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Townsville, the capital of North Queensland is the the third largest tropical city in Australia. 346 km (215 miles) S of Cairns; 1,371 km (850 miles) N of Brisbane With a population of 140,000, Townsville is Australia’s largest tropical city. With an economy based on mining, manufacturing, education, and tourism, it is sometimes—rather unjustly, I think—overlooked as a holiday destination. The people are friendly, the city is pleasant, and there’s plenty to do. The town nestles by the sea below the pink face of Castle Rock, which looms 300 m (about 1,000 ft.) directly above. In 2014, Townsville’s popular waterfront parkland, The Strand, was complemented by the addition of the new Jezzine Barracks, a A$40 million redevelopment of unused land, which is now home to a stunning collection of outdoor sculptures and memorials honoring the city’s wartime history (with more than a passing nod to the American forces who served here in World War II). It is a wonderful addition to the city’s public parklands and well worth exploring.
 
Cruises depart from the harbor for the Great Barrier Reef, about 2 1/2 hours away, and just 8km (5 miles) offshore is Magnetic Island—[“]Maggie”to the locals—a popular place for watersports, hiking, and spotting koalas in the wild.
 
Townsville’s waters boast hundreds of large patch reefs, some miles long, with excellent coral and marine life, including mantas, rays, turtles, and sharks, and sometimes canyons and swim-throughs in generally good visibility. One of the best reef complexes is Flinders Reef, which is actually in the Coral Sea, beyond the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park boundaries. At 240 km (149 miles) offshore, it has 30 m (100-ft.) visibility, plenty of coral, and big walls and pinnacles with big fish to match, such as whaler shark and barracuda.
 
What draws most divers to Townsville, though, is one of Australia’s best wreck dives, the SS Yongala. Still largely intact, the sunken remains of this steamer lie in 15 m to 30 m (50–98 ft.) of water, with visibility of 9 m to 18 m (approximately 30–60 ft.). Diving the Yongala is not for beginners—most dive companies require their customers to have advanced certification or to have logged a minimum of 15 dives with open-water certification. The boat is usually visited on a live-aboard trip of at least 2 days, but some companies run day trips.
 
Although Townsville can be hot and humid in the summer—and sometimes in the path of cyclones—it is generally spared the worst of the Wet-season rains and boasts 300 days of sunshine a year.
Magnetic Island—or just “Maggie”—is a delightful 51-sq.-km (20-sq.-mile) national-park island 20 minutes from Townsville by ferry. About 2,500 people live here, and it’s popular with Aussies, who love its holiday atmosphere. Small settlements dot the coastline and there’s a good range of restaurants and laid-back cafes. Most people come for the 20 or so pristine and uncrowded bays and white beaches, but hikers, botanists, and birders may want to explore the eucalyptus woods, patches of gully rainforest, and granite tors. The island got its name when Captain Cook thought the “magnetic”rocks were interfering with his compass readings. It is famous for koalas, easily spotted in roadside gum trees; ask a local to point you to the nearest colony. Rock wallabies are often seen in the early morning.
 
The island is not on the Great Barrier Reef, but surrounding waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There is good reef snorkeling at Florence Bay on the southern edge, Arthur Bay on the northern edge, and Geoffrey Bay, where you can even reef-walk at low tide. (Wear sturdy shoes and do not walk directly on coral to avoid damaging it.) First-time snorkelers will have an easy time of it in Maggie’s weak currents and softly sloping beaches. Outside the stinger season, there is good swimming at any number of bays all around the island. Reef-free Alma Bay, with its shady lawns and playground, is a good choice for families; Rocky Bay is a small, secluded cove.
 
The first arrival of Europeans happened in 1770 when Captain Cook sailed into Cleveland Bay, followed by the founding of Townsville in 1864 and the first wharf to be built as well. Townsville was initially developed as a base for the practice of blackbirding, the importation of Kanakas forced to work on the sugar plantations of Queensland. This lasted until the end of the 19th century. Now this port is one of Australia's main export centers for timber, bulk sugar, beef, and wool.
 
In the recent years, millions have been spent as an effort to attract more visitors to stay in Townsville, rather than heading on to Cairns. A hotel with casino and marina have been built on the oceanfront. There are other parts of the city that are being redeveloped yet keeping many of its 19th-century buildings. The highlight is the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, which offers quite an impressive aquarium, an Omnimax Theater, plenty of shops and the Queensland Museum. It is from here where the ferries depart for Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island is a popular destination approximately 8 miles offshore with nice beaches, plenty of bird life, and a koala sanctuary.
 
