You’ll quickly run out of things to do in Townsville city. But if you’re willing to hop on a boat or drive, it’s a different story. There are many exciting day trips from Townsville for nature lovers. Here’s a list of ideas I found when organising our trip to Townsville.

The list starts with my favourite ones. I’ve also included ideas we noted but kept for a later visit.

1. Magnetic Island

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Not necessarily.

Magnetic Island is an easy and popular day trip from Townsville. You can catch a ferry from Townsville Marina*, as a pedestrian or with a car. It’s easier to have a car to explore the island, but you can also use the bus or hire a vehicle once you’re on the island. The ferry transfer takes about 20 minutes.

There are many things to do on Magnetic Island and this itinerary will help you plan your day trip. Take your snorkel gear as snorkelling is a popular activity (see here tips for snorkelling Magnetic Island or book a snorkel discovery tour*). Magnetic Island is also one of the best places to see wildlife in Australia: you’re almost guaranteed to spot a koala on the fort walk and rock wallabies come out at the end of the day at Geoffrey Bay.

2. SS Yongala

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Not necessarily.

I’ve explored many diving spots on Australia‘s East Coast. And the SS Yongala wreck is my favourite dive. The amount of marine life and the size of the fish were amazing.

We always prefer to drive to Ayr and take the boat from there as it’s much shorter. I explain it all in this article about diving the SS Yongala. But if you don’t want to get a car, you can also book a tour from Townsville*. This dive is quite deep so you’ll need at least an Advanced Open Water certification. If you’re Open Water certified, you may be able to complete a Deep Dive certification, talk to the tour organiser first to confirm their requirements. Also, you’ll spend more time underwater if you dive with Nitrox.

Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.

3. The Outer Great Barrier Reef and the Underwater Museum

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? No.

A day trip to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef is always worth it! Although Cairns is the most popular getaway to the Reef, you can go to the outer reef directly from Townsville or Ayr. However, tours don’t run every day and can be cancelled if numbers are too low so keep this in mind when you plan your trip.

If you don’t pick the tours going to the Underwater Museum, you are likely to be the only boat visiting. Visiting the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns is a good opportunity to avoid the crowd. Yongala Dive will take you to Stanley Reef and ProDive to reefs closer to Townsville.

The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is a series of installations and sculptures within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The objective is to educate visitors about the Great Barrier Reef and highlight the need for conservation and restoration efforts to help protect this precious ecosystem.

The Coral Greenhouse is the largest installation of Townsville’s Museum of Underwater Art, the only underwater art museum in the Southern Hemisphere. The artist Jason deCaires Taylor also created the world’s first underwater museum in Cancun. As it is 18-metre deep, it is suitable for anyone keen to scuba dive there with a guide. You’ll have to book a tour to get there, like this one* for example. You can also just snorkel if you prefer.

It takes two hours by boat from Townsville City to get to John Brewer Reef on the Great Barrier Reef, where the Coral Greenhouse is located.

4. Whale watching

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? No.

In winter, humpback whales cruise Australia’s coasts. You have a chance to see them from July to August near Townsville and Magnetic Island. Adrenalin organises whale watching tours from Townsville. I haven’t visited Townsville in winter, but I love going whale watching from destinations closer to Brisbane.

5. Paluma Range National Park

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Yes.

A stone bridge going over Little Crystal Creek with four teenagers under the bridge and at the top of a small waterfall.
Little Crystal Creek

Paluma Range National Park is not a must-see while in Townsville, but it makes a good day trip if you’re running out of things to do or need to organise a quick plan B if your tour got cancelled (our experience). It takes a bit more than one hour to drive from Townsville to Paluma, a village in the rainforest part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. If you don’t like winding roads, this road trip is not for you.

It’s a good way to escape the heat in Townsville. The forest and the altitude make it a refreshing trip.

We visited the Mount Pec section of the national park. Little Crystal Creek is a lovely place for a swim, but it was very busy on a Sunday afternoon. If you’re keen to get wet, you may also want to have a look at Paradise Waterhole and the Rockslides along Big Crystal Creek.

There are five nearby walks to choose from. We found the McClellands lookout rather disappointing but the Witts lookout (3km return) was quite good, especially the lower lookout. Birthday Creek Falls walk was on our list but we didn’t have time to complete it.

View from the lower Witts Lookout in Paluma Range National Park with a rock cliff in the foreground and the sea and Palm Island on the horizon
Lower Witts lookout

Unfortunately, the 3-kilometre Jourama Falls track was closed. Make sure you always check the park alerts before visiting a national park.

6. Wallaman Falls

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Yes.

It’s a long drive from Townsville to Wallaman Falls in Girringun National Park (about 2hrs15), which is the only reason why I haven’t been there yet. But waterfalls lovers may want to check out this one as it is the highest permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia (268m). If you drive all the way, you don’t want to see just the two lookouts. Make sure you do the steep Djyinda walk (3.2km return, 2hrs) to the bottom of the falls.

7. Cardwell Spa Pool

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Yes.

It’s another one that is a long drive from Townsville (about two hours). But the blue of the pool, made famous by Instagram, looks amazing and will attract photographers.

8. Ayr and Alva Beach

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Yes.

Ayr and Alva Beach would not be my first choice for a day trip from Townsville, except if you’re going down there to board a diving or snorkelling tour. There aren’t many things to do in Ayr and Alva Beach, but that’s what can be attractive for some visitors: you’ll be away from the crowd. The inshore lagoon created by the outer sandbars on Alva Beach is a reputed spot for kitesurfing (you’ll need your own equipment) and standup paddleboarding (you can hire equipment in Townsville). Birdwatchers will like exploring the wetlands.

9. Hinchinbrook Island

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Yes.

Visiting Hinchinbrook Island as a day trip from Townsville is feasible, but it will be a very long day. That’s why it’s not higher on the list of day trips from Townsville.

It takes 1hr45 minutes to drive to Lucinda (and Cardwell is even further), where you can board a boat to Hinchinbrook Island. On a day trip to Hinchinbrook Island, you should be able to visit the beautiful Zoe Bay and Zoe Falls. I was lucky to have more time in the region so I could spend an entire week kayaking Hinchinbrook Island.

10. Bowling Green Bay National Park

Do you need a car for this day trip from Townsville? Yes.

Bowling Green Bay National Park is located between Townsville and Ayr. You’ll find short easy hikes (Mount Elliot boardwalk – 200m return, Alligator Creek lookout – 1km return) and more challenging ones (Cockatoo Creek – 3km return, Alligator Falls – 17km return). It’s not the most impressive national park in the region, but it will keep you busy if you’re running out of things to do in the Townsville area.

Where to stay in Townsville

For those on a budget, I recommend the Civic Guesthouse*. It’s very simple but it has all you need for a good night at a reasonable price.

The Esplanade is the best place to stay in Townsville. It’s near the main activities, the restaurants and the bars. You may want to treat yourself to a room with a view at Aquarius on the Beach*.

Where are these day trips from Townsville located?

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