It’s common knowledge that Townsville has a pretty darn good rugby league team (go Cowboys!), but what you might not know is that it’s got seven natural wonders, all within a few hours drive from the CBD. How’s that for convenience?
From lush rainforest and crystal-clear streams to red outback plains, Townsville has many landscape-feathers in its cap.
With 320 days of sunshine per year, there’s no excuse for wiling away the weekend indoors. Get back to nature with these Townsville day trips.
1. Chase a waterfall, Wallaman Falls
Hit the road 51 kilometres south-west of Ingham to visit the Niagara Falls of Queensland – Wallaman Falls. This epic waterfall lays claim to the title of highest single drop waterfall in the state, with water cascading 268 meters into a large pool below.
Depending on how fit you feel, take on a 800m stroll down to the banks of Stony Creek, a 3.2-km hike into the gorge, or those who prefer marathon-walks can tackle the Wallaman Falls section of the Wet Tropics Great Walk (56.5km).
Regardless of which one you choose, pack your swimmers for a dip in the large pool under the waterfall. Scientists at James Cook University claim that this water is THE purist in the world.
2. Kick back and relax at Paluma
If Avatars had to relocate from Na’vi, our guess is that it would be to Paluma – a rainforest village in the clouds, only 60 minutes north of Townsville.
It’s filled with all the things we love about hinterland villages like boutiques, B&Bs and no mobile phone coverage (did someone say digital detox?). More than just a treasure trove of clothes and cakes though, it’s home to Paluma Range National Park where you can cool off in Little Crystal Creek and Big Crystal Creek and walk through the Wet Tropics Heritage-listed rainforest.
Keep your eyes peeled for platypus who paddle up and down these rainforest streams – the crystal clear water makes them easy to spot.
3. Feel the magic of Magnetic Island
She’s magnetic by name and magnetic by nature, but don’t take our word for it, check out Magnetic Island for yourself in all its hilly, granite and eucalyptus forest glory.
One minute you’re in the city, 20 minutes later you are standing in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef on “Maggie”.
It’s the Galapagos Island of Queensland and you’re almost guaranteed to spot wild koalas, hand feed rock-wallabies, see turtles pop their heads up in the deep blue ocean surrounding the island.
You can flop and drop on the palm-fringed beaches, but if you have to get active on your island holiday, make sure you try these must-dos, especially the Forts Walk to see two WWII Military bases and the most spectacular views of Magnetic Island’s 23 bays and beaches.
4. Birdwatch at Tyto Wetlands
This urban wetland is a twitcher’s paradise, with two different species of bird found for every hectare of parkland. In an ode to all things feathered, it’s no surprise this public park was called the Tyto Wetlands in namesake for the eastern grass owl, a rare bird often seen here.
If chasing Hedwig look-a-likes isn’t for you, perhaps you’re interested in playing spotto with the wallaby population that call the wetlands home. If ever there was an opportunity to wear your khaki cargo shorts and binoculars, this is it!
You can spend a morning traipsing around the four kilometres of walkways, interpretive signs and information centre filled with regional art.
5. Climb Castle Hill
You’ve got to feel a little bit sorry for Castle Hill. It falls just metres short from being classified a mountain in the height stakes and has suffered small-mountain syndrome ever since. Despite not being written up in any record book for its height (don’t worry, I’m not either), this granite monolith is not short of fans.
Pop along to the pink rock on a weekend and you’ll find it crawling with fitness freaks who run up and down its 286-metre rocky stature for exercise.
If the walk to the top doesn’t take your breath away, the 360-degree vista of Townsville will, and the best time to soak it in is sunset. Speaking of best views, you might catch a Cowboy (rugby league player) doing hill runs on a weekend too!
6. Hike Hinchinbrook Island
No trip to Townsville is complete without visiting Queensland’s own Jurassic Park, we mean, largest national park – Hinchinbrook Island. The island separated from the mainland over 100,000 years ago and thanks to Queensland Parks who cap visitors to 40 people at any one time, the landscape remains completely untouched.
The environment changes at the drop of a hat, and mangroves turn into white beaches and rainforests into prehistoric granite mountains faster than you can say “dehydrated food”, which is incidentally what you’ll need to eat if you plan on hiking Hinchy.
Hinchinbrook attracts hardcore hikers who sign up for the 32-kilometre Thorsborne Trail, a bucket list trail along the east coast of the island. If you’re more of a kayaker than a walker (it’s a fractionally less hardcore – but you’ll want to see this video first) you can paddle Hinchy with Coral Sea Kayaking.
7. Check out Charters Towers, Townsville’s Outback
You don’t have to move far out of Townsville to see the outback. Charters Towers is Queensland’s accessible outback, 138km west of Townsville City.
Gold put this small town on the map, but golden sunsets and outback colours have kept it popular with visitors all year round. Packed with horses, cows and historical buildings, you know you’ve hit the country when you reach Charters Towers.
For a true outback experience, head to Leahton Park to meet JR, the beast with the longest horns in the world (according to Guinness World Records). We challenge you to find another place where you can don your cowboy boots and ride a wagon at sunset, and be back in the CBD sipping cocktails by dinner.