-In Cinema
Tors Drive-In Cinema, located 1.5 hr drive west from Townsville, has been rolling films since 1966 and is one of the only in North Queensland to screen the latest movies in 4K.
Support this local business by treating yourself to something from the Cafe that offers a range of burgers, toasted sandwiches and movie snacks.
This is a great night of family friendly entertainment to be enjoyed by everyone!
- Opening Hours: 6:30pm (check movie timetable on website)
- Cost: $9.50 per person
- Address: 120 New Queen Rd, Queenton, QLD, 4820
14) Go to the Museum of Underwater Art
Just a short way off the coast of Townsville you can experience the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA): the only underwater museum in the southern hemisphere.
Created by Jason De Cairns Taylor, this submerged museum sits in various locations around The Strand, Palm Islands, Magnetic Island and John Brewer Reef.
You can book a guided day tour that also includes a trip to the Great Barrier Reef here, which is suitable for certified divers and snorkelers of all ages.
The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA). Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
15) Eat Italian in Ingham
With over half the population of Ingham being of Italian descent, the town is often referred to as ‘Little Italy’ and is renowned for its authentic Italian heritage and cuisine.
If you’re planning a visit mid year, be sure to check out the Australian Italian Festival on the 4th and 5th of June at the TYTO precinct where you can experience the food and culture brought to life.
Otherwise, you can get a taste of little Italy by stopping by Casa Pasta for lunch throughout the rest of the year. Here you can choose your pasta and pair it with one of their homemade Italian sauces to create your own Italian pasta dish.
- Opening hours: 8am-3pm
- Cost: $15
- Address: 108 Lannercost St, Ingham, 4850
16) Hike Hinchinbrook Island
This nature lover’s paradise, located within the Great Barrier Reef heritage area, is one national park that is practically untouched with only 40 people permitted to camp on the island at a time.
Hinchinbrook Island is best known for the popular 32km Thorsbourne Trail that allows its visitors to discover this Jurassic Park-like location as if it was their very own private paradise.
Perfect hiking conditions are from July to November, and is easily accessible by ferry from Cardwell for $165, with camping fees around $6.85 per person per night.
Hiking the Thorsbourne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is like stepping into Jurassic Park. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
17) See Townsville by Bike
There is nothing like seeing a city by bike, especially when there are mountain bike trails to explore!
Rent a bike from In the Loop and go ‘under the radar’ and hit the local mountain bike trails at Pallarenda.
Not a mountain biker? No worries! You can rent a bike and enjoy a scenic ride along the beauty of the Ross River promenade and explore the city.
- Opening hours: 9am-5:30pm weekdays and 9am-1:30pm weekends
- Cost: $65-$110 per day
- Address: 320-322 Flinders Mall, Townsville, 4810, QLD
Grab a bike and hit the trails (or the Strand) to see the best parts of Townsville. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
18) Take a Walk at the Jezzine Barracks
This coastal boardwalk is a public art trail connecting Rowes Bay to the Strand, highlighting the Aboriginal and military heritage of the Kissing Point Headland.
Featuring 32 specially commissioned public artworks by North Queensland artists, this trail stands to pay homage to the history of Garrabara (aka Townsville) and to commemorate the impact of the war on the region.
19) Dive One of the Top 10 Dives in the World!
Just off the coast between Townsville and Ayr, near Cape Bowling Green, certified divers can go and experience the beauty of the SS Yongala shipwreck.
After sinking in 1911 and laying undiscovered for a half a century, this 100-metre long ship has since transformed and become home to a diverse array of coral gardens and resident sea life intertwined with the historical wreck relics.
Due to the fact that this is considered a remote area dive, it is best suited to more advanced divers.
Wreck dives of this kind require that you are a certified SCUBA open water diver and have logged at least 6 dives.
If that’s you, you can book a day trip to experience this bucket list dive here.
- Opening Hours: office hours 8am-11am /1pm-5pm (7 days)
- Cost: $262 per day (+$30 for gear rental)
- Address: 36 Braby St, Alva Beach, Ayr, ALD 4807
20) Check Out the Mount Stuart Lookout
Standing at 584 meters, almost twice the height of Castle Hill, Mount Stuart is another great place to lace up your hiking boots and experience Townsville and Magnetic Island from above.
