No matter if you’re just planning on stopping into Townsville as part of a road trip up (or down) the east coast of Australia, or visiting it as a destination all on its own, the regional city has plenty to offer!
The unofficial capital of North Queensland (not to be mistaken for Far North Queensland), Townsville’s tropical climate, as well as its location alongside the world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, makes it one of several popular travel destinations along the northeastern coastline of Australia.
Fun Fact: Townsville is the fourth largest population of any Queensland city. So it might be bigger than you think.
Nestled between a World Heritage Listed rainforest and reef, Townsville averages 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a popular destination year-round.
Over the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to have travelled to Townsville many times, and I’ve only ever seen it rain there once.
In that time I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks, and some important information that will help you make the most of your time in Townsville as soon as you arrive.
Where Is Townsville
Townsville is located in Northern Queensland, on the northeastern coast of Australia. Sitting between the lush rainforests of the Wet Tropics and the world-famous Great Barrier Reef.
The city is roughly 1300km north of Brisbane, and easily accessible by a little over a two-hour flight from the Queensland capital. Alternatively, a more scenic option is to drive along the Bruce Highway, which will take you at least two days.
A Brief History Of Townsville
Named after pioneer Robert Towns, who funded much of the city’s early development, the settlement that would grow to become Townsville was originally established in 1864 as a port to support local farming, particularly pastoral and sugar industries.
Townsville’s strategic location saw it grow rapidly in the late 19th century when gold was discovered in the region. It became a major port on the Queensland coast and a service centre for the mining industry, and as a result, its population swelled.
It was these port facilities that also saw Townsville become a major staging point for Allied troops fighting in the South Pacific during World War II. The city was home to over 50,000 American and Australian troops at the time, and it was also bombed by Japanese aircraft on several occasions. Many remnants of this military history, including bunkers and fortifications, can still be explored today.
After the war, Townsville continued to grow and develop. The city diversified, and while it continued to be a major centre for the sugar industry, it also maintained a strong military presence, and it also emerged as a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.
What’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit Townsville
Despite residing in the tropics, with a very distinct wet and dry season, Townsville boasts that it has 300 days of sunshine each year, making it a year-round destination.
During the wet season (November to April), Townsville is typically warmer and much more humid, as is common in northern parts of Australia during the summer months. Afternoon thunderstorms are also frequent during this time of year, some of which feature heavy rains and can occasionally escalate to tropical cyclones.
That said, between the natural formations of Magnetic Island and Castle Hill, often the worst of the weather often skirts around the outside of the city.
However, the most ideal time of year to visit Townsville is during the dry season (May to September) when it’s typically a little cooler (well, for the tropics). Even though the locals might find it a little cooler, it’s still quite warm, especially for tourists escaping the coold winter months in the southern parts of Australia.
How To Get To And From Townsville
By Air – Townsville Airport
Townsville is served by its own domestic airport, Townsville Airport. All of Australia’s major airlines fly in and out of Townsville, connecting the city with Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, which enables travel to the rest of the country and internationally.
Unfortunately, Townsville Airport isn’t linked to through the cities public transport. That said it is still pretty easy and inexpensive to get to and the airport.
Your cheapest option will be Townsville Shuttle Services. The bus service costs just $10 (each way), and connects the airport to several hotels in and around the city, as well as the Sealink/Magnetic Island Ferry terminal. Ideal if plan on staying on Magnetic Island instead of in the city.
Alternatively, Townsville Airport is really well set up for both taxi and ride-sharing services, including Uber.
If you are looking for a taxi, there is a taxi rank located right out the front of the arrivals end of the terminal. There is also a dedicated ride-sharing collection point next to the rental car parking. Both are well signposted.
Obviously, prices vary depending on where you are staying in or around Townsville, but expect to spend about $20 on either a taxi/Uber ride each way from the airport.
Otherwise, Townsville Airport is serviced by all of the major car rental companies. And, as I’ll get to later in this post, having your own transport is the most ideal way to make the most of your time in the city.
By Rail/Bus and Coach
Additionally, bus companies like Greyhound and Premier Motor Service offer routes that connect Townsville to other major cities and towns across Queensland and the Northern Territory.
