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Top 8 things to do in Townsville this weekend

10 min read
21 Mar 2019
sunrise over Townsville

Townsville is a city on the coast of North Queensland that offers something for everyone to enjoy, from beautiful beaches and nature escapes to outdoor adventure, as well as fine dining and modern shopping outlets.

Check out our top eight attractions and things to do in Townsville this weekend.

Discover the Great Barrier Reef

aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef

No list of things to do in Townsville would be complete without this great natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef.

The largest natural wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2,300 kilometres of the Queensland coast.[1]

Out in the crystal clear, turquoise blue water, there are pristine snorkelling and diving spots where you can swim with shoals of sea creatures amidst coral reefs. Alternatively, you can sit back and kick your feet up and enjoy sailing along this natural wonder.[2]

There are a variety of trips, tours and ways to get there, by boat or even helicopter (which can cost just shy of $1,000 per person)![3] If you decide to fly in style, you can land on one of several small areas of sand rise out of the ocean. You’ll have your own private island for a day, just be mindful of the tide! The Great Barrier Reef is a must-see site for those who love the ocean, nature and adventure.[4]

Be enchanted at Reef HQ Aquarium

tropical aquarium reef in Reef HQ
For those landlubbers who would rather enjoy the natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef’s marine ecosystem on solid ground, you can visit the Reef HQ Aquarium. Found in the Townsville CBD, tickets start at $28 for adults (as of March 2019), though concessions and family packages are also available. Reef HQ Aquarium contains the largest coral reef aquarium in the world, and a variety of spellbinding aquariums to feast your eyes on.[5]

The Reef HQ Aquarium also contains a turtle hospital where injured or sick turtles can be rescued, rehabilitated and nursed back to health before being released back into the wild.[6] Reef HQ Aquarium suggests visitors allow at least two hours to enjoy the exhibits.[7]

Hunt for a bargain at Cotters Markets

woman purchasing baked foods at a market

If you enjoy hunting for bargains, soaking up the market vibes or just perusing the stalls, then one of your favourite things to do in Townsville on weekends will be to check out Cotters Market. Held on Sundays between 8:30 in the morning and 1:00 in the afternoon, Cotters Market is the largest arts and crafts market in Townsville.[8]

Veteran shoppers and novices alike will be spoilt for choice with a wide range of fresh produce and award-winning stalls offering jewellery, artworks and woodwork for all your home decoration or gift needs. There’s something for the foodies and sweet-tooths as well with home-baked cakes, treats and street-food too.[9]

There are a number of other markets in Townsville held on weekends as well, such as the North Shore Markets on Saturday and Willows Rotary Markets on Sundays. Make the most of your weekend trip to Townsville and check them out!

Dining on the Strand

cups of coffee and a plate of pastries by the beach

The Strand is Townsville’s premier foreshore area, with a two-and-a-half kilometre walkway by the beach, offering

  • views of Magnetic Island,
  • shady palms,
  • beaches to soak up the sun on,
  • picnic areas and BBQs,
  • playgrounds,
  • the Strand Water Park and rock pools.[10]

The esplanade is also home to a range of highly rated eateries, with gourmet restaurants offering top-notch seafood, local favourites and international cuisine, to bars and pubs offering hearty fare and street food eateries.[11]

Check out Odyssey on the Strand for a relaxing atmosphere and a wide variety of Greek cuisine cooked fresh.[12] For high-end seafood by the water, you’ll want to book a table in advance at The Pier, an award-winning restaurant on Sir Leslie Thiess Drive.[13] Finally, The Longboard Bar & Grill provides a wide menu inspired by American and Mexican food fused with Australian delights. While there, you can enjoy their famous crispy buffalo wrap and views of Magnetic Island.[14]

Explore Magnetic Island

water breaking on rocks at Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is a peaceful island paradise only 25 minutes away from Townsville by ferry. Located within the Great Barrier Reef, this tropical getaway is full of outdoor activities for the adventurous, close and personal encounters with the local wildlife, and serene beaches for some quiet R & R.[15]

History lovers and hikers alike can enjoy the Forts Walk, a track that takes you through the bush to a former military fort from WWII, where you can enjoy 360˚ views from the top.[16] Those of you who live for hopping on the saddle of a majestic steed can go on a beach horse ride tour along the bush, pale sands and even into the sparkling blue waters.[17] You will need to call and book ahead for a morning or afternoon ride, or fill out a form online.[18]

There’s a wide range of local animals to encounter at Magnetic Island when exploring. Koalas are a common sight, and so are the rock wallabies, which you might even get a chance to hand-feed! Also, look out for sea turtles near the surface of the waters surrounding Magnetic Island.[19]

There are three main residential areas, Horseshoe Bay, Nelly Bay and Picnic Bay. Magnetic Island is home to a range of accommodation options from hostels to apartments, and bed and breakfasts to high-class resorts.[20] There’s so much to see and do at Magnetic Island; it can be a weekend holiday destination in itself.

When planning your weekend trip to Townsville or Magnetic Island, why not compare hotels with us? You can view plenty of accommodation options for free with our hotel comparison service, filtering side-by-side results by price, rating and customer reviews. Should you like what you see, you can book through us, saving you time to plan the rest of your North Queensland getaway.

Experience the arts

women in a cinema with popcorn and soft drink

For those wishing to enjoy a cultural experience, Townsville has several theatres, museums and important Aboriginal heritage sites to appreciate the area’s unique history and art scene.

