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The Top Things to do in Townsville

As North Queensland's unofficial capital, Townsville has plenty of things to do and see, many of which showcase the area's natural assets and coastal location sitting on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Explore the sparkling waters and fringing coral reefs on snorkelling expeditions, dive the Yongala Shipwreck or learn more about unique and rare species at the renowned Reef HQ Aquarium. If you are looking for things to do in Townsville, then you have come to the right place.

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Townsville to Magnetic Island Return Ferry Transfer
Townsville to Magnetic Island Return Ferry Transfer by SeaLink
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See what all the fuss is about by booking your trip on the Magnetic Island Ferry today and get a dose of fun in the sun in a spectacular reef environment!

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Yongala Wreck Dive Trip from Townsville and Magnetic Island
Yongala Wreck Dive Trip from Townsville and Magnetic Island by Adrenaline Snorkel and Dive - Fuel Wharf Breakwater Marina

Situated in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the SS Yongala is one of the world's 10 best wreck dives - book online to go diving here today!

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    10 Minute Townsville Scenic Helicopter Flight
    10 Minute Townsville Scenic Helicopter Flight by Nautilus Aviation

    Get a new outlook on Townsville city and its layout from high above with a scenic helicopter flight that will provide you with amazing, panoramic views!

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      30 Minute Magnetic Island Helicopter Flight
      30 Minute Magnetic Island Helicopter Flight by Nautilus Aviation

      View the jewel in Townsville's crown, Magnetic Island, from the air on a 30 minute scenic flight that offers spectacular views of its greenery and waters.

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        45 Minute Cape Cleveland and Bowling Green Bay Helicopter Flight
        45 Minute Cape Cleveland and Bowling Green Bay Helicopter Flight by Nautilus Aviation

        This extended 45 minute helicopter flight from Townsville takes you on an airborne journey along the rugged coastline to the Cape Cleveland Lighthouse.

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          Experience Oz Gift Vouchers Woman On Sail Boat Give The Gift Of Memories

          Let your special someone choose their own Townsville Experience.

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          All Inclusive Lunchtime Sailing Cruise
          All Inclusive Lunchtime Sailing Cruise by Pilgrim Sailing

          Set sail on this Magnetic Island sailing cruise to explore the secluded bays of the island and dine on a delicious seafood lunch.

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          Museum Of Underwater Art And Great Barrier Reef Diving Day Trip
          Museum Of Underwater Art And Great Barrier Reef Diving Day Trip by Adrenalin Snorkel And Dive - Fuel Wharf Breakwater Marina

          See why this area off the coast of North QLD is one of Australia's best dive sites with a full day diving tour departing from Townsville or Magnetic Island.

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          Museum Of Underwater Art And Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling Day Trip
          Museum Of Underwater Art And Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling Day Trip by Adrenalin Snorkel And Dive - Fuel Wharf Breakwater Marina
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          Hop aboard a comfortable vessel and head to the Outer Great Barrier Reef for some of the best snorkelling in QLD on this full day tour from Townsville.

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          Sip & Sail Sunset Cruise
          Sip & Sail Sunset Cruise by Pilgrim Sailing

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          Experience Oz Gift Vouchers
          Experience Oz Gift Vouchers by Experience Oz
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          Buy an experience gift voucher online here and let your friends, family or colleagues choose their own experience. Gift vouchers are valid for 5 years.

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          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD

          Townsville is a widely underrated destination in Tropical North QLD that serves as a great port of call for those looking for an alternative, less touristy spot than the likes of its nearby neighbours Cairns and Port Douglas.

          Couple this with the proximity of the beautiful Magnetic Island which provides numerous opportunities to enjoy all the atmosphere and marine activities of the Whitsundays, and you've got a wonderful holiday destination right next to the Great Barrier Reef.

          One of the sunniest destinations in North QLD – boasting an average of 300 days per year of sunshine – Townsville's weather, laid-back atmosphere and convenient coastal location make it a great choice for an all-around travel spot that tends to be easier on the wallet than some of the “bigger names” to boot.

          But if you're looking to travel to Townsville and enjoy its offerings, how should you best spend your time there? We've put together a detailed list on the Top 10 Things to do in Townsville below based on a combination of feedback from locals, tour operators and staff input.

