Best 7 Things to Do in Townsville

By Josh Edwards

April 17, 2024

To save you time and make the most of your trip to Townsville North Queensland, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to visit and things to see in Townsville. This includes things to do around Magnetic Island, free water playgrounds along The Strand, snorkel or dive spots along the coast, and different ways to experience the world’s largest living coral reef: The Great Barrier Reef!

Whether it’s the best things to do in or near Townsville, you’ll find it below.

1. Day Trip to an Island

While you’re in Townsville, you can expect warm weather almost all year round. Visiting an island is a perfect way to enjoy the weather, and can be done at any point in the year – no need to time your holiday for better weather.

Below are three islands we recommend considering for your next holiday in Townsville.

Magnetic Island

Possibly the most popular island you can visit from Townsville, and for good reason. Magnetic Island is home to Northern Australia’s largest colony of koalas and boasts scenic hiking trails, snorkelling in pristine waters, and on-island accommodation if you decide to spend longer than a day.

We have a full write-up for a day trip if you’d like suggestions and information on getting to the island, or instead, you can pick and choose from some of our recommendations below!

Forts Walk

The Forts Walk takes you through eucalypt and acacia woodland towards the lookout where you experience views of Bowling Green National Park, Palm Islands and Hinchinbrook Island National Park. Along the trail, you’ll have chances to see wild koalas and old relics from World War II.

Due to being the most popular walk on Magnetic Island, finding a car park is easiest in the morning – our recommended time to visit. The wildlife are often more active during the morning hours if you’d like a higher chance of spotting a koala!

Big Mama Sailing

The Big Mama Sailing Experience offers a few tour experiences to choose from. Whether you’d like to sit back and relax for the evening on board a sunset sail or go out for a full-day adventure, you’ll find there’s an option for you!

The full-day adventure comes with snorkelling, a great way to combine multiple activities into a single day if you’re looking at doing either!

Certain points in the year align with the migration of Humpback Whales, increasing your chances of spotting one throughout the day. Late July to September is the best time to visit for a higher chance of spotting a whale.

See Rock Wallabies at Geoffrey Bay

If you’re coming to Magnetic Island, Geoffrey Bay has to be on your list of places to visit. You’re not only getting one of the best snorkelling spots in all of Queensland but also visiting the home of Rock Wallabies! To increase your chances of seeing these cute locals, you’ll want to visit at sunrise or sunset.

Hawkings Point Track

A short walk to take in the views of Magnetic Island. This is best experienced around sunset but can be visited at any point during the day. The track is approximately 1km in length and includes some steep sections that don’t make it suitable for all travellers.

You can find the track at the Eastern end of Picnic Street in Picnic Bay.

Orpheus Island Lodge

For those after something more luxurious, Operhus Island Lodge might suit your fancy. The short 30 minutes by helicopter will take you over coral seas to your awaiting oasis.

If starting with a helicopter ride wasn’t enough, the island is home to kayaking, snorkelling, paddle boarding and cruises, all from the luxury of the island resort.

There are several packages to choose from, such as the XOXO package which includes all gourmet meals, a curated island experience, unlimited use of kayaks, catamarans and snorkelling equipment, as well as a welcoming gift upon arrival.

Consider this as a destination for the honeymoon, or perhaps just a short couples’ getaway. Regardless, its the perfect place to escape to, making it one of our top things to do in and around Townsville.

2. Visit the Great Barrier Reef

The world’s largest coral reef, right here in Australia. Snorkelling is likely the first activity that comes to mind, but there’s so much more to experience. Although we can’t cover everything, here’s a list to get you started.

Glass Bottomed Boat Viewing

No everyone wants to get in the water. If you’re that person, you’re in luck. Countless tour operators offer gorgeous views of the coral reef for travellers without having to get wet. Sign me up. 

Reef Magic Cruises is one of the many operators offering semi-submersible experiences along with the glass-bottomed viewing of the coral reef. The tours come with informative commentary to accompany the experience.

Whale Watching

You might night get the opportunity to see a whale up close and in person again, so why not do that while in Townsville? With several whale-watching tours to choose from, and even the option to go swimming if you decide to drive north up to Cairns in a hire car. Australia is the only place in the world where you can swim with Dwarf Minke Whales. Now that’s exciting.

Snorkelling & Scuba Diving

Snorkelling or watching from afar might not be enough for you. You prefer to be as close to the action as possible, or in this case, completely immersed in it.

Scuba diving gives you extended periods underwater and up close to the reef. One possible dive location is the Yongala, voted as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world.

Museum of Underwater Art

Home of the world’s largest underwater art structure, the Museum of Underwater Art should be high on your list of things to do in Townsville. If you have access to scuba gear and can transport yourself, the museum is available for free to the public, requiring a boat ride off of the coast of Townsville. However, if you’re after a guided tour, there are several options available. 

