Townsville, QLD: Best things to do in and around Townsville

Cairns to the north and the Whitsundays to the south may be better known, but there is no shortage of action around Townsville, north Queensland’s largest city, a region best visited in the Dry Season, April to October.

1. Mountain Bike around Cape Pallarenda

Forming the northern boundary of Townsville, the rugged Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park and the neighbouring wetlands of Town Common, offer everything from biking and hiking to bird watching. Fitting the mood of the nation, a classic ride starts from the old Quarantine Station. Fitting perhaps the nature of Townsville, Under the Radar, swoops and rises along the coast with fabulous views across to Magnetic Island. Looping back on the Lagoon Trail totals 16km but adding in Smedley’s Loop will put a quarter century in the legs.  

2. Kite Board at Pallarenda Beach

‘Go with it. Don’t fight it’ said Ben. I fought it and copped more body slam than the intended body drag across the sea. I certainly didn’t expect to pick up kite boarding in one 2 hour lesson, but was keen to try it after watching, for years, the speeds and heights gained by this relatively new water sport. Most afternoons, at Pallarenda Beach, you’ll find the locals enjoying the winds that, in Townsville, are regular but not too strong. In The Loop, run by a former kiteboard world champion, offers lessons and Ben reckoned a few more would have me not only body dragging, but up on my feet too.

3. Hike up Castle Hill

Castle Hill, overlooking Townsville.

Standing over Townsville like a paternalistic puppy, Castle Rock dominates the city from all directions. Rising nearly 300 metres, this granite monolith is a popular spot for the locals to stretch their legs. None more so than on the Goat Track which, with its 758 steps, will get any heart started, perhaps stop a few too.

4. Snorkel off Magnetic Island

Maggie, as the locals call it, is the island suburb of Townville. The regular 8km ferry ride will drop you onto this laid-back island of beach, forest and hill. Take your snorkelling gear or hire some on the island. I picked a set up in Nelly Bay, where the ferry arrives, tempted too by the pool noodles sold as ‘Social Distancing Sticks’ just to support the owner’s humour. Head then to one, other or both of the self-guided snorkel trails. These, at Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay, have a series of buoys which guide the route. A waterproof card, available at the ferry terminals, highlights the corals and fish you might encounter along the way.

5. Hike on Magnetic Island

Arthur Bay, Magnetic Island

Arthur Bay, Magnetic Island. Picture: Jesse and Belinda Lindemann

There are a few reasons for visiting the little settlement of Arcadia, cane toad races at the local pub being one. But for your own exercise, not that of our feral fiends, the walking tracks across the hills to Horseshoe Bay or Nelly Bay are crackers, taking you to some lookouts across an island that is 90% national park. Be sure to carry enough water as the rocky steps will slow the pace on a warm day.

7. Take part in the Paluma Push

The tiny hamlet of Paluma sits in the clouds and the Wet Tropics rainforest, 1000 metres above Townsville. It’s a quiet place for 364 days of the year, save for the roar of numerous waterfalls that descend off the plateau. For that other day of the year, hundreds of riders ascend for the Paluma Push, one of Australia’s oldest mountain bike races, that weaves a beautiful route through forest and farm.

Most people though come to Paluma to hike to hidden falls and swim in pools that, depending on time of day or year, will be fresh or freezing: Cloudy Creek, Crystal Creek, Birthday Creek and more. And there are many more trails than a map might reveal. Some locals have, over 30 years, created a network of walking trails. Ask and they may be revealed.

8. Island adventures on Hinchinbrook

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island. Do not use unless TEQ campaign

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island. Picture: TEQ

An hour and a half north of Townsville, close to the sugar cane town of Ingham and only 4km off the little settlement of Lucinda, sits the island of Hinchinbrook. A special and spectacular place, the 40km long east coast is all rocky headlands, waterfalls, beaches and clear water. The landward, western side all flat, mangrove lined channels of turbid water. The island rises steeply to sharp mountains of 1000 metres or more.

An adventurer’s paradise, Hinchinbrook is home to the renowned Thorsborne Trail, a 3-4 day walk on the east coast. Limited in capacity the trail must be booked, often a year or more ahead. Sea kayakers too can enjoy the coastal paddling, occasionally dipping inland to wash the salt off in perfect plunge pools at Zoe or other waterfalls. While on swimming pleasures, be aware that crocodiles do frequent the waters of the sea around Hinchinbrook.

See also:

–Best waterfalls in North Queensland

–A perfect weekend in Townsville

–5 great activities in Townsville

–Few Aussies know about this road trip, but it’s stunning

This article originally appeared on Escape

About the author


Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.


Recent Posts