Itineraries for Your Trip to Townsville

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3 Days in Townsville for First Timers

Curated by Karen GardinerKaren is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

Boasting easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, outdoor adventures, and a rich cultural scene, Townsville is an ideal destination for travelers looking to experience the best of Australia. Here’s how to explore the coastal city in 72 hours.

Day 1

Kick off your time in Townsville on a sightseeing tour that allows you to orient yourself and tick off some top sights at the same time. Tours typically take visitors through the Central Business District to Castle Hill viewpoint and along the beachfront promenade of The Strand. Along the way, guides provide historical and cultural background that you’re unlikely to find in the guidebook. Those with an interest in military history can take a tour focused on the Australian Army’s presence in town—key sites include Kissing Point Fort, Black Hawk Memorial, Lavarack Barracks, the Royal Australian Air Force Museum, and the Army Museum of North Queensland.

Afterward, get a different perspective of Townsville by soaring over the city on a helicopter tour. You’ll get unrivalled views of Castle Hill, the beaches of the Strand, and the lively Townsville Port—longer tours also pass over Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Day 2

Townsville is a great jumping off point for visiting the Great Barrier Reef, so make this your day to explore the world’s largest coral reef. Full-day boat tours from Townsville typically take you snorkeling or scuba diving, depending on your experience level, and visit places such as Lodestone Reef—home to stingrays, sea turtles, reef sharks, and tropical fish—and the well-preserved SS Yongala shipwreck, where you’ll hopefully spot sea turtles and whale sharks. Lunch, morning and afternoon tea, and use of all necessary equipment are generally included.

Back on dry land, head for the restaurant strip of Palmer Street for dinner. You’ll find restaurants serving cuisines that range from Australian and Thai to Greek and Italian.

Day 3

Spend your final day exploring Magnetic Island; with ferries making the 20-minute journey more than a dozen times every day, it’s easy to get there but be sure to save your spot by booking in advance. If you have your own transport, board the ferry and explore the island at your own pace. If you’re on foot, hop on the local Magnetic Island bus service, which meets every ferry arrival and departure. You can hike almost 15 miles (24 kilometers) of walking trails, check out the bird sanctuaries, and hopefully spot some of the largest population of koalas in Northern Australia. 

Back in town, head to Palmer Street or the Strand for and a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars. If you’re keen for a bigger night out, head for the nightlife area of Flinders Street East.

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