Townsville is much more than a departure point for Magnetic Island. We recently spent 4 weeks housesitting in Townsville and saw many backpackers walk only from their accommodation to the Flinders Street bars or to the Island Ferry. Guys, venture out a little! Townsville is a hidden hot-spot of free activities that makes for a cheap and relaxing week in this dry tropical environment. To help get your imagine going, here are my top five free activities In Townsville
1. Swimming at The Strand beaches
You will want to jump in the water at The Strand, even if it’s just once… it’s too tempting to pass up. You WILL walk The Strand if you’re in Townsville, it’s unavoidable and a must-do, hence it is not on this list of free activities In Townsville (I’m more creative that than people), 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. From November to May it is also stinger season so you will need to swim in the nets of the patrolled beaches to avoid near-death experiences. The water is warm, it was 25 degrees in early September with the air temperature 28 degrees, nice hey!
As you wade out into the water, you have a magnificent view over Magnetic Island and the sailing boats that dart between the mainland and Maggie (as the locals call her). Turn around and you can take in the panoramic views of The Strand with Castle Hill rising high into the background. Just stunning.
2. Riverway Lagoon Pool
Imagine 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 by far one of my person favourite free activities In Townsville. This is seriously the most beautiful pool I have ever seen in my life. Bar none. 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.
3. Climb Castle Hill (sunrise or sunset is best)
Not just for fitness freaks, this is one free activity that everyone should partake in at least once. There are a number of walking tracks up the hill, however following the road is easiest and most popular option. The walk is just over 3kms from Gregory Street and is not for the faint of heart. My recommendation would be to walk it at sunrise or sunset, not only for the spectacular views you will be rewarded with, but also to avoid climbing the steep hill in the heat of the day.
Once you reach the summit, don’t sell yourself short and just head to the main lookout. Make sure you take all the tracks to the other lookouts, they are no more than a couple of hundred meters each and are well worth the additional steps.
4. Alligator Creek, Bowling Green Bay National Park
We were lucky enough to camp at alligator creek for 2 nights, however it’s close proximity to Townsville means it is also great for a daytrip. Alligator Creek is only 30kms (or about 25 mins drive) out of Townsville City, however it is a world away. The beachy vibe of Townsville quickly slips away as you enter into the Bowling Green Bay National Park and are greeted with luscious landscapes, green mountain ranges and crystal clear creeks. The water in the swimming holes is so clean it is almost magical. You can recline on a rock and watch the fish dance int he 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.
5. Lay in the grass at Queens Park, or Anderson Park Botanical Gardens, or Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens
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. Queens Park in on Gregory Street and is just stunning. A traditional botanical garden, it is a wonderful stroll at any point of the day, be wary that there are a lot of weddings held here on the weekends.
Anderson Botanical Gardens is huge, at 25 hectares, it holds one of the world’s largest collections of the beautiful tropical orchard. It’s easy to get a patch of grass to yourself here. My suggestion, head out early in the day, take a picnic lunch and se it as a chance to map out how you will hit up all the other free activities in Townsville.
Sadly half of the Palmetum was closed due to a fruit bat infestation when we were there, if it was not, I would highly recommend a day out there also, however if you cannot make it to the Palmetum or it is still closed, the Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens are also closeby and have a large lagoon with wildlife and barbecue facilities.