Best things to do in Townsville

Whether you like your tropical holiday action-packed or laidback, Townsville is your town.

Aerial shot of pink car driving on coastal road, Magnetic Island. Image credit: Townsville Enterprise
  • Jetstar
  • May 2021

Townsville’s reputation as the unofficial capital of northern Queensland is well deserved. Not only is it an ideal jumping-off point for the region’s famed coastal and outback attractions, but its lovely waterfront, grand historic buildings and friendly people make it a fabulous holiday destination in its own right.

Fall in love with Magnetic Island

Sydney has its harbour, Hobart has MONA … and Townsville has Magnetic Island. This palm-fringed, frangipani-scented slice of heaven a short ferry ride from the mainland is the city’s undisputed number-one must-see. Theoretically, you could do it in a day but, with its 23 breathtaking beaches, scenic walking trails, and abundant wildlife, ‘Maggie’ is best explored over a few days. Most of the island is protected national park, so you can look forward to crossing paths with rock wallabies, koalas, butterflies, marine critters and gazillions of birds.

Two snorkellers enjoy Magnetic Island’s crystalline waters. Image: Townsville Enterprise
Magnetic Island’s crystalline waters are a snorkeller’s dream. Image credit: Townsville Enterprise

Immerse yourself in the Museum of Underwater Art

Much of Northern Queensland’s appeal lies below the water and this unique museum is no exception. Created by world-renowned underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, the 'Coral Greenhouse’ is located on the Great Barrier Reef, a two-hour boat trip from Townsville. Whether you’re a snorkeller or scuba diver, prepare to be awestruck by this magical installation. It may even make you think about reef conservation – and art! – in a new light. For a taster of MOUA’s work, check out the beautiful Ocean Siren sculpture, visible from the Strand Jetty.

The magical Coral Greenhouse, Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA), Great Barrier Reef. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
Unique and magical, the Museum of Underwater Art’s Coral Greenhouse will make you see the Great Barrier Reef in a whole new light. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Strut your stuff on the Strand

With its tropical climate and golden sunshine, Townsville is best enjoyed outdoors – and the Strand is a fine place to start. Locals and visitors alike converge on this picturesque beachfront promenade to stroll, jog, cycle and play. Take your pick from protected swimming spots, parks and playgrounds, beach volleyball and fresh-air fitness equipment, or head up to Jezzine Barracks to learn about Townsville’s proud military history. Enjoy the views from one of the eateries or bars along the way, and be sure to visit the popular Friday night markets if you’re around.

Smiling couple wheel their bikes along the Strand, Townsville. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland.
It's not hard to see why the Strand is so beloved by Townsville locals. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Soak up the beauty of Paluma Range National Park

It’s not all about the coast around here: head inland for 60km and you’ll come to the spectacular Paluma Range National Park. The southern gateway to the Wet Tropics Heritage Area, this mountainous park is a natural wonderland. Lush rainforest, waterfalls, freshwater creeks and native wildlife (including the elusive golden bowerbird) number among its charms, as do pristine swimming holes and leafy walking trails. Pack your tent: you may want to spend the night here (there are designated camping grounds).

Bushwalkers exploring Cloudy Creek Walk, Paluma Ranges National Park. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland/Budd Photography
Bushwalkers exploring Cloudy Creek Walk, Paluma Ranges National Park. Image credit: Budd Photography/Tourism and Events Queensland

Take a deep dive to the S.S. Yongala

Ranked as one of the world’s top 10 dive sites, the coral-encrusted wreck of the S.S. Yongala is located off the coast of Ayr, just over an hour’s drive from Townsville. A challenge for even the most experienced diver, the sunken passenger ship met its tragic fate one month before the Titanic. Since then, a host of marine creatures, including giant groupers, sea snakes, schools of trevally and turtles, has taken up residence. While not for the faint-hearted, viewing the wreck up close will move and mystify you.

Diver and sea turtle at S.S. Yongala, Townsville. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland/Nigel Marsh
S.S. Yongala may not be an easy dive but it’s an unforgettable one! Image credit: Nigel Marsh/Tourism and Events Queensland