The city center is fairly compact and easily explorable by foot. A short distance outside of town are several museums that certainly are worth visiting. There are also parks, gardens and wildlife sanctuaries. The dominating lookout point atop Castle Hill, offers great views of the town and the coast.
 
Where You are Docked
The Port of Townsville is situated east of Townsville’s city centre in the heart of tropical North Queensland. It lies between Ross River and Ross Creek.
Quayside Terminal located Breezeway area, on the waterfront at the Port of Townsville and just two kilometres from the Townsville CBD,
 
Things To See and Do
The Strand is a 2.5km (1 1/2-mile) strip with safe swimming beaches, a fitness circuit, a great water park for the kids, and plenty of covered picnic areas and free gas barbecues. Stroll along the promenade or relax at one of the many cafes, restaurants, and bars while you gaze across the Coral Sea to Magnetic Island. For the more active, there are areas to in-line skate, cycle, walk, or fish, and a basketball half-court. Four rocky headlands and a picturesque jetty adjacent to Strand Park provide good fishing spots, and there are two surf lifesaving clubs to service the three swimming areas along the Strand. Cool off in the Olympic-size Tobruk Pool, the seawater Rockpool, or at the beach itself. During summer (Nov-Mar), three swimming enclosures operate to keep swimmers safe from marine stingers. If watersports are on your agenda, try a jet ski, hire a canoe, or take to the latest in pedal skis. A state-of-the-art water park has waterfalls, hydrants, water slides, and water cannons, plus a huge bucket of water that continually fills until it overturns and drenches laughing children.
 
Don't miss the views of Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island from Castle Hill; it's a 2.5km (1 1/2-mile) drive or a shorter, steep walk up from town. To drive to the top, follow Stanley Street west from Flinders Street to Castle Hill Drive; the walking trails up are posted en route.
 
At the Billabong Sanctuary (tel. 07/4778 8344; www.billabongsanctuary.com.au), on the Bruce Highway 17km (11 miles) south of town, you can see Aussie wildlife in a natural setting and hand-feed kangaroos. You can also be photographed (starting at A$16) holding a koala, a (baby) crocodile, a python, a wombat, and other creatures. Interesting interactive talks and shows run continuously starting at 10:15am; one of the most popular is the saltwater-crocodile feeding at 12:15 and 2:45pm (and for an extra A$99 you can also personally feed the croc). There are also gas barbecues, a food kiosk, and a pool. Admission is A$30 for adults, A$27 for students, A$19 for kids 4 to 16, and A$94 for families of five. The sanctuary is open every day except Christmas Day from 8am to 5pm. Allow 2 to 3 hours.
 
 Day Trips to the Reef
 Most boats visiting the Reef from Townsville are live-aboard vessels that make trips of 2 or more days, designed for serious divers. Adrenalin Dive (  tel. 1300/664 600 in Australia or 07/4724 0600; www.adrenalindive.com.au) operates day trips on which you can make introductory dives for A$80 for the first one and A$120 for two; certified divers can make two dives for A$70, all gear included. The cruise costs A$196 for adults and A$146 for children 6 to 12. The price includes lunch and morning and afternoon tea, and snorkel gear. Cruises depart Townsville at 6:30am, with a pickup at Magnetic Island en route at 7:25am. They also run trips to the Yongala wreck. day trips in which you will do two dives on the Yongala. The cost is A$266, including all gear, and A$10 per dive for a guide, if you have logged fewer than 15 dives.
 
Exploring Townsville
Don’t miss the views of the city, Cleveland Bay, and Magnetic Island from Castle Hill; it’s a 2.5 km (1 1/2-mile) drive or a shorter, steep walk up from town (make sure to do it in the cool part of the day). To drive to the top, follow Stanley Street west from Flinders Street to Castle Hill Drive; the walking trails up are posted en route.
 
The Strand
Townsville's popular seaside entertainment district is surrounded by lush gardens, swimming and wading pools, Townsville Beach and many old historical buildings dating back to early colonization.
The Strand is a 2.5 km (1 1/2-mile) strip with safe swimming beaches, a fitness circuit, a great water park for the kids, and plenty of covered picnic areas and free gas barbecues. Stroll along the promenade or relax at one of the many cafes, restaurants, and bars while you gaze across the Coral Sea to Magnetic Island. For the more active, there are areas to in-line skate, cycle, walk, fish, or play half-court basketball. Four rocky headlands and a picturesque jetty adjacent to Strand Park provide good fishing spots, and two surf lifesaving clubs service the three swimming areas along the Strand. Cool off in the Olympic-size Tobruk Pool or the seawater Rockpool or at the beach itself. During summer (Nov–Mar), three swimming enclosures operate to keep swimmers safe from marine stingers. If watersports are on your agenda, try a jetski, hire a canoe, or take to the latest in pedal skis. A state-of-the-art water park has waterfalls, hydrants, water slides, and water cannons, plus a huge bucket of water that continually fills until it overturns and drenches laughing children.
 
