There are many amazing day trips from Townsville. But you’ll also need to find things to do in Townsville city at least for your arrival or departure day. I visited the capital of North Queensland a few times and spent one day in Townsville before visiting Magnetic Island and diving the SS Yongala.
There’s a map at the end of the post to help you plan your visit and tips on where to stay in Townsville too if you haven’t booked your accommodation yet.
Here are my favourite things to do in Townsville when you only have one day in the city:
1. Walk along The Strand
Townsville has a lovely beachfront walking path. For more than two kilometres, you get superb views of Magnetic Island. The palm trees and magnificent fig trees make The Strand look very tropical. I prefer to walk towards Kissing Point rather than the port as I find the views look better this way.
Along the Strand, you’ll find a saltwater rockpool, beaches with nets where you can swim even during the marine stinger season, playgrounds for kids, outdoor exercise equipment (including a basketball field) for adults…
If you don’t want to walk, Neuron and Beam e-bikes and scooters are available along The Strand.
New to Beam? You can download their app here and use the referral code ydXTF (it’s case-sensitive). We’ll both get free credits!
New to Neuron? Register here or use the coupon code 12D5HSYE, and we’ll both get a free 10-minute ride.
2. Brunch, lunch or coffee with a view
It’s good timing to feel hungry before, after or during your walk on the Strand. There are many restaurants, cafés and small shops to buy food and drinks. We particularly liked the views from Longboard Bar and Grill and C-Bar. The Watermark and Anelay rooftop across the road can be good choices too. Surf Clubs are often an excellent option to eat with sea views in Australia, and Townsville Surf Club seems to be open for breakfast.
But if you want a drink in the evening, Flinders Street is known to be a lively street after 9 pm.
3. The Strand Jetty and the Ocean Siren sculpture
If you don’t have time to enjoy the Strand walking path, you should still check out the jetty and sculpture next to it. The jetty is a good spot for fishing, but also to enjoy the ocean views. The Ocean Siren sculpture is part of the Museum of Underwater Art. The museum’s objective is to highlight reef conservation, restoration and education. The sculpture near the jetty changes colour aligned with the changes in sea temperatures at Davies Reef.
4. Jezzine Way Coastal Boardwalk and Kissing Point
There’s a boardwalk on the headland at the northern end of the Strand. It’s an easy walk along the coast to get stunning views of the ocean with Magnetic Island in the background. You’ll find signs along the boardwalk to learn more about the barracks and the history of Townsville.
At the top of the hill, at Kissing Point, you’ll find remains of a bunker and gun emplacements installed in the late 1800s. It’s also a good spot to enjoy views of the ocean and Townsville City.
You should allow about one hour to explore the boardwalk and the top of the hill.
5. Explore Castle Hill lookouts
Castle Hill lookout is a must-do when visiting Townsville. It’s quite unique to have such a natural landmark in a town. From the lookouts at the top, you get 360° views really help better understand the geography around Townsville with the flat zones, the river and the ranges nearby.
They say you can walk to the top of Castle Hill (about 6km return). I had planned to do it but got stopped by the rain. After seeing many people (and dogs) sharing the winding road with vehicles when we drove up there for sunset, I kind of found it unpleasant and slightly unsafe. So I ended up only doing the short walk to lookouts at the top. If you don’t have a car and don’t want to walk, you can book a cab to take you there (I could book one online using 13cabs, but their app didn’t work).
It took us about 30 minutes to walk the 1.2 km at a very slow pace to enjoy the views from all the lookouts at the top of Castle Hill. The paths were all well maintained and safe. One lookout is easily accessible from the car park, but you’ll have to walk up and down stairs to get the 360° views.
If it’s raining in Townsville or if you want to enjoy the refreshing air-con, you may be interested in visiting museums. The two most popular museums in Townsville are the Maritime Museum of Townsville (with info about the HMAS Townsville and the SS Yongala) and the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
If you want to see fish, it’s always better to go snorkelling or diving when the Great Barrier Reef isn’t far. But Reef HQ may be a good alternative if trips to the Reef are cancelled. It’s known to be the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. They have been closed for a few years for refurbishment and will reopen in 2023.
Other things to do just outside Townsville
The list of things to do in the capital of North Queensland above should be enough to keep you busy if you only have one day in Townsville. If you’re staying for longer, I highly recommend considering a day trip from Townsville. But if you’re trying to find last-minute ideas of things to do in Townsville, here are a few other places near Townsville that made it to my list of plan Bs (full disclosure: I haven’t been to these places).
I rarely take the time to visit botanic gardens when I’m in a new city. I usually prefer to hike in natural areas rather than a stroll in man-made gardens. However, I was agreeably surprised by my visit to Bundaberg Botanic Gardens which made me reconsider my choice of rarely visiting botanic gardens. I didn’t have time to check out the botanic gardens in Townsville. But maybe they would have been a good surprise too.
Ross River Dam
The best place to see wildlife near Townsville is on Magnetic Island. We spotted koalas and rock wallabies during both of our visits. But if you don’t want to take a ferry while you’re in Townsville but still want to see wildlife, the Ross River dam could be an alternative. It takes just over 30 minutes to drive there from The Strand.
You can walk over to the Ross River Dam and look for turtles in the dam. Rock wallabies live nearby too, and baby crocodiles have been spotted in the Ross River.
Mount Stuart lookout
A 30-minute drive from Townsville city will take you to Mount Stuart Lookout. The panoramic views from up there are reputed to be as good as Castle Hill, but with fewer people.
What are your favourite things to do for one day in Townsville? Share your experience in the comments below!
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 (North Ward) is the best place to stay in Townsville. It’s near the main activities, the restaurants and the bars. It’s lively when you go out but quiet enough to have a good night’s sleep. You may want to treat yourself to a room with a view at Aquarius on the Beach*.