With a magnetic charm and dozens of fabulous attractions and golden sandy beaches, this laid-back little town oozes with character and takes pride in being the unofficial capital of Queensland. Townsville is located on the shores of Cleveland Bay and with views of the picturesque and idyllic Magnetic Island in the distance it's not hard to see why people are so strongly drawn here.
Townsville played an active role in World War II, when American and Australian troops were stationed here during the Pacific campaign. Japanese bombs were even dropped in the harbour in 1942, but thankfully there was very little damage to the coastal city. Today an army of local and international tourists visit, drawn to the year-round good weather and varied attractions to suit any inclination.
Take a trip to the magnificent Magnetic Island to explore the National Park, or take the plunge and do some reef diving to discover the famous Yongala Wreck or Great Barrier Reef to the east. Back on land go on a 4x4 trip into the Outback to the west, marvel at the magnificently verdant tropical rainforests dotted with waterfalls to the north, or visit the mango and sugar cane farms to the south.
With numerous restaurants and bars, wonderful shopping opportunities and a quiet cosmopolitan feel, Townsville has something for everyone, though it should be noted that saltwater crocodiles are present in all swimming locations here, including the beach, so caution should be exercised in the water.
Magnetic Island was named by Captain James Cook in 1770, when he believed that the landmass of the island affected the magnetic compass on his ship, 'Endeavour'. More than half of the island, which is about five miles (8km) from Townsville, is a National Park known for its rugged landscape of granite boulders, hoop pines and eucalyptus trees. The island has 23 beaches and bays, some of which can only be reached on foot. There are more than 12 miles (20km) of walking trails marked out on the island. Part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park fringes the island, which is also home to the most northerly colony of free-ranging koala bears in Australia. The island offers a wide range of accommodation and transport is available on the island.
This 1.3-mile (2.2km) long tropical beach and palm tree-dotted promenade is one of Townsville's most popular attractions. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the scenery from their bicycles, take a dip at one of the safe swimming beaches, or enjoy a picnic overlooking the ocean at one of the many designated picnic areas in the gardens. Families travelling with their children in tow can visit the nearby water park, while the trendy restaurants and bars that line the strip make a wonderfully romantic and picturesque setting at any time of day with views stretching out over to Magnetic Island. The fourth Friday of each month also sees Strand Park used for night markets - a great place to pick up some unique souvenirs in Australia, such as Aboriginal arts and crafts and boomerangs.
This beautiful riverfront parkland stretches along nearly seven miles (11km) of the Ross River, with nodes at Pioneer Park, Loam Island, Apex Park and the Ross River Dam. The Riverway has fast become one of Townsville's most popular tourist attractions. Pioneer Park is the activity hub where visitors can enjoy sport, entertainment, performing arts, visual arts, swimming in the two huge lagoons, dining and shopping at the village precinct, and even picnicking and barbecuing along the picturesque shores of the Ross River. There is something to amuse and delight people of all ages, making the Riverway popular with locals and tourists alike.
One of the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world, the Reef HQ Aquarium was built as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Featuring 130 species of coral, 120 species of fish and plenty of star fish, sea urchins, sponges and sea cucumbers, Reef HQ also features a predator exhibit, a children's section, a gift shop and a café to provide refreshments. A trip to the Reef HQ Aquarium is a must for all visitors who plan on taking a dive at the Great Barrier Reef, to learn more about the species of marine life they might encounter while exploring the miraculous underwater world. The Aquarium is a great attraction for families in Townsville, especially on a rainy day.
With around 3,000 hours of sunshine a year Townsville experiences a tropical savannah climate. Its rainfall is not nearly as high as other tropical regions like Cairns, with the majority of the rain falling in the 'wet season', which runs from November through April. Winters are mild and pleasant, moderated by southeasterly trade winds and far from cold. July is the coldest month of winter, with average daily temperatures still reaching 77°F (25°C). The summer months are warm and December is the hottest month, with daytime temperatures soaring to 88°F (31°C). Townsville is prone to tropical cyclones between November and May which form mainly over the Coral Sea.
Townsville's public transport system incorporates bus services operated by Sunbus, which provides regular and efficient services between major points throughout the city. Taxis can generally be found outside major hotels and tourist sites, are easily hailed on the street, and usually operate 24 hours a day throughout the metropolitan area. Ferries and water taxis operate regularly to Magnetic Island and Palm Island. Car rental agencies can be found in the city and travellers planning on exploring further afield should opt for a rental car, which is the most convenient option when exploring the wider region.
Townsville is one of Queensland's best loved holiday destinations and boasts numerous attractions and activities for tourists.
Those interested in the WWII history of the city, and all things military, should visit the Army Museum of North Queensland. Animal lovers shouldn't miss a visit to the Billabong Sanctuary to meet some of the unique Australian wildlife. The Museum of Tropical Queensland, which is interactive and state-of-the-art, tells the tale of the maritime history of the region, as well as detailing the natural and human history of tropical Queensland. The whole family will enjoy Reef HQ, a huge aquarium, and the neighbouring Cultural Centre, which documents the history and culture of the Aboriginal peoples of the region.
Those who seek out heights will enjoy a hike up the magnificent Castle Hill, which looms above Townsville and provides spectacular views. Magnetic Island can clearly be seen from the granite outcrop, situated nearly five miles (8km) away, and the island is a very popular excursion from the city. Half of the island is covered by the National Park of the same name, a haven for nature lovers.
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