Before leaving Melbourne we did not have any preconceptions of Townsville, I didn't even know where it was! After a quick google image search (that is about the extent of our research generally) we decided to apply for a housesitting gig for four weeks in Townsville and were thrilled when we got it. Townsville has amazing winter weather and is one of the most family-friendly cities I think I have ever seen (in Australia anyway). Public events and facilities are mostly free, alcohol and drug-free and everything is super clean. We absolutely encourage all you budget-wise travellers (and Townsville locals!) to check out all the FREE STUFF that you can do in this sunny town.
Stepping into a pristine pool and slowly paddling your way over to the infinity edge with a view over the Ross River. Lined with gum trees and rocks, this pool is just one of the two on offer at the Riverway Lagoon. best of all, they are free to use. This is seriously the most beautiful pool I have ever seen in my life. Bar none. And it's free! Needless to say that if you need to find us, this is a good place to look. There are lifeguards on duty from sunrise to sunset and a cafe overlooking the pool for anyone who doesn't want to get their hair wet.
2. Swimming at The Strand beaches
Speaking of getting your hair wet, you will want to jump in the water at The Strand, even if it's just once... it's just so inviting! You WILL walk The Strand if you're in Townsville, it's unavoidable and a must-do, hence it is not on this list, however from what we saw, most people do not take the time to jump in the water.
There are two patrolled beaches along The Strand, so remember to swim between the flags. the water is warm, it was 25 degrees in early September with the air temperature 28 degrees, nice hey! If you are in town in Summer and do not own a stinger suit, you can try your luck in the Rockpool at the far end of The Strand. This water is from the ocean, however it is filtered. There is a sign saying that stingers maybe in the Rockpool, however I would judge it by how many local kids in the water.
3. Alligator Creek, Bowling Green Bay National Park
Alligator Creek is only 30kms (or about 25 mins drive) out of Townsville CBD, however it is a world away. The water in the creek is so clean and clear, it is almost magical. You can recline on a rock and watch the fish dance in the water, or for the more adventurous take a walking trail or climb your way along the rocks edge. Whatever you choose, just make sure that you at least dip your toes into the water, if not jump in fully. The cherry on top was watching the turtles come to the edge of the creek to feed at sunset. Be sure to stick around for this!
Want to see the turtles but not have to trek out to Bowling Green Bay National Park? We have the solution. Just head to Riverway Park (where the Lagoon is) and take a stroll along the Riverwalk. There is a lookout just behind the playground that is a popular feeding place for the turtles, it is also the place where most people head to in order to throw bread out for the turtles for a closer look. There must have been at least 25 turtles the day we saw them, just bobbing their heads up and down and swimming in between the ducks.
5. Playing at the water park at The Strand
Just look at this. Really. Our tip, wait until the kids go to school then run around like an idiot as the bucket dumps water on you!
Head over to Cape Pallarenda and Townsville Town Common conservation parks for a bush-walking and bird-watching day. Cape Pallarenda Regional Park is 10 km north of the Townsville city centre and accessible by conventional vehicle. The park features the historic Quarantine Station and houses a large number of walking and mountain bike trails. Assess your fitness level carefully, as the sun can be mean in the middle of the day and the tracks can be without shade for long stretches. Take lots of water and just enjoy being in this arid Australian climate.
7. Climb Castle Hill
Limber up and join the rest of Townsville as they walk up and down Castle Hill each morning or evening. I would highly recommend doing this walk either at sunrise or sunset, not only for the views but also to avoid the midday heat in Townsville, it's a killer. The walk from the base of Castle Hill Road on Gregory Street to the summit is approx 3kms, and it's all uphill! For a challenge, try the Goats Track or the Cudtheringa Track. The Cudtheringa Track is the most popular track, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's easy, it's not. Just when you feel that you are nearly at the top you round the bend and have a hundred or so steep steps lying in front of you. The Goats Track reduces the 3km walk up the road to a 0.63km one way hike. It is STEEP, but also very popular with those who work and live in the CBD as the trail leads out to town easily.
The average winter temperature in Townsville is 27 degrees. Incredible right!? For me, that is the PERFECT temperature for lazing about in the grass, with a good book and just watching the world go by, and Townsville has some great parks to lounge around in. I will leave you to google these parks yourself and pick which us closest to you, they are all equally wonderful, but spread quite far across the city, so just pick whichever is within walking distance from your accomm/house. Parks to check out include: Queens Park, or Anderson Park Botanical Gardens, The Palmetum or Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens.
9. Stroll the Markets
Townsville must be the market capital of Queenlsand. We stumbled upon a few and sought out a few, but were never sitting around thinking, 'jeez, I wish there was a market on today' and being disappointed. Be sure to check out the Cotters Market in the Townsville CBD Flinders Mall from 8.30am to 1pm each Sunday. The Cotters Markets are great for fresh fruit and veg, gifts, homewares and crafts. The Strand Night Markets, held monthly from 5pm to 9.30pm on the first Friday of each month (only from May to December) at Strand Park, are best for dinner, a great night out and gift buying. Willows Markets are held every Sunday at the Willows Shopping Centre Carpark, Kirwan from 7.30am to 11.30am. Plus of course the Riverway Moonlight Markets, which are held at Riverway Park on the third Friday of each month (from May to December). From 5-9pm come along and wander the stall, listen to the live music and if you're lucky Council may even be showing a free movie in the park also (we watched Aladin and Dead Poets Society!).
Up for a walk and a history lesson? Be sure to check out the walk from The Strand to Jezzine Baracks, via Kissing Point, and for those who seek to stretch their legs a little more, you can continue onto Rowes bay along the same walking path. My personal favorite part of the area was the Jezzine Walkway, upon which 51 brass plaques tell of significant events in the history of Townsville, Jezzine Barracks, Australia with a focus on the rights, or lack there of, of aboriginal Australians. You must do this walk when you're in Townsville. It shows our history in a clear and sequential manner and helps to explain a lot about why we are the place we are today. Just go and do the walk. You will understand.