Reef H.Q. Aquarium
Boasting all the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef in one small space, Reef HQ Aquarium is a must for lovers of the creatures of the deep.As the "world's largest living Coral Reef Aquarium" this attraction boasts a range of displays and exhibits that focus on all aspect
Reef HQ is the education center for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s headquarters and the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world. The highlight is walking through a 20-m-long (66-ft.) transparent acrylic tunnel, gazing into a giant predator tank where sharks cruise silently. A replica of the wreck of the SS Yongala provides an eerie backdrop for blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, leopard sharks, and nurse sharks, sharing their 750,000-liter (195,000-gal.) home with stingrays, giant trevally, and a green turtle. Watching them feed is quite a spectacle. The tunnel also reveals the 2.5-million-liter (650,000-gal.) coral-reef exhibit, with its hard and soft corals providing a home for thousands of fish, giant clams, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and other creatures. During the scuba show, the divers speak to you over an intercom while they swim with the sharks and feed the fish. Other highlights include a touch tank and a wild-sea-turtle rehabilitation center, plus interactive activities for children. Reef HQ is an easy walk from the city center.2–68 Flinders St.   tel. 07/4750 0800. www.reefhq.com.au. Admission A$27 adults, A$20 students, A$13 children 5–16, A$39–A$67 families. Daily 9:30am–5pm. Closed Christmas Day. Public parking lot opposite Reef HQ. All buses from the City Mall stop nearby.
 
Museum of Tropical Queensland      
If you’re lucky enough to be here on the second Tuesday of the month, you’ll have the chance to hear a museum expert give an hour-long lunchtime talk as part of the museum’s “Discover More”lecture series. Subjects cover everything from underwater robotic research to frogs to the history of Townsville. With its curved roof, shaped like a ship under sail, this interesting museum holds the treasures salvaged from the wreck of the HMS Pandora, which sank in 1792 and lies 33 m (108 ft.) underwater on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. This is the highlight of the museum, and the exhibit’s centerpiece is a full-scale replica of a section of the ship’s bow and its 17-m-high (56-ft.) foremast, crafted by local shipwrights. The exhibition traces the ship’s voyage and the retrieval of the sunken treasure—make sure you watch the film about the salvage. The museum has five other galleries, including a hands-on science center; a natural history display; one dedicated to north Queensland’s indigenous heritage, with items from Torres Strait and the South Sea Islands; and stories from people of different cultures about the settlement of north Queensland. Another is devoted to touring exhibitions, which change every 3 months. Allow 2 to 3 hours.70–102 Flinders St. (next to Reef HQ).   tel. 07/4726 0600. www.mtq.qm.qld.gov.au. Admission A$15 adults, A$11 students, A$8.80 children 4–16, A$38 families of 5. Daily 9:30am–5pm. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, and until 1pm Apr 25 (Anzac Day).
Billabong Sanctuary  
Cuddle a koala, hold a wombat, pose for a photo with a python and enjoy the beauty of free-roaming kangaroos at this 25-acre sanctuary featuring a billabong and native wildlife.
You could easily spend 2 or 3 hours here, seeing Aussie wildlife in a natural setting and hand-feeding kangaroos and emus. You can also be photographed (starting at A$16) holding a koala, a (baby) crocodile, a python, or a wombat. Interesting interactive talks and shows run continuously starting at 10am; one of the most popular is the saltwater-crocodile feeding at 1:15pm (for an extra A$99, you can also personally feed the croc). It also has gas barbecues, a cafe, and a pool.Bruce Hwy. (17 km/11 miles S of Townsville).   tel. 07/4778 8344. www.billabongsanctuary.com.au. A$30 adults, A$27 students, A$19 children 4–16, A$85 families of 5. Daily 9am–4pm. Closed Christmas Day.

Paluma National Park
This National Park is the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and is known by its Indigenous owners as "Munan Gumburu" which means "misty mountain".