The Jezzine Barracks, now a public space home to traditional art, parklands and sea-side boardwalks, is an important historical site for both the Aboriginal Bindal and Wulgurukaba peoples and the Australian military. A 15-hectare heritage site, the Jezzine Barracks celebrates Indigenous heritage with public artworks, murals and signage, as well as the military history of the area.[21]

The Museum of Tropical Queensland is an award-winning museum that tells the story of Townsville and the local area and is conveniently located next to Ross Creek and the Reef HQ Aquarium in the city centre. The Museum contains multiple exhibits and displays, including a replica of the HMS Pandora.[22]

For live performances, holidaymakers can make the trek out to either the Burdekin Theatre or the World Theatre in Charters Towers. Burdekin Theatre offers a modern façade and is home to a range of film festivals, music concerts, ballet recitals and entertaining live performances and acts.[23] The World Theatre also hosts a range of live performances and concerts but also includes cinema screens showing the latest blockbusters, classics and more, all within the stunning heritage listed building.[24]

No matter what you fancy, there’s always something cultural to appreciate in Townsville.

Join a beach party at The Surf Club

people dancing at a beach party

Sunday might be the end of the weekend, but that doesn’t mean the fun should stop there! From two in the afternoon to six at night, The Surf Club Townsville hosts beach party sessions every week on Sundays.[25]

There’s a beachfront bar with ocean views and a deck area to dine and enjoy the live music[26], so what’s not to love? Queensland’s got some of the best beaches in the world after all, so if you’re in the mood for a beach party, you should definitely check out the Sunday Beach Party Sessions at The Surf Club.

Escape to magical Paluma

Jourama Falls in Paluma Range National Park

There’s plenty of things to do in Townsville this weekend, but if you’re just looking to unwind, you’ll want to explore Paluma. Paluma Range National Park, known to the Nywaigi Aboriginal people as Munan Gumburu, meaning ‘misty mountain’,[27] is a place of stunning natural beauty that will enchant you just north-east of Townsville.

This area of lush rainforest, wetlands and mountainous granite formations offers incredible views of Jourama Falls for those who like to hike and climb the trails.[28] In the mountain air, you can cool off from the tropical heat and enjoy a dip in Little Crystal Creek and Big Crystal Creek. If you want to stay a while, try the camping areas or cabins. There is also a gorgeous stone arch bridge built in the 1930s that overlooks the waterfalls and a freshwater swimming hole.[29]

For stunning views, beautiful forest hiking trails and refreshing swims to cool off, Paluma Range National Park is a must for those looking to bask in nature.

Don’t forget this from your travel plans

Once you’ve polished off your itinerary plans and organising your flight, there’s one thing you won’t want to forget when it comes to your Townsville holiday, and that’s travel insurance.

Domestic travel insurance can keep you covered from a nasty bill should something go wrong, such as stolen, lost or damaged belongings, delays and cancellations, or a hire car excess in the event of a crash. Don’t worry; our comparison service takes mere minutes to use, helping you find the cover you need in no time at all.

[1] The Facts. Great Barrier Reef Foundation. 2019.
[2] 10 ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef from Townsville. Celeste Mitchell, Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2018.
[3] Great Barrier Reef Scenic Experience. Townsville Helicopters, Townsville Flight Training. 2019.
[4] 7 of the Best Day Trips on the Great Barrier Reef. Tourism Australia. 2019.
[5] Reef HQ Aquarium. Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2019.
[6] Turtle Hospital at Reef HQ Aquarium. Reef HQ Aquarium, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. 2019.
[7] Tickets. Reef HQ Aquarium, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. 2012.
[8] Shopping & Markets. Townsville City Council. 2019.
[9] Cotters Markets. Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2019.
[10] The Strand. Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2019.
[11] Restaurants near The Strand. TripAdvisor. 2019.
[12] Visit our fantastic Mediterranean cafe in Townsville. Odyssey on the Strand. 2019.
[13] Home. The Pier. 2019.
[14] The Venue. Longboard Bar & Grill. 2019.
[15] Guide to Magnetic Island. Tourism Australia. 2019.
[16] Forts Walk, Magnetic Island National Park. Townsville North Queensland. 2019.
[17] Bucket-list worthy beach horse riding tours in Queensland. Jesse Lindemann, Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2018.
[18] Book Now. Horseshoe Bay Ranch. 2018.
[19] 7 natural wonders to visit in Townsville. Hannah Statham, Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2018.
[20] Magnetic Island. Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2019.
[21] Jezzine Barracks. Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2019.
[22] Museum of Tropical Queensland. Townsville North Queensland. 2019.
[23] Burdekin Theatre. Burdekin Shire Council. 2019.
[24] The World Theatre. Townsville North Queensland. 2019.
[25] Opening of Sunday Beach Party Sessions! 2019.
[26] Club Newsletter 15. 02. 2019. Townsville Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club. 2019.
[27] Paluma Range National Park. Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government. 2019.
[28] Jourama Falls Track, Paluma Range National Park. Townsville North Queensland. 2019.
[29] Paluma and Crystal Creek Rainforest. Tourism and Events Queensland, Queensland Government. 2019.

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avatar of author: James McCay

Written by James McCay

James is a devoted husband, father, animal lover and history buff. He studied Creative and Professional Writing at QUT, and is often buried in a book. While he writes on a variety of topics, a personal favourite is cars and all things motoring. James hopes to make a positive difference for readers through his writing.

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