The walking tracks are quite steep in areas and require a good level of fitness. Bring a water bottle and allow 2+ hours for this 15km return track and enjoy the panoramic views from the top!
21) Visit the Museum of Tropical Queensland
Located right next to the ever popular Reef Headquarters Aquarium and across the water from Townsville Yacht Club and Marina, the Museum of Tropical Queensland is a fantastic place to spend a few hours for nature-enthusiasts, especially on those warm Townsville days.
Filled with exhibits and galleries showcasing the best stories, flora and fauna of the state, visitors are transported back to prehistoric times on a wonderful educational journey that’s perfect for families or anyone with an interest in natural history.
After you explore the Museum of Tropical Queensland, make sure you stop by next door at Reef HQ** to see the coral reef exhibit, another one of the best things to do in Townsville.
Bonus tip – Stop by the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery for more indoor fun in Townsville North Queensland.
**Reef HQ is currently closed for refurbishment – check back soon for exact opening dates.
- Opening Hours: Daily 9:30am to 4:00pm
- Address: 70-102 Flinders St, Townsville QLD 4810
The exhibits at the Museum of Tropical Queensland are fascinating for people of all ages. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
Townsville North Queensland Travel Guide
If you’re no longer wondering about things to do in Townsville but are instead wondering where to stay on your trip, then we have you covered with a list of the best accommodations (and of course the best places to eat!) for when you visit the city.
Spend a few days in town, then jump over to Magnetic Island for another separate adventure.
Best Accommodation – Where to Stay in Townsville
When it comes to where to stay in Townsville, there is a diverse range of accommodation from budget to luxe accommodation packages that really has something for everyone.
The Best Hostel in Townsville – Civic Guest House Backpacker Hostel
This homey style hostel with an outdoor terrace, free wifi, open common areas and spacious kitchen, makes it feel like a home away from home.
The hostel is conveniently located at the base of Castle hill and only a short walk from the Strand.
For only $21 a night in a shared room, it’s a perfect place for backpackers to base themselves during their north Queensland getaway.
Best Budget Accommodation for Couples – Civic Guest House
Rated as one of the top ten hostels in Australia, Civic Guest House also offers fantastic affordable accomodation for singles and couples alike.
Enjoy a double bed, shared bathroom and the same homey amenities, for a super affordable $55 per night, or upgrade to an ensuite for only $69 per night.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Townsville – Kensington at Central
These modern black and white apartments at Kensington at Central are perfectly located overlooking the Ross River.
If you like having a place to make meals while on holidays you can get a room with a kitchen starting at $164, or if you prefer a hotel style, there is a reduced rate option without a kitchen.
This is also a perfect place to relax and unwind with a swimming pool, spa and sauna all onsite.
Best Luxury Hotel in Townsville – The Ville Resort
From the scenic swimming pool and open plan rooms with ocean view bathtubs, The Ville Resort takes first place when it comes to centrally located luxe accommodation packages in Townsville.
Located overlooking the Marina, rooms start at $246/night with an array of amenities on site.
Within the resort you can head to the casino, try one of their on site restaurants, get your blood pumping at the tennis court or fitness centre and finish the day at the splash poolside bar.
See if you can find all the amazing street art around Townsville!
Best Restaurants in Townsville
The beauty does not stop with things to do in Townsville or places to stay, but also extends to the local cuisine!
Below is a list of the top three restaurants that all come highly rated on the Townsville restaurant scene.
If you are a fan of affordable authentic international cuisine, then be sure to check out Vietnamese Colour Restaurant.
Offering authentic and budget friendly range of Vietnamese dishes, you can cosy up with a pho, spring rolls or the paw paw salad for $2-$15.
Longboard Bar and Grill is a great place to grab a quick bite in Townsville! Favouring a range of Australian pub classics, it’s also got a great range of Mexican style nibbles as well as a menu of pizza focaccia’s (prices ranging from $10-$25).
This is a great place to kick back, enjoy a meal and a drink while soaking in the beauty of the strand and magnetic island.
A Touch of Salt is a contemporary Australian restaurant that boasts an award winning menu catering to a range of dietary requirements without sacrificing on taste.
Expect to pay $25-40 for a main for this relaxed fine dining experience.
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