Townsville is the largest city and capital of North Queensland, and is the focal point for those intending to explore the area. The area was sighted by Captain Cook on his exploration in 1770 but it was not until 1819 that Europeans landed at Cleveland Bay. The development of the area was slow and fairly uneventful, with council buildings and railways slowly appearing, mostly to transport gold through the area. The regions tropical climate has meant Townsville has suffered some fairly heavy blows, the most recent being flooding and landslides in 1998. The Strand was redeveloped after this damage and is now a bustling and modern strip of shops and amenities. In addition to good budget and more expensive accommodation, there are a great deal of hire centres and outdoor shops to set you up for any scale of trip and also plenty to keep you occupied either side of it if you wish to stay. There is a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere with the people keen to help but not so as to make visitors feel too out of place. The city is a bright, modern and constantly changing place which constantly increases what it has to offer in addition to the already amazing surroundings.


[ Magnetic Island] – The main reason for stopping in Townsville while travelling along the East Coast is to get here. The island enjoys a fantastic climate of over 320 days of sunshine a year and has some phenomenal scenery. In the centre of the island stands Mount Cook at 497 metres tall, around the island huge granite boulders are dotted amongst the eucalyptus and rainforest. It is an incredibly relaxed atmosphere and the only disturbance is likely to be the less than timid wildlife, or a backpacker flying along the roads in a hired motorised buggy. Pretty much every outdoor activity is on offer here, sea kayaking round the island is particularly recommended. The island can be reached easily by catamaran or car and passenger ferry, both of which operate a regular service with over 10 journeys a day.

[ Museum of Tropical Queensland] – The impressive structure set against the water is one of the six different museum campuses. The Townsville branch has modern and engaging displays covering the history of the area’s environment and wildlife, interactive science exhibits, a contemporary art gallery and giant reconstruction of the wrecked HMS Pandora. This is a fantastic project, with a great balance of information and different topics.

[ Townsville Maritime Museum] – Despite being a little overshadowed by the modern content and setting of the Museum of Tropical Queensland, the Maritime Museum is an excellent traditional exhibition. It covers the cultural history, the typical Australian male outlook now balanced by the new “Women at War” exhibition. There are also galleries displaying various seafaring paraphernalia and a model room. The most interesting aspects are the stories and anecdotes displayed alongside the various artefacts.


Townsville has a great deal of rental, outdoor pursuit and surf fashion clothing shops. The majority are found in the Tropical Flinders Mall, which is set inside mostly historical buildings. Sundays see the area transformed to a bustling centre of market stalls, street entertainments and is a pretty social event. Cotters Market is one of the main attractions and sells arts and craft products as well as fresh food; only goods from the North Queensland area are on sale here so it’s a good place to pick up an authentic and ethically sound souvenir. Magnetic Island has two shopping centres and a few souvenir outlets, although most business is driven towards selling property on the island rather than trinkets.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Townsville is not renowned for its restaurants, there are however some jewels here. [ The Pier] is situated entirely over the sea, a suitable setting given the menu is mainly seafood. Palmer Street is home to the other decent options, particularly international cuisine and most of the upmarket hotels are a safe bet, if a little over-priced. Gregory Street and The Strand have some great outdoor dining opportunities, the area famous for having a more village-like feel. The nightlife caters to the constant flow of backpackers with a great number of bars, clubs and bar crawls organised by hostels. These groups normally head towards the larger bars and themed pubs ending up in one of the clubs such as Mad Cow. Unless you have recently left school and not been out a great deal before, this will probably drive you to despair as the establishment tries a little too hard to be “off the wall”. The Bank Lounge bar attempts a more upmarket approach, with more UV lighting, cocktails and posing DJs; the final result is simply pretentious however and not much more enjoyable than Mad Cow. Flynns Irish Bar is probably the best of a bad bunch with a decent sized beer garden and more opportunity to chat. Your best bet is probably to steer clear of the larger places, pick a tavern at random and sink a few scooners and balls with the locals.

Tourist Information

Flinders Mall Information CentreFlinders MallTownsville Queensland 4810Telephone: (07) 4721 3660 Fax: (07) 4726 2700Website: []

Townsville Southern Highway Information CentreBruce Highway, South of TownsvilleStuart, Townsville Queensland 4810Telephone: (07) 4778 3555 Fax: (07) 4726 2700Website: []

There are also a large number of tour operators which have joint information and booking offices.


[ Townsville Airport] is located roughly 5km from central Townsville. Shuttle buses run throughout the day and take over half an hour, a taxi will take about five to ten minutes and is relatively inexpensive. Flights operate to destinations across Australia including Brisbane, Cairns and Sydney to name but a few.

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