Townsville In A Nutshell
When I first came to Australia in 2012 I was only planning on staying for a year, maybe two. Australia is one of the most popular countries for a gap year after school, especially amongst Europeans and Americans, and people are taking advantage of the opportunity to experience stunning landscapes, get to know a very unique kind of culture and simply have a great time travelling and working with fellow travellers.
After one and a half years of travelling through Western Australia, the Norther Territory and along the east coast I settled in Townsville, located in the north of Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’ Queensland.
Townsville is best described as a big country town. With a population of just over 200.000 people it is rather large compared to other cities in the region, but still inhibits the spirit of the small town it once used to be. Located in the tropical north of the ‘Sunshine State’, you’re most likely to find yourself in one of the two seasons this place has to offer: wet or dry.
A lot of times other cities like Brisbane, Gold Coast or Cairns overpower Townsville with their size and this beautiful city still seems to be mostly unheard of and just a pee stop for most tourists which, to be very honest, is a real traveller’s dream don’t you think!?
There is a whole heap of beautiful and exciting things to do in and around Townsville. Some of these places require a car or van to get to. If you don’t have your own transport, you may have to go and make friends with some of the locals or team up with some other travellers!
It’s a great place to go snorkelling, go for short hikes to secluded beaches and see some Australian wildlife. A lot of places offer accommodation to suit a whole range of budgets from backpackers over to those who prefer a bit more luxury. A place I personally loved staying at is the Bungalow Bay Koala Village which offers little wooden huts in the midst of nature and also has a koala sanctuary incorporated into the resort.
Getting around the island is easy: get yourself an all-day bus ticket for AU$6 or hire one of the famous ‘topless’ mini cars. The ferry from Townsville takes only 20 minutes and costs AU$32 for a return ticket.
My personal highlight was seeing a wild koala sleeping in one of the trees along the historical Forts Walk (mind you, that was three years after I first stepped a foot on Australian soil)!
Paluma Range National Park
One of my most favourite places around here! Paluma is a beautiful National Park located about 40 minutes north of Townsville. It’s easy to find as there’s quite a bit of signage around.
Once here you can choose between a few amazing spots to stop by. You can drive up into the mountains and visit the village Paluma, swim at Little Crystal Creek (disclaimer: it’s freezing) or explore Devil’s Leap. All of these places are surrounded by the lushest rainforest Queensland has to offer. Make sure to stop along the way up into the mountains, the views are breathtaking!
If you prefer swimming and climbing around on rocks, take the turn to Big Crystal Creek, the water is definitely not as freezing as the swimming spots up in the mountains. Paradise Pool is the perfect spot to sunbathe on the rocks or go swimming with some miniature turtles. A short drive up the road from there you can find the Rock Slides, a nice secluded spot to go swimming and go for a little discovery trip upstream.
You can either make this a day trip or even camp overnight at the campsite near Paradise Pool. It’s only a small fee for a camping spot which has to be paid online (toilets and showers near the camp ground). Make sure you book this prior as there is no internet connection in most sections. If you forget, just drive out of the park a couple of kilometres down the road and you should be able to catch the signal there.
(Here a little hint: please be super careful if you feel the need to jump down from rocks or the sides of the pools. There might be stones at the bottom that you can’t see, also watch out for floating logs. Always test the depth before you attempt anything silly pretty please!)
If you have always wondered what the Great Barrier Reef looks like, but haven’t had a chance yet to go and visit ‘the real deal’ (or simply don’t fancy scuba diving or snorkeling) then this is the place for you!
Reef HQ is a huge indoor aquarium offering amazing insights, useful information and a close look at all the critters and creatures living in and around the reef. There is a long list of guided tours and presentations you can attend and heaps of signage with pretty interesting facts about one of the most famous reefs in the world. For all turtle lover out there (or the ones who would like to be one), Reef HQ has a turtle hospital dedicated to helping sick or injured turtles get back to optimum health to release them back into the wild!
The entry fee is AU$28 for an adult and is definitely worth it. For further information check their website HERE
If you love the beach and fancy a day without any wild activities, make your way down to ‘The Strand’. Our very own beach promenade with a few beaches to choose from, quite a few pubs to enjoy a cold drink or a meal and some pretty stunning views of Magnetic Island.
In summer you will find huge, white squares in the water along the beaches. Make sure to only go swimming in these as they are what we call ‘stinger nets’. They keep out the venomous box jellyfish so everyone can enjoy a swim in the (lukewarm) sea! If you prefer not to go swimming in the sea, make your way to the north end of The Strand. You will be able to find a man-made rock pool which is filled with sea water and is surrounded by a little park which offers some well-maintained grass areas to have a lazy day in the sun.
Keen for some hiking? Go for a walk up Castle Hill in the early morning or just before sunset and enjoy a 360 degree view over Townsville. It’s quite a hike, but you can also walk up the street if you are not a big fan of hiking. For the elderly or families with many children I would recommend taking a car up as the walk up takes around 30 to 40 minutes and includes a whole heap of steps and uneven ground. You will definitely be surprised how accomplished you feel when reaching the top (286 meters make him quite a big boy).
The best spot to take some amazing snaps of Magnetic Island and to catch the best sunrises and sunsets!
Survival Tips For Far North Queensland
- Water is THE most essential travel item – even winter doesn’t get any colder than 25 degrees Celsius
- Bug spray is going to be your best friend – otherwise you will make friends with a whole lot of mosquitoes and sand flies
- Stingers aka jellyfish – make sure not to go swimming in the ocean just anywhere along the way, check with a local or beach patrol before going for a dip at a beach that might not have any signs displayed
- Fuel up! – nothing more annoying than having to walk to the next fuel station
- Get a map – ‘just around the corner’ coming out of an Australian’s mouth could mean anything in a 500 kilometer radius, get an offline app like MAPS.ME (just uses your GPS, available for Android and Apple) or buy an old school paper map of the area you are in
If you love exploring nature as much as I do Townsville is the right place for you to visit. No wonder the locals go camping, fishing or just out bush whenever they get a chance to. If you want to make friends fast, go down to the Seaview (a quite popular local pub) on a sunny Sunday afternoon and get yourself some Great Northern, a beer the people here are quite proud of, and have a chat to some locals while enjoying some good music.
Townsville surely is a place with many different faces. You can choose between the sea, the outback or the rainforest – or you can
simply have it all!
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