Townsville's big-country-town-with-a-cosmopolitan-streak persona is a surprise to some visitors. You might be thinking the same thing: Townsville is only a launch point for Magnetic Island or one of Australia's top dive sites, Yongala shipwreck. Those two attractions are handy but you may not know this North Queensland city enjoys an average of 320 days of sunshine per year and its upwardly-mobile population is boosted by a large contingent of students and Army corps. Its nightlife thrives. You get the best of several worlds in Townsville – you can day trip to the rainforest, reef or Outback.
Known as 'Maggie' to the locals, Magnetic Island is a World Heritage listed island just 25 to 45 minutes from Townsville (by passenger and car ferry). More than two-thirds is national park and its 23 palm and pine fringed bays and beaches are overlooked by granite headlands. Its diving, swimming and hiking keep visitors happily returning. Other Townsville attractions include the pretty 1.3 mile waterfront strip, The Strand, with playgrounds, markets and entertainment year round. The beach is calm and good for swimming and you'll get a great view of the area from Castle Hill. 4X4 drive, fishing, hiking, kayaking and dive tours are all available from Townsville too. If you need time out of the sun, take a look at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
Eat and Drink
Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, seafood, modern Australian, pub grub – feeling peckish yet? You won't go hungry here. Townsville restaurants dish up tasty fare, in generous portions, which will likely be accompanied by a smile. If you want fries with that, sure, go ahead and ask. The Townsville Brewing Company is a mix of brewery, bar and restaurant and is housed in the historic former Townsville Post Office. This building was military communications headquarters during World War II and even in its new incarnation it's not short of a few people in uniform.
Where to Stay
Whether you're staying on the cheap or luxuriating by the beach, Townsville accommodation has you covered. If you like being self contained, there are several apartment options (some of which are within resorts); if you like a local's advice at the ready, you'll find bed and breakfasts to suit here too. Magnetic Island has some pretty hideaways and if your budget resembles a shoestring, there are accommodation options on 'Maggie' and in Townsville.
Townsville shopping reflects that of any major regional centre – there's more than enough here for the locals to have their everyday needs catered for within the 21 malls across the region. You might get a taste of local character by going to the markets here. The Strand Night Markets are held monthly on the foreshore and there's a Sunday morning flea market at Townsville Showgrounds. Alternatively, if you're in the city centre's Flinders Street Mall on Sunday morning you'll find fresh produce, art, craft and antiques available at the Cotters Markets.
Townsville like a Local
When they say 'football' here, they're referring to the local code of rugby league. If you get a chance to watch a home game of the North Queensland Cowboys at their stadium here, take the opportunity, even if you don't understand the game. The atmosphere is quite something. If you're in town without a car and still want to get to a game, don't worry, there's a free shuttle bus from Thuringowa Drive (opposite council chambers) you can take to and from the stadium.