Discover a quirky side to Townsville

There are many secret wonders to discover in this coastal city of north Queensland.

Townsville is a bustling hotspot with a quirky side to it
  • Helen Martin
  • November 2018

Popular for its beaches and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, there’s more to Townsville than meets the eye. This intriguing destination boasts a World-Heritage listed national park, a strong solar industry and many rich historic sights.

Local wildlife

241 sick and injured sea turtles have received treatment since the turtle hospital opened in 2009 at the coastal city’s Reef HQ Aquarium opens in new window, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium.

Get up close to local sea life at Reef HQ
Get up close to local sea life at Reef HQ.

Record-breaking bull

A Texas longhorn steer named Johnny Reb (JR) has a horn span almost three metres long, and a Guinness World Record to prove it. He can be viewed from a wagon ride or safari at Texas Longhorn opens in new window, 149 kilometres south-west of Townsville.

JR the bull is used to his daily visitors
JR the bull is used to his daily visitors.

Famous residents

Alongside WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, golfing legend Greg Norman spent an idyllic childhood living between Townsville and Magnetic Island. Greg’s mother, Toini, was the inaugural women’s club champion at Rowes Bay Golf Club opens in new window in 1969.

Magnetic Island

On 6 June 1770, Captain Cook noted his compass “would not travis well” near what became known as Magnetic Island, eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville. It isn’t really magnetic, unless you count the appeal of the 23 picturesque beaches and bays, and wildlife such as turtles, dugongs, rock wallabies and 800-odd koalas. In 2010, one male koala ambled into the Marlin Bar opens in new window. “I asked him for ID and he got all disgruntled,” joked barman Kevin Martin. “He climbed up a pole and sulked before falling asleep.”

People from all corners are attracted to Magnetic island
People from all corners are attracted to Magnetic island.

Solar power industry

The 300-odd annual days of sunshine are set to be harvested by some 413,000 solar panels at a solar farm being constructed on a former mango farm 20 kilometres south of Townsville. At least three more solar farms are underway, including one that will be the largest solar project in the Southern Hemisphere.

Paluma Range National Park

The Great Barrier Reef isn’t Townsville’s only World Heritage area: the ancient rainforest of Paluma Range National Park opens in new window lies about an hour’s drive to the north. Locals escape the summer heat at the mist-clouded Paluma Village, 1000 metres above sea level, and Little Crystal Creek, where the stone bridge was built as a Great Depression relief project.

Revitalise yourself at Little Crystal Creek
Revitalise yourself at Little Crystal Creek.

The S.S. Yongala shipwreck

The year before the Titanic sank, the S.S. Yongala steamship met its fate south of Townsville in a 1911 cyclone and all 122 people on board perished. Almost intact and undiscovered for 50 years, the wreck is now home to thriving sea life and is explored by about 8,000 divers each year.

Land rights history

A gardener at James Cook University in Townsville named Eddie Mabo delivered a speech at a conference in 1981. It was resolved that he and other Murray Islanders (island in the Torres Strait) would pursue a native title claim on their land in the High Court of Australia. The historic Mabo campaign led to High Court recognition of Indigenous land ownership. Sadly, Eddie Mabo never lived to see his legacy fulfilled – he passed away five months before the 3 June 1992 ruling.