Townsville is a great Australian destination for a weekend getaway. It has year-round summer temperatures, and is located on the Great Barrier Reef’s doorstep. To help you decide what to do with only two days in Townsville, here’s our 48-hour guide to the tropical paradise.
Start your day in Townsville at Betty Blue and the Lemon Tart. The family-owned cafe has been operating in Townsville’s CBD for decades. It’s known for its pastry cabinet, stocked daily with the most delicious handmade cakes. Betty Blue’s other speciality is its doorstop toast, so named as the toast is so thick it could stop a door. Its breakfast menu has plenty of unique contemporary dishes to choose from, including Caesar eggs, coconut pancakes, baklava French toast, and eggs Benedict.
After fueling up at Betty Blue, there are several things to do in Townsville’s city centre. The Museum of Tropical Queensland is a short walk away. An award-winning natural history, archaeology, and history museum, it’s also home to a replica of the HMS Pandora, which sunk off the Great Barrier Reef in 1791. Some of the items recovered from the wreck are displayed in the Pandora Gallery. The Museum of Tropical Queensland also has exhibitions on the Torres Strait islands, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, and the Great Barrier Reef.
Next door to the Museum of Tropical Queensland is another top Townsville attraction. Reef HQ Aquarium is home to the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. It was created to make the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park more accessible to the public. Along with the Coral Reef Exhibit, there’s also the Predator Exhibit, Discovery Lagoon, and North Queensland’s only Turtle Hospital. Approximately 100,000 people visit Reef HQ annually.
If visiting on a Sunday, check out the Cotters Markets in Flinders Mall as well. With live music, local produce, and handmade souvenir stalls, the markets are open every weekend.
Lunch at Longboard Bar & Grill
Bar, Restaurant, American, Mexican, Australian, Fusion, $$$
For lunch, walk down to The Strand. Located on the headland, Longboard Bar & Grill is a great lunchtime option every day of the week. The beach and surf-themed bar and restaurant has impressive views of the water and across to Magnetic Island. Its menu has American, Mexican, and Australian influences. Dishes include tacos, signature buffalo wings, salads, pizzas, and Longboard’s crispy buffalo wrap and Louisiana-style pork belly sandwich. Lunch reservations are highly recommended as well.
Spend your afternoon in Townsville relaxing on the Strand. Walk along the 2.2-kilometre (1.37-mile) beachfront path, or swim in Australia’s cleanest beach or at the saltwater Rockpool. For families, check out the free Strand water park. There are many interactive water features at the park to keep kids entertained for hours.
Another afternoon option in Townsville is to climb or drive up Castle Hill, Townsville’s most distinguishable feature. More than 2,500 Townsville residents walk up one of the hill’s many trails daily. Otherwise, drive to the top for the best panoramic views of Townsville and the ocean. There are lookouts at the top of Castle Hill too, and stunning sunset vistas.
Palmer Street is lined with some of the city’s best dining options. JAM Restaurant serves award-winning modern North Queensland cuisine. Some of the dishes on the menu include Townsville prawns, Queensland bugs, and North Queensland barramundi. JAM also has a vegetarian menu, and prepares a six-course evening degustation menu, which can be paired with matching wines. An alternative is Cactus Jack’s, a Tex-Mex bar and grill that’s been serving Townsville residents for over 23 years. It serves jalapeno poppers, tostaditas, quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas, and chimichanga.
Start your second morning in Townsville at The Balcony Restaurant. It has been trading in its heritage building in the CBD for over 30 years. It has vegan, takeaway, and high tea menus as well. The breakfast menu includes cinnamon poached pear, an actual bacon chop, and asparagus gruyere. The Balcony Restaurant also serves lunch dishes such as Cajun salmon salad, chicken liver and bacon pate, and lamb curry rolls.
Alternatively, catch a 20-minute ferry to Magnetic Island, which is also located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. On the island you can go for a bush walk, as there is more than 20 kilometres (12 miles) of walking trails. More than half of the island is protected as Magnetic Island National Park as well. Other activities include spotting koalas on the Forts Walk, feeding the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay, or relaxing at one of the island’s 23 beautiful bays. Delicious lunch options on the island include The Early Bird at Horseshoe Bay, and R&R Restaurant at Picnic Bay.
After a long day, relax at The Ville Resort-Casino, which has something for everyone. Try your luck in the casino, or dine at one of its many restaurants, cafes, and bars. Quarterdeck Restaurant has weekly specials, including Mexican Mondays, Wing Wednesdays, and Ladies Night on Thursdays. The dinner menu includes share plates, pizzas, salads, and steaks. Miss Song’s is another option, which focuses on Asian cuisine. Otherwise, relax inside at the Sports Bar.