Castle Hill
A striking pink granite anomaly in Townsville's mostly flat landscape, Castle Hill offers panoramic views of the town and coastline, with a slice of military history. Work off some of those pounds you have gained from over-consumption throughout your cruise and make the trek up the infamous Castle Hill.

Flinders Street
Running through the heart of Townsville, this historic street features a charming pedestrian mall and is lined with handsome heritage buildings from the colonial period.

Outback & Great Barrier Reef
There are trips into the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is approximately 2 hours away by fast catamaran.
 
Anzac Park
Anzac Park on The Strand will take you on a thoughtful stroll down The Hero's Walk.
 
Magnetic Island
There is no end to the things you can do on Maggie—snorkeling, swimming in one of a dozen or more bays, catamaran sailing, waterskiing, paraflying, horseback riding on the beach, biking, tennis or golf, scuba diving, sea kayaking, sailing or cruising around the island, taking a Harley-Davidson tour, fishing, and more. Equipment for all these activities is for rent on the island.
 
One of the best, and most popular, of the island’s 20 km (13 miles) of hiking trails is the Nelly Bay–Arcadia trail, a one-way journey of 5 km (3 miles) that takes 2 1/2 hours. The first 45 minutes, starting in rainforest and climbing to a saddle between Nelly Bay and Horseshoe, are the most interesting. Another excellent walk is the 2 km (1 1/4-mile) trail to the Forts, remnants of World War II defenses, which, not surprisingly, have great 360-degree sea views. The best koala spotting is on the track up to the Forts off Horseshoe Bay Road. Carry water when walking—some bays and hiking trails are not near shops.
 
If you feel like splurging, consider a jet-ski circumnavigation of the island with Adrenalin Jet Ski Tours & Hire (  tel. 07/4778 5533). The 3-hour tour on a two-seat jet ski costs A$385 per ski, which includes your wetsuits, life jackets, and tinted goggles. Tours depart from Horseshoe Bay at 9am daily. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, dugongs (manatees), sea turtles, and humpback whales in season. A 90-minute tour of the northern side of the island costs A$185 per ski and runs daily at 9, 11:30am, and 1:30pm.
 
Bungalow Bay Koala Village (  tel. 1800/285 577 in Australia or 07/4778 5577; www.bungalowbay.com.au), on Horseshoe Bay Road, Horseshoe Bay, is a backpacker hostel that has a wildlife sanctuary on its 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of bushland, home to rock wallabies, curlews, lorikeets, and koalas. Two-hour tours of the koala park are run at 10am, noon, and 2:30pm, starting at reception. The first hour is within the wildlife park, where you can wrap yourself in a python, pet a lizard, hold a small saltwater crocodile, and get up close with a koala. The second hour is a guided bush walk to explore nearby habitats of eucalyptus forest, wetlands, mangroves, or coastal dunes, and to learn about the history of the traditional owners, the Wulgurukaba people. Entry to the park costs A$21 adults, A$19 backpackers or students, A$12 children 4 to 16, or A$62 for families of five. Koala holding costs A$15 including two souvenir photos, with proceeds supporting Magnetic Island wildlife care groups.
 
Sail Away
While the Whitsundays is better known as the bareboating capital of Queensland, the waters off Townsville offer a less crowded alternative. Local charter company Tropic Sail (tel. 07/4772 4773; www.tropicsail.com.au) has a small fleet of yachts, catamarans, and motor cruisers and offers bareboat and skippered sailing holidays around Magnetic Island and to the 13 other unspoiled and secluded islands in the Palms group. Owners Shaun Watson and Wendy Keller are experienced sailors who will set you on the right course. Whether you choose a 3-day sail around Magnetic Island, or a weeklong cruise that takes you to Great Palm, Curacoa, Fantome, and Orpheus islands, you can almost always count on ultimate seclusion at more than 42 potential anchorages. These are virtually untouched cruising grounds. As you sail, you may see dolphins, sea turtles, dugong, manta rays, and -- at the right time of year -- migratory whales. There are private moorings at Magnetic Island, so you can get off and enjoy a meal or drink in one of the many restaurants or bars. Charter rates start at A$440 to A$575 per boat per night for a six-berth yacht, plus marine park fees and fuel. You can hire a skipper for a half or full day, from A$300, and Tropic Sail can also organize provisions for you and suggest sailing itineraries. Ask about seasonal discounts and standby rates. A minimum charter of 3 nights (5 nights in peak season) applies.
 
