Townsville is a gem! After a quick google image search (that is about the extent of our research generally) we decided to apply for a housesitting gig for four weeks in Townsville and were thrilled when we got it. Townsville is in North of Queensland, but not quite Far North Quensland. Make sense? It will once you’re in Queensland, this place is HUGE! Townsville has amazing winter weather and is one of the most family-friendly cities I think I have ever seen (in Australia anyway). Public events and facilities are mostly free, alcohol and drug-free and everything is super clean. We loved our four weeks in ‘the dust bowl’ (as southern Queenslanders described Townsville to us as) and encourage all you budget-wise travellers to hit this town too, even if just for a few days, to check out all the FREE STUFF that you can do. Read on fellow traveller, and be prepared to be jealous that your hometown does not offer all this. I know Melbourne would be enriched by adding a few of these initiatives.
1. Riverway Lagoon Pool
Imagine stepping into a pristine pool and slowly paddling your way over to the infinity edge with a view over the Ross River. Lined with gum trees and rocks, this pool is just one of the two on offer at the Riverway Lagoon. best of all, they are free to use. You can choose between a deeper and larger square pool (max 2m deep), with one side dedicated to lap swimmers and a lovely underwater-decking at 40cm deed to sit on the edge of and watch the world go by, or the smaller and more circular play pool (max 1.8m deep) to splash around in with your mates and kids. The smaller pool also has a kids section with rocks to play on and a wall that divides it from the deeper end of the pool for safety.
This is seriously the most beautiful pool I have ever seen in my life. Bar none. And it’s free! Needless to say that if you need to find us, this is a good place to look. There are lifeguards on duty from sunrise to sunset and a cafe overlooking the pool for anyone who doesn’t want to get their hair wet.
2. Swimming at The Strand beaches
Speaking of getting your hair wet, you will want to jump in the water at The Strand, even if it’s just once… it’s just so inviting! The Strand is a beachside initiative that the Council has built, and is the equivalent to what most towns would call their Esplanade or similar. It is a public use, long park with many free facilities, beaches, pools, restaurants, BBQs and play areas. You WILL walk The Strand if you’re in Townsville, it’s unavoidable and a must-do, hence it is not on this list (we’re more creative that than people), however from what we saw, most people do not take the time to jump in the water.
There are two patrolled beaches along The Strand, so remember to swim between the flags. the water is warm, it was 25 degrees in early September with the air temperature 28 degrees, nice hey! As you wade out into the water, you have a magnificent view over Magnetic Island and the sailing boats that dart between the mainland and Maggie (as the locals call her). Turn around and you can take in the panoramic views of The Strand with Castle Hill rising high into the background. Just stunning.
If you are in town in Summer and do not own a stinger suit, you can try your luck in the Rockpool at the far end of The Strand. This water is from the ocean, however it is filtered. There is a sign saying that stingers maybe in the Rockpool, however I would judge it by how many local kids in the water. If none are in there, stay clear. If it’s full, then jump in and enjoy. The locals know what the real chances are of getting stung, so always follow their lead.
3. Alligator Creek, Bowling Green Bay National Park
We were lucky enough to camp at Alligator Creek for 2 nights, however it’s close proximity to Townsville means it is also great for a daytrip. Alligator Creek is only 30kms (or about 25 mins drive) out of Townsville city, however it is a world away. You leave the beachy vibe of Townsville and quickly enter the dusty country plains. All this slips away as you enter into the National Park and are greeted with luscious landscapes, green mountain ranges and crystal clear creeks. The water is so clean and clear, it is almost magical. You can recline on a rock and watch the fish dance int he water, or for the more adventurous take a walking trail or climb your way along the rocks edge. Whatever you choose, just make sure that you at least dip your toes into the water, if not jump in fully. Being from Victoria, we are not used to these Queensland swimming holes and cannot speak highly enough of them! Swimming in a creek surrounded by rocks, hills and trees – glorious!
The cherry on top was watching the turtles come to the edge of the creek to feed at sunset. Be sure to stick around for this!
4. Riverwalk and feeding the turtles
Want to see the turtles but not have to trek out to Bowling Green Bay National Park? We have the solution. Just head to Riverway Park (where the Lagoon is) and take a stroll along the Riverwalk. There is a lookout just behind the playground that is a popular feeding place for the turtles, it is also the place where most people head to in order to throw bread out for the turtles for a closer look. There must have been at least 25 turtles the day we saw them, just bobbing their heads up and down and swimming in between the ducks.
5. Playing at the water park at The Strand
Just look at this. Really. Our tip, wait until the kids go to school then run around like an idiot as the bucket dumps water on you!