How To Get Around Townsville
Townsville is one of those places that is quite easy to get around, both within the heart of the city as well as on Magnetic Island.
A lot of the CBD and The Strand are extremely walkable with well-laid-out footpaths and pedestrian bridges that interlink much of the centre of the city, making it a really convenient way to get around.
You’ll also find electric scooters available for rent all over the city to take advantage of all the walkways.
Beyond that, Townsville also offers a public bus service, run by Sunbus/TransLink, that operates both around the city and on Magnetic Island.
However, the best way to get around Townsville is to own transport (so renting a car). A lot of the key attractions of the city really aren’t accessible from the public transport network, and on particularly hot and humid days, being able to drive yourself around on your own schedule makes a significant difference.
Driving around Townsville is really straightforward, with an easy-to-navigate road network. Parking is also free almost everywhere.
Getting over to Magnetic Island is also simple with the regular SeaLink ferry services across to the island each and every day.
The Best Things To Do In Townsville
Best Places To Stay In Townsville
Much like most of the towns and cities along the northeastern coast of Queensland, Townsville is a tourist town, albeit not to the same extent as, say, Cairns.
With that in mind, Townsville is well set up with a good variety of accommodation options all the way from backpacker options through to some of the most luxurious hotels, all spread out over the city.
That said, you will find the biggest concentration of hotels near the water, particularly on the beach and along the river. The closer they are to both, the nicer and more expensive they tend to be.
Along Palmer Street, you will find a small tourist hub with a good selection of mid to high-end brand-name hotels, as well as restaurants etc.
In this part of Townsville, I recommend Rydges Southbank Townsville. It’s centrally located within walking distance of the CBD, and most of the rooms have a view either over the city or the marina. Grand Hotel and Apartments Townsville is also a good alternative option nearby.
Right in the heart of the city, I also really like the Rambutan Resort. Embracing the tropical resort vibes that northern Queensland is famous for, it’s the right feel for a Townsville getaway. However, there are some nicer and quieter hotels around.
If you are looking for something a little cheaper, there are a few reasonably priced options across the city. I recommend Motel on Mitchell, located just off The Strand; all the rooms have been recently refreshed and are extremely comfortable. However, if views are important to you, the Summit Motel has also recently been upgraded.
That said, a lot of people visiting Townville choose to stay on Magnetic Island instead,
Attending Sports In Townsville
Arguably, the largest sporting event in Townsville is the annual Supercars race, the Townsville 500, held on a temporary street circuit just to the southeast of the CBD. This large-scale event often also features concerts from famous artists, encouraging tourists from around Australia to visit the city.
Townsville is also home to its own NRL (Rugby League) team, the North Queensland Cowboys, who play their home games at North Queensland Stadium (also known as Queensland Country Bank Stadium) during the season (March to September).
This brand-new state-of-the-art stadium on the edge of the city also occasionally hosts other major international sporting events and concerts.
Where To Find Food In Townsville/What To Do In The Evenings
Being a military and tourist city, Townsville has plenty going on to keep you fed and entertained into the evenings. Especially on the weekends!
If you are looking for something a little more low-key, your best bet will be to head towards The Strand, particularly around Gregory Street.
In this part of Townsville, you’ll find a variety of cafes, restaurants (including takeaways) and casual pubs. Ideal for either a quick bite to eat or a quieter night.
Within the CBD, especially around Flinders and Sturt streets, is another good place to look for restaurants and pubs options. There is absolutely something for everyone in this part of Townsville. It’s also where you will find the Cowboys Leagues Club (the local football team club) with its own bar and restaurant options.
If you are looking for something a little more unique, keep an eye out for City Lane and City Arcade (which run parallel to each other between Flinders and Sturt). The boutique-style bars and restaurants in these two laneways are some of the most popular that Townsville has to offer.
On the hunt for something a little cheaper, especially backpacker-style food options, follow Flinders Street back towards the beach. There are some really good and cheap takeaway options along this stretch.
This stretch of Flinders Street is also where you will find a good variety of bars and nightclubs to kick on into the evening.
If you’d like to get more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.
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