Today, the Great Barrier Reef is very much part of the local psyche; the Marine Park Authority and the James Cook University of Townsville continually research and monitor the aspects of the reefs while the famous Magnetic Island, known as the ‘Maggie’, invites with the laid-back beach lifestyle, exclusive restaurants, vacation resorts and seclusion. Townsville is the starting point for all the attractions the region has to offer.

The Central Great Barrier Reef is accessible from Townsville by ferry or via various tours

TOWNSVILLE

Queensland`s second-largest town is a centre of industry and commerce and the gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Townsville is built around a picturesque harbour at the base of the Castle Hill – a popular tourist lookout. Established on coffee, cotton, sugar and gold, the town is a place with a colourful history that played an important role during WWII.

Most importantly, it sticks to the coast, offering plenty of gorgeous beaches and it is a gateway to the Central Great Barrier Reef.

Townsville city – the second largest in Queensland

WHAT TO DO IN TOWNSVILLE

  • The Strand – long tropical beach and garden strip, popular sunbaking and safe swimming spot with excellent facilities, a rock pool, playgrounds, restaurants, cafes
  • Cotters Market – Sunday markets are a popular venue to catch up with friends or hunting for some souvenirs; fresh local produce, jewellery, artwork and woodwork, and unique gifts
  • Riverway – a stunning riverfront parklands ideal for a promenade, jogging but also safe swimming, good facilities
  • Castle Hill (292 m) – a pink granite monolith, great summit lookout, an important heritage-listed landmark and the favourite fitness & trekking location in Townsville with many lovely short hikes (Goat Track, Cudtheringa Track, Ironbark track, Triandra Track, Dianella Track, Maidenhair Track)
  • Townsville Botanic Gardens – Anderson Park, Queens Gardens, The Palmetum
  • Reef HQ – a tropical aquarium with fantastic displays of the Gret Barrier Reef species
  • Museum of Tropical Queensland – sunken shipwrecks from the WWII
  • Billabong Sanctuary – a crocodile farm with thrilling feeding session, educational and informative, ideal for families
  • Ross River – flows through the town and provides perfect conditions for water sports and recreational activities (waterskiing, boating, fishing, rowing, paddle boarding, swimming and others), Ross River Dam, the historic waterfront on Ross Creek
  • Townsville Conservation Park – Cape Pallarenda, mountain bike trails, walking tracks, lookouts, birdlife viewing, beautiful beaches, picnic spots, golf course (30 min drive from Townsville)
  • Magnetic Island – take a ferry from Townsville Breakwater to Nelly Bay Harbour on Magnetic Island (the ferry takes 25 min)
Townsville`s ‘Strand’ is a long tropical beach that offers save swimming throughout a year

MAGNETIC ISLAND

A haven for wildlife and a paradise for holiday-makers and beach bums – the Magnetic Island. With secluded beaches, lush national park and a heritage-listed marine reserve, the island offers plenty of activities, ranging from trekking, diving and snorkelling to relaxing at the swimming pool. Angling and boating are particularly popular with the locals whereas the colonies of koalas are everyone`s favourites!

Magnetic Island truly is a magnet for holiday-makers

WHAT TO DO ON MAGNETIC ISLAND

  • Historic Forts Walk – a fairly steep hike to some of the historical sites of the island, spectacular views,  koala spotting on the way
  • Best Beaches – Alma Bay, Arthur Bay, Nelly Bay, Geoffrey Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Balding Bay, Radical Bay, Balding Bay, Cockle Bay and Florence Bay(seaside resorts, hotels, facilities, surfing, swimming, diving, boating, angling and other water sports, various tours available)
  • Magnetic Island National Park – rocky granite headlands, pines, sandy bays, eucalypt woodland, coral reefs, Aboriginal heritage. WWII sites, fabulous walking tracks
  • The Snorkel Trail – a perfect activity for non-deep sea divers, splendid marine life and corals at Nelly Bay & Geoffrey Bay
  • Moltke Dive Site – old cargo shipwreck is a beautiful spot for curious scuba divers at Nelly Bay
SS City of Adelaide Shipwreck in Cockle Bay, Magnetic Island

To get there: you will need to catch a ferry from Townsville Breakwater to Nelly Bay Harbour on Magnetic Island (the ferry takes 25 min)

TRAVEL TIP

The best way to explore Magnetic Island is to hire a scooter/vehicle and discover the natural beauty of the island while driving around. Otherwise, the Forts Route is a 4-kilometre long trail around the island – perfect for those who are after some exercise and lazy koalas!

Magnetic Island can be toured around via a hired vehicle/scooter

GREATER TOWNSVILLE

South of Townsville, the coastal area between the Capricorn Coast and the cit, is defined by sugar cane fields, magnificent beaches and some of the most visited holiday hotspots in Australia – the Whitsunday Coast and its paradisiacal offshore islands.

Hamilton Island is something for honeymooners, sailors and luxury-lovers

‘The Sugar Capital’ – Mackay, is much loved for boating, yachting, sailing and island-hopping at the Great Barrier Reef. Bowen – The ‘Big Mango Town’ is well-known for the delicious Kensington mango abundantly grown in the area, but also for its marvellous beaches.