Since their installation, marine life has attached themselves to the sculptures, creating a unique viewing experience and integrating the sculptures into the local underwater environment.

If you’re not a fan of scuba diving, there are also exhibits to view while snorkelling. This is an experience you won’t forget anytime soon.

3. Take a Helicopter Flight

Couple disembarking from scenic helicopter ride

A helicopter flight isn’t usually on the holiday activity list. They can be located far away from the CBD, expensive, or booked out for weeks on end. Fortunately, the 15-minute Townsville City flight is none of those things. It’s located close to the city, only $160 per head (up to a maximum of five people) and has availability for spontaneous decisions to take a flight above the city.

Experiencing the views of Townsville from the sky is unlike anything else. They’re much like the views from a mountain summit, just without the effort to get there. Sounds like a great deal to us. Townsville Helicopters is a great option if you’re interested.

4. Walk & Swim at a Waterfall

Waterfalls are often one of the top attractions in any area of the world. Townsville is no different. Although they’re not the most common of attractions in the area, we still recommend going to visit and check them out. Below is a list of four locations that we recommend, but if you go searching, there’s plenty more to experience. Here’s a start:

Jourama Falls

A hike with beauty throughout the whole experience. Swimming is best at the rock pools very early into the hike, though you can swim later on as well if you’d like. Perhaps you decide to finish the hike with a swim, rather than starting – a great reward for the return trip.

Tip: bring along bug repellent as the insects are quite numerous here. 

Jourama Falls has a camping area that you may be interested in if you’d like to spend more time in the area.

Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall in Australia. Viewable from both above and from the bottom of the falls (although the track down may be difficult for children), you get to choose how you experience this waterfall.

Honestly, this waterfall is simply stunning. We wouldn’t recommend visiting Townsville without taking the time to go and visit.

Little Crystal Creek

Perfect for a half-day activity. Picnics, swimming, short walks. Ideal for the family.

A gorgeous location after a windy narrow 8km of road. Keep this in mind when travelling and consider using the horn more than usual to let oncoming drivers know you’re there.

Alligator Falls

We searched this one in Google Maps and upon first glance, it doesn’t feel like it’s worth visiting. The images from Tripadvisor say otherwise. You can check that out here, and then see where to go on Google Maps here.

At Alligator Creek, you can drive directly to the river and swim with the family. Suitable for all ages. 

The falls take a little longer to get to, with a 17km return walk, rated Grade 5, although some reviews have pointed out that the rating should be lowered. Keep that in mind when planning out your holiday!

5. Eat & Drink In and Around Townsville

Hoi Polloi Cafe

Hoi Polloi is a hidden cafe with an antique/vintage aesthetic. Both the food and coffee are hits to locals and tourists alike. The food selection is catered towards lighter meals, rather than something to fill the stomach. Keep that in mind before visiting.

If you’re only looking for a good coffee and snack to go along with it, then this is the spot.

The Palm House

A world of surprises. The interior design here complements their buffet dining experience impeccably. Choose to dine here either for breakfast or dinner, either will leave you feeling nothing other than satisfied.

Bookings essential.

Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms

Don’t be put off by how the tea rooms look! It almost feels like you’re back at grandmas, eating delicious home baked goods and sipping on a wide selection of tea.

An incredible atmosphere that will keep you around longer than you planned. Don’t forget to add this stop to your trip.

6. Explore the Townsville Strand

You can’t visit Townsville without visiting The Strand. There’s a beach that runs along the full length of the strand (a few kilometers), several playgrounds for the kids, a water park at one end, and a rock pool at the other along with cafes and ice cream shops. Parking is abundant so you’ll have no issues with driving right up to the Strand. If you were lucky enough to grab accommodation along the waterfront, you’ll have the luxury of finding the strand within walking distance!

7. Visit the Wildlife at Billabong Sanctuary

An interactive experience with native Australian wildlife, just a short drive from the heart of Townsville. You’ll find a variety of wildlife at Billabong Sanctuary, including crocodiles, kangaroos and meerkats. The sanctuary is arranged in a circle around the central lake, encouraging visitors to see everything as they make their way around in either direction.

There are countless free-of-charge experiences that you can take part in, including holding a python or baby crocodile!

Whether you’re in Townsville with the family, a loved one, or by yourself, Billabong Sanctuary is worth the visit.

Getting Around Townsville

With so much to explore in Townsville, you’ll need a reliable and convenient form of transportation. We recommend all tourists to hire a car when travelling to Townsville. All year round, you can find the lowest prices on car hire here at Bargain Car Rentals. 

All images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

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