          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Great Barrier Reef Day Trip

          1. Great Barrier Reef Day Trip

          As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, you'd expect there to be aquatic life aplenty, and Lodestone Reef doesn't disappoint; graceful sea turtles and rays, brilliant corals and hundreds of species of reef fish all call the area home.
          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - SS Yongala Wreck

          2. SS Yongala Wreck

          Location: 89km South-East of Townsville

          Widely regarded as Australia's best wreck dive, the SS Yongala off Townsville's coast is an immensely popular diving site for enthusiasts all over the country.

          Located in waters teeming with a large range of sea life ranging from graceful manta rays to fierce-looking bull sharks and everything in-between, it's a site that combines both varieties with generally good visibility.

          The wreck requires a fair journey from Townsville – expect roughly a 3 hour boat trip from the coast – and thus many aspiring divers choose to instead leave from the nearby town of Ayr further down the coast before heading to the launch point of Alva Beach in order to maximise dive time.

          Once out and under the water, it's easy to see why the dive is so popular – although it sank over 100 years ago, the Yongala is still in remarkably good condition due to its isolated location, and now serves as a fully-fledged artificial reef draped in all the characteristic colours of the World Heritage-protected Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

          Coral cover the body of the ship, with both soft and hard types contributing their individual colours and hues to the proceedings, while fish are numerous and range from smaller species all the way up to immense Maori Wrasse and other species of grouper.

          Although it sank over 100 years ago, the Yongala is still in remarkably good condition due to its isolated location, and now serves as a fully-fledged artificial reef draped in all the characteristic colours of the World Heritage-protected Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

          Various parts of the ship are also still clearly exposed and make for some great exploration opportunities; rudder, forward and aft masts, engine, steam rooms and more are visible and sits in a channel that is only roughly 30 metres deep.

          On clearer days, the site is truly spectacular; the lack of depth and the quantity of life blend with the impressive skeleton to more than justify its status as one of the world's best wreck dives – with perhaps the only downside being the often-unpredictable inclement weather typical of Tropical QLD that can make the surrounding waters anywhere from difficult to dangerous.

          Dive masters who run daily services out to the wreck know the area and conditions like the back of their hand, however, and will be sure to do their best to ensure your safety or postpone a trip if the climate takes a turn for the worse.

          Simply put, if you're a veteran diver and visiting the greater Townsville region during a time when the sun is shining and the waters are calm, you'll want to sign up for a trip to the SS Yongala – it's an underwater experience that is truly “epic” in every sense of the word.

          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Scenic Helicopter Flights

          3. Scenic Helicopter Flights

          Join local pilots on an unforgettable scenic helicopter flight with panoramic views of Townsville and Magnetic Island. Admire local landmarks from the air on a 10 minute or 30 minute scenic flight.
          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Museum of Underwater Art

          4. Museum of Underwater Art

          Make a splash at Australia's only underwater museum located on the Great Barrier Reef. View inspiring pieces developed by world leading sculptors designed to educate about the reef.
          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Magnetic Island Ferry Day Trip

          5. Magnetic Island Ferry Day Trip

          Magnetic Island is an island oasis just off the coast of the city. Magnetic Island is blessed with fringing coral reefs, stunning walks and friendly wildlife.
          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Billabong Sanctuary

          6. Billabong Sanctuary

          Set amongst a lush, tropical bush setting and - as its name implies - alongside a billabong, the attraction plays host to all your expected favourite Aussie animal icons.
          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Castle Hill Walk & Lookout

          7. Castle Hill Walk & Lookout

          Most major cities have one spot that serves as the clear best lookout point, and Townsville's Castle Hill is it. The hill's central location coupled with its distinct red-pink colouring is a popular hiking location with great views.
          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - The Strand

          8. The Strand

          Location: The Strand, North Ward, Townsville

          Townsville's popular beachfront promenade of The Strand is perhaps the city's centrepiece and serves as a central hub for all sorts of entertainment and outdoor enjoyment.

          Stretching for a length of over 2 kilometres, the Strand is home to a variety of facilities – from accommodation to barbecue areas to playgrounds to walking and biking tracks and more; it's a spot that's both relaxed and energetic at the same time, and provides great views out to nearby Magnetic Island to boot.

