It’s an easy hop, skip and jump to the Great Barrier Reef from Townsville but the “capital of Northern Australia” has far more to offer than aquatic pursuits. The tropical Queensland city has resurfaced following an intense monsoon event in early 2019 as the spot for adventure seekers to hike and dive in pristine surrounds; for culture vultures to seek out a different kind of arts festival; and for those in need of a holiday to simply kick back, eat well and soak up the ample sunny days. Here’s how to get a taste of Townsville in a single weekend.
If you want... to take a bite out of the food scene
Forget what you think you know about Townsville’s restaurants, cafés and bars – a raft of new openings, alongside standout stalwarts, makes it a surprising hotspot for the hungry. Jam Restaurant is undoubtedly the local favourite, thanks to its fresh, seasonal menu (although the eternally popular Asian chicken omelette has been served up for years). The recent refresh of the local casino, The Ville, has gifted the town a handful of happening new eateries; The Palm House and Miss Song’s being the clear frontrunners.
If you want... a deep dive into the world’s most diverse aquatic ecosystems
Townsville has unrivalled access to the glorious Great Barrier Reef. From here, those keen to explore the natural wonder are spoilt for choice – boat rides (and helicopter tours, for the extra-adventurous) leave regularly to nearby islands. At Orpheus Island, where the eagle-eyed can spot 1100 of the reef’s 1500 species of fish, while at the near-deserted Pelorus Island, where you can snorkel among coral formations easily accessed from the beach. If weather or want keeps you in town, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium is a great alternative, boasting 2.5 million litres of water that you can explore without getting wet.
If you want... to immerse yourself in arts and culture
The daring, subversive and unexpected performances of the Northern Fringe Festival run alongside the North Australian Festival of Arts, which features concerts, art exhibitions and unique acts held throughout the city.
If you want... to get in touch with nature
Would you stay indoors in a city that boasts more than 300 days of sunshine per year? We wouldn’t, either. Happily, Townsville offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration. Reef-fringed, beach-ringed Magnetic Island is just 20 minutes from the city by ferry and visitors will find plenty of pursuits for every sort of adventure in the great outdoors. Animal lovers can meet koalas, divers can search for sunken treasure at the SS Yongala dive site and keen hikers can traverse the Forts Walk up to an incredible lookout.