Bowen is a must-visit, especially in the Kensington mango season (October-November)

The northern shores of Townsville take pride in the national park of Paluma Range at Rollingstone. The reserve is the most southerly limit of the World Heritage Area and home to numerous natural attractions, including Lake Paluma, Crystal Creek and Jourama Falls. Also, there is a significant population of the world`s deadliest bird – Australian Cassowary, and estuarine crocodiles in reserve.

The Wallaman Falls is Australia`s tallest single-drop waterfall

Wallaman FallsAustralia`s tallest single-drop waterfall can be found near Ingham, that is an old Italian town with important historical heritage, wonderful cuisine and food festivals.

Lucinda leads to the eco-touristed Orpheus and Palm Islands while further North, Cardwell is the gateway to the wilderness of the Hinchinbrook Island – the most significant island national park in Australia.

Horseshoe Bay, Bowen

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN THE GREATER TOWNSVILLE


Bowling Green Bay – rugged, forested landscapes (Mount Elliot & Saddle Mountain), coastal estuaries with crocodiles (Cape Cleveland & Cape Bowling Green), nice camping and trekking (30 min drive from Townsville)


Paluma Range National Park – the southern gateway for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Jourama Falls Rainforest, Paradise Waterhole, Lake Paluma, McClellands Lookout, rugged Mount Spec (1000 m), Big Crystal Creek floodplain, cassowaries & crocodiles, camping, trekking and hiking (1 hr drive from Townsville)


Diving the SS Yongala shipwreck – book an adventurous underwater expedition to the famous shipwreck (Alva Beach, 1.5 hr drive from Townsville)


Bowen – the Big Mango, Horseshoe Bay & Rotary Lookout, Greys Bay, Rose Bay, Kings Beach, Horseshoe Bay, Queens Beach – some of the most alluring beaches in the coast (2 hrs drive from Townsville

Wallaman Falls – a cascade, horsetail waterfall on the Stony Creek, UNESCO World Heritage-listed for its main drop of 268 metres – Australia`s tallest single-drop waterfall, the reserve has cassowaries

Hinchinbrook – Australia`s largest island national park and nature lovers paradise, sheer wilderness, cloud-covered mountains, rainforest and eucalypt forest, rocky headlands, secluded sandy bays, remote hiking tracks, scuba diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, camping & boating, the most popular 3-7 day long Thorsborne Track  (access via ferry from Cardwell, 2 hrs drive from Townsville)


Orpheus Island – dense rainforests, untouched beaches, submerged mountains, coral reefs, luxurious eco-retreats, sailing & yachting hotspot (access via charter boat or your own vessel from Lucinda, 2 hrs drive from Townsville)


Palm Island – strong Aboriginal community, eco-tourism, cultural & historical tours, awesome landscapes and scenery (access via ferry from Lucinda, 2 hrs drive from Townsville)

Hinchinbrook – Australia`s largest island national park and nature lovers paradise, sheer wilderness, cloud-covered mountains, rainforest and eucalypt forest, rocky headlands, secluded sandy bays, remote hiking tracks, scuba diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, camping & boating, the most popular 3-7 day long Thorsborne Track  (access via ferry from Cardwell, 2 hrs drive from Townsville)


Orpheus Island – dense rainforests, untouched beaches, submerged mountains, coral reefs, luxurious eco-retreats, sailing & yachting hotspot (access via charter boat or your own vessel from Lucinda, 2 hrs drive from Townsville)


Palm Island – strong Aboriginal community, eco-tourism, cultural & historical tours, awesome landscapes and scenery (access via ferry from Lucinda, 2 hrs drive from Townsville)

Hinchinbrook Island`s mangrove forests are some of the richest and most varied in Australia

SAFETY WARNINGS

There are several important things to note and remember when travelling in tropical Queensland.

Stingers – although the beaches and its clear shallows look inviting the signs around must be taken seriously. Marine stingers are almost transparent marine creatures with venomous tentacles, some of them deadly. From November through to April the stingers inhabit the seas of the northern Queensland

Cassowaries – the notorious Australian Cassowary seems a lovely bird. However, they are recorded as the world`s most dangerous birds! The large flyless bird (they grow up to 2 m tall) can get very aggressive when frightened, and it would chase the victim forever. It can easily slice a person into two pieces with a single fatal kick as Cassowary’s primary weapon is its dagger-like digit II claw.

Saltwater & Estuarine Crocodiles – from Fraser Island all the way up to the tropical North, both types of crocs inhabit the coastal waters. It might not be an everyday sight, but they are also not rare to spot. Always read the beach and creek signs!

Cyclones – the tropical coast of Queensland is threatened by seasonal cyclones (mostly between Jan-March)

Sunburn – the major danger for most of the foreigners is the Queensland tropical sun. Australia is well-known for extreme UV indexes and blistering sun. Make sure you use enough sunscreen throughout a day and wear a hat at all times!

From November through to April the venomous stingers inhabit the seas of the northern Queensland and swimming in the ocean is not recommended

WHEN TO TRAVEL

Hence above, the best time to visit Tropical Queensland is between May-October

NOTE when planning your trip, check out the Australian school holidays as the major tourist locations tend to get very busy

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Townsville from any Australian airport, e.g. Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane

Rent a vehicle to be able to move around independently

For all flights visit www.momondo.com  or www.skyscaner.com

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Eva Bodova

Eva Bodova

Thursday 11 June 2020

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