6. Go for a bush walk
Head over to Cape Pallarenda and Townsville Town Common conservation parks for a bush-walking and bird-watching day. Cape Pallarenda Regional Park is 10 km north of the Townsville city centre and accessible by conventional vehicle. The park features the historic Quarantine Station and houses a large number of walking and mountain bike trails. Assess your fitness level carefully, as the sun can be mean in the middle of the day and the tracks can be without shade for long stretches. Take lots of water and just enjoy being in this arid Australian climate.
7. Climb Castle Hill (sunrise or sunset is best)
Put on your sporty clothes and trainers, and join the rest of Townsville as they walk up and down Castle Hill each morning or evening. I would highly recommend going this walk either at sunrise or sunset, not only for the views but also to avoid the midday heat in Townsville, it’s a killer. The walk from the base of Castle Hill Road on Gregory Street to the summit is approx 3kms, and it’s all uphill! You will see the locals, in particular the Navy and Airforce troops running up and down the hill in a cloud of sweat and fluro. We on the other hand enjoyed a leisurely walk up the Hill, a great way to exercise and see the city. For a challenge, try the Goats Track or the Cudtheringa Track. The Cudtheringa Track is the most popular track, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy, it’s not. Just when you feel that you are nearly at the top you round the bend and have a hundred or so steep steps lying in front of you. The Goats Track reduces the 3km walk up the road to a 0.63km one way hike. It is STEEP, but also very popular with those who work and live in the CBD as the trail leads out to town easily.
8. Lay in the grass at Queens Park, or Anderson Park Botanical Gardens, or Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens
The average winter temperature in Townsville is 27 degrees. Incredible right!? For me, that is the PERFECT temperature for lazing about in the grass, with a good book and just watching the world go by, and Townsville has some great parks to lounge around in. I will leave you to google these parks yourself and pick which us closest to you, they are all equally wonderful, but spread quite far across the city, so just pick whichever is within walking distance from your accomm. Parks to check out: Queens Park, or Anderson Park Botanical Gardens, The Palmetum or Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens.
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Townsville must be the market capital of Queenlsand. We stumbled upon a few and sought out a few, but were never sitting around thinking, ‘jeez, I wish there was a market on today’ and being disappointed. Be sure to check out the Cotters Market in the Townsville CBD Flinders Mall from 8.30am to 1pm each Sunday. The Cotters Markets are great for fresh fruit and veg, gifts, homewares and crafts. The Strand Night Markets, held monthly from 5pm to 9.30pm on the first Friday of each month (only from May to December) at Strand Park, are best for dinner, a great night out and gift buying.
The Townsville Artist Markets is held twice yearly at the Riverway complex. the markets are a big deal and draw in large crowds to see the stalls, the live music, enjoy a BBQ in the sun and generally have a great day out. For dates of the Artist Market see the Council’s What’s On listings.
Willows Markets are held every Sunday at the Willows Shopping Centre Carpark, Kirwan from 7.30am to 11.30am. The North Queensland Farmers Market was somewhat not what we expected. Advertised as a large farmers market where all the growers congregate on a Saturday morning, what we actually found was a few marquees in a carpark. They were selling great produce, but the size was not the scale we were expecting. The Farmers Markets are held at North Shore Town Centre in Main St, Burdell and are worth stopping by if you’re headed to the northern beaches on any given Saturday.
Finally, the Riverway Moonlight Markets are held at Riverway Park on the third Friday of each month (from May to December). From 5-9pm come along and wander the stall, listen to the live music and if you’re lucky Council may even be showing a free movie in the park also (we watched Aladin and Dead Poets Society!). This was our favorite market. The vibe is just great, with the live band playing, the smell of crepes and burgers and the kids riding ponies. This market is alcohol-free and a great, early and peaceful Friday night out of the house, hostel or campsite.
10. Jezzine Barckas and the Kissing Point/ Rowes Bay walk from The Strand
Up for a walk and a history lesson? Be sure to check out the walk from The Strand to Jezzine Baracks, via Kissing Point, and for those who seek to stretch their legs a little more, you can continue onto Rowes bay along the same walking path. There is an observation deck at Kissing Point with a lot about the history of Townsville during the war and the use of the Barracks. Along the back of the hill, there is the ethno-botanical walk and Norman and Brigadier North parklands. However our favorite part of the walk was the Jezzine Walkway, upon which 51 brass plaques tell of significant events in the history of Townsville, Jezzine Barracks, Australia with a focus on the rights, or lack there of, of aboriginal Australians. You must do this walk when you’re in Townsville. it saddens me that there is not more of these around Australia. It shows our history in a clear and sequential manner and helps to explain a lot about why we are the place we are today. Just go and do the walk. You will understand.
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