          There's something here to appeal to all ages – families will be in their element here as kids will have access to a massive FREE water park surrounded by spacious grassed areas presenting plenty of play opportunities, while older visitors can take a stroll and enjoy the array of beaches, shopping, art and well-maintained landscaping that make the place a joy at which to spend time.

          Those looking for a bite to eat will find The Strand more than fits the bill as well – it's home to a range of cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs many of which offer great outlooks that are almost as enjoyable for the people-watching as the food and beverages they provide.

          Townsville's popular beachfront promenade of The Strand is perhaps the city's centrepiece and serves as a central hub for all sorts of entertainment and outdoor enjoyment.

          Eateries of all sizes can be found here, with your choice of restaurant likely coming down to personal preference and budget – fish and chip joints exist alongside higher-profile gourmet dining options, and while the array of restaurants on offer is not staggering, they are almost all of a universally-high quality.

          Capping off the offerings is the city's casino, which not only serves as a decent spot for a flutter but also adds to the skyline with its sleek architecture and lights reflecting on the waterfront.

          The Strand is a place that accurately reflects Townsville's balance between being a growing city while still retaining a strong sense of community; the family environment here persists even during crowded travel periods, and with beaches on one side and grassed areas on the other bordering the lovely waters of the Coral Sea, it's a great balance of colours and spectacles all on offer for free that the city should be commended for.

          Safe, secure, scenic and satisfying, Townsville's Strand is simply one of the best-developed esplanade areas in any Australian city.

          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Reef HQ Aquarium

          9. Reef HQ Aquarium

          Location: 2-68 Flinders Street, Townsville

          Townsville's excellent Reef HQ Aquarium is one of the best bang-for-the-buck experiences of its kind in the country and has one of the most organic and informative atmospheres of any aquarium in Oz.

          With its status as the world's largest living coral reef aquarium, it's the best available showcase of the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef available for those who aren't keen divers or aren't looking to get wet, having won numerous awards for its combination of entertainment and conservation efforts.

          While overall it's not a massive facility, Reef HQ's main viewing tanks are impressive in scale, boasting a 2.5 million litre main coral reef exhibit as the feature attraction that mirrors a view of what the coral and creatures of the Great Barrier Reef are actually like – the integration of so many different kinds of creatures into a single area rather than segregation into smaller tanks gives a wonderfully natural feel.

          The likes of sharks, rays, groupers and more all live their lives in a shared environment that's about as close to they would in the “real world” as possible, so it never feels quite like the typical “isolated attraction” experience given by some other wildlife facilities.

          Reef HQ offers plenty of viewing areas to take in marine life from a variety of different angles and boasts a great variety of fish and coral types, with free tours and talks given throughout the day.

          With predator dive shows featuring sharks, shark and other animal feeding sessions, turtle shows and more, there's always something going on at Reef HQ in addition to its quality static exhibits. The staff here likewise deserve special mention, as they're both incredibly helpful and informative as well as insanely knowledgeable about the various marine species and their habits, environments and diets.

          It's also immensely popular with kids as there are not only plenty of interactive displays for them to take part in, but also a hands-on “Discovery Lagoon” exhibit that allows them to see, listen and touch aquatic life of the reef, while a Play Zone is available to keep the younger ones occupied. Special events and activities are also put on for children should you be visiting during the school holidays – which can be a great thing for families or an annoyance for adults who time their trip during this season.

          Lastly, a tip of the cap must be given to the Aquarium's turtle hospital, which serves as a place where the public can get an up-close look at the work and effort that goes on behind the scenes to rehabilitate turtles injured in the wild either my predators or mankind. This is about as real as an aquarium experience can get, and is both educational and slightly sad at the same time as it's possible to see the negative impact man's reef exploration can have on animal life.

          In all, Reef HQ is Townsville's best man-made attraction and serves as a great “first-step” introduction to the reef for first-timers before taking their first actual snorkel or dive, making it an essential itinerary item – particularly for those bringing kids along for the ride.

          HOT TIP: Combine with a visit to the Museum of Tropical North QLD (they're right across from each other) for a wholesome day of Townsville marine goodness on dry land.

          The Top 10 Things to do in Townsville, QLD - Museum of Tropical QLD

          10. Museum of Tropical QLD

          The Museum of Tropical Queensland showcases the natural history of rainforests, maritime exploration, ancient animals and the ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef.