Paluma is a 45-minute drive north of Townsville. 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) above sea level, Paluma is found at the southern edge of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rainforest hideaway is home to bushwalks, diverse birdlife, and cute cafes. Leading up to the village, you’ll pass Little Crystal Creek, with its 1930s stone arch bridge, waterfalls, and freshwater swimming hole. Big Crystal Creek also has a large swimming hole and picnic area, and is always filled with locals on weekends.
The most popular day trip from Townsville is to Magnetic Island, which is only a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland. More than half of the island is protected by Magnetic Island National Park. The most popular activities on the island include bushwalking, koala spotting, swimming in one of the 23 sheltered bays, hand feeding wallabies, and enjoying watersports at Horseshoe Bay. Although you can get a bus to Magnetic Island’s main bays, for an unforgettable experience, hire a topless Barbie car from Tropical Travel.
Orpheus Island is located between Cairns and Townsville on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s surrounded by fringing reef, so it’s a great place to snorkel and dive. You can expect to see 1,100 of the Great Barrier Reef’s 1,500 fish species swimming around Orpheus Island. SeaLink Queensland does organised day trips from Townsville to Orpheus Island’s Yanks Jetty, which includes a buffet lunch and lots of free time for snorkelling and swimming. For a more luxurious day trip to Orpheus Island, there’s the option to arrive via helicopter. There’s a gourmet picnic lunch and snorkelling included in that day trip as well.
Located about a 1.5-hour drive west of Townsville, Charters Towers is a historic outback town. It boomed and became a gold rush town at the end of the 19th century, and was Queensland’s second largest town for awhile. Fortunately, many of Charters Towers’ heritage buildings are still intact, including the Stock Exchange Building and Arcade, and Lyall’s Store. When in Charters Towers, pan for gold at the The Miners Cottage, and check out the views from Towers Hill Lookout.
Explore the Great Barrier Reef on a day trip with Adrenalin Dive. The local company does tours to Lodestone Reef several times a week. With depths from one to 20 metres (three to 65 feet), this spot is great for snorkelers, as well as introductory and certified dives. Some of the fish regularly spotted include parrotfish, Maori wrasse, angelfish, and clownfish. You may also see turtles, and white and blacktip reef sharks. For avid divers, Adrenalin Dive also does day trips to the SS Yongala Wreck, which is one of the world’s best dive sites.