Day Trips to the Reef
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Most boats visiting the Reef from Townsville are live-aboard vessels that make trips of 2 or more days, designed for serious divers. Barrier Reef Dive, Cruise & Travel (tel. 1800/636 778 in Australia, or 07/4772 5800; www.divecruisetravel.com) sells day trips to Wheeler Reef, where you can make introductory dives for A$80 for the first one and A$120 for two; certified divers can make two dives for A$80, all gear included. The cruise costs A$180 for adults and A$130 for children 6 to 12. The price includes lunch and morning and afternoon tea, and snorkel gear. Cruises depart Townsville at 6:30am, with a pickup at Magnetic Island en route at 7:25am, and return by 5 or 5:30pm. Several operators, including Adrenalin Dive (tel. 1300/664 600 in Australia or 07/4724 0600; www.adrenalindive.com.au), have trips to the Yongala, the Coral Sea, and the Reef.
 
Eating Out
Pier Restaurant enjoy panoramic views across Townsville's marina and harbour. The Modern Australian menu has a strong emphasis on seafood - particularly locally caught barramundi and coral trout. The modern dining room juts out over the water and is a picture of minimalistic chic. Book your dinner early to watch the sunset for a truly memorable experience. Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville City, Queensland, Australia, 4810  +61 07 4721 2567
 
Kobe at Jupiters Townsville -- Awarded NQ’s Best Steak Restaurant at the 2014 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards of Excellence, Kobe is home to the best steaks in Townsville, using premium cuts from Australia’s finest beef brands complimentary by an array of sauces and sides. Locally-sourced seafood, pork, lamb, chicken and vegetarian dishes also feature on the mouth-watering menu. Enjoy a relaxed dining experience in modern décor with stunning views to Magnetic Island. Kobe is also home to a private dining room with a built-in wine cellar. Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville City
Queensland, Australia, 4810, +61 07 4722 2222
 
C Bar Riverway sits on the picturesque banks of Ross River at Pioneer Park. The upmarket cafe offers healthy breakfasts, light snacks and more substantial meals, with crowd-pleasing burgers, grilled meats and a smattering of quality seafood. Choose a coffee or fresh juice to accompany your meal or a selection of beer, wine and spirits are on offer Ross River Road, Townsville City. Queensland, Australia, 4818, +61 07 4723 8722
 
Malt Restaurant at The Townsville Brewing Company. The Townsville Brewing Company is a local landmark. With a brewery, restaurant and function centre, this heritage landmark is popular among locals with a fabulous Banquet Centre seating up to 180 guests or 250 guests in a more relaxed cocktail setting. 233 Flinders Street, Townsville City. Queensland, Australia, 4810,  +61 07 4724 2999
 
Aqua at Jupiters Townsville seafood lovers take note, Aqua restaurant, within the Jupiters Townsville Hotel and Casino has you covered. Offering a value-for-money buffet with plenty of North Queensland seafood, guests can enjoy a casual meal with great views of the hotel pool and Magnetic Island from the dining room. Be sure to save room for the dessert buffet. Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville City. Queensland, Australia, 481+61 07 4722 2261
 
Sidewalk Café and Bar serves tea, coffee and a variety of drinks, delicious cakes and homemade desserts. Basically all you need. Address: 143 Wills Street, Townsville, Phone: +61 7 4771 6048
 
Shopping
There are a number of shopping malls and plazas in Townsville where you can visit department stores, individual shops, boutiques and cafés. Cotters Market at Flinders Mall on a Sunday is also very popular.
Flinders Street Mall, the city centre’s shopping hub (Flinders Street, Townsville), offers a range of boutiques and specialty stores including retail chains, local businesses, cafés and an art gallery. The Mall is transformed on Sunday when Cotters Market takes over the open spaces.
 
Stockland Plaza (Corner of Nathan Street and Ross River Road, Aitkenvale), is one of the city’s largest shopping centre with 135 speciality stores and 7 major retailers including Big W. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. The food court has a wide variety of tasty treats and there are many outlets for fashion, jewellery, electronics, accessories and more.
 
Castletown Shoppingworld is located on Woolcock Street at the corner of Kings Road, Hyde Park. The centre is home to two supermarkets and over 135 specialty stores including Target.
Willows Shoppingtown is located in Thuringowa’s city centre, 15 km west of Townsville’s CBD. Major retailers including Woolworths, Coles, and Target and 150 specialty retailers.

Willows Weekend Markets - each Sunday the centre plays host to the Willows Weekend Markets. Over 120 stallholders offer fresh produce, arts and crafts as well as homemade sweets.






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