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Port Review: Townsville, North Queensland

Joanna Hall

With more than 320 days of sunshine each year, World Heritage-listed national parks and more, Townsville is home to some spectacular natural attractions, which has put it firmly under the spotlight as a cruise destination.

The Facts

Location: Far north east coast of Australia in Queensland.

Language: English.

Currency: Australian dollar.

Docking/anchoring: Ships dock at the dedicated Quayside Terminal, which is around two kilometres from the CBD and Palmer Street.

Transport: Most cruise lines run a shuttle to the city centre which takes about five minutes. There are usually plenty of taxis or it’s a pleasant walk if the weather isn’t too hot.


North Queensland’s biggest city often plays second fiddle to its northern neighbour, Cairns, as a tourist destination. However Townsville is fast becoming a favourite with cruise goers thanks to the fact that it feels like a “real place” rather than a tourist resort masquerading as a city. It also has plenty of worthy attractions being a major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics, and the Queensland outback. Townsville is also vibrant and bustling city with plenty of al fresco dining, Federation-style architecture, boutique shopping and a distinctly coastal vibe. It’s also Australia’s largest garrison town with Australian Defence Force bases and fascinating military history to explore.

Don’t Miss  

The Strand is the oceanfront promenade and the heart and soul of Townsville. It’s a three kilometre strip of landscaped waterfront parkland with views stretching out to Magnetic Island, and this is where you can stroll and catch some sea breezes while checking out boutique shops and some good restaurants and bars.

Magnetic Island is just eight kilometres from Townsville, and a little gem which locals have coveted for decades. The island has 23 bays and beaches and two thirds of it is National Park. It also has 24 kilometres of stunning bush walks offering access to remote swimming spots, and native wildlife including koalas, rock wallabies and over 100 species of birds.

The Bindal and Wulgurukaba Aboriginal people are traditional owners of the Townsville region, and you can learn about their culture and view original artworks at the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre

Reef HQ, located next door to the cultural centre, is where you'll find the world's largest living coral reef aquarium and the education centre for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It’s also home to thousands of fish and corals and North Queensland's first dedicated turtle hospital.

Best Photo Op

Undeniably this is from the top of Castle Hill, with a 360 degree panorama of the city, the port, the ocean beyond Magnetic Island, and outlying suburbs. Most city tours stop here, and it’s possible to walk up to the top but be warned - this is only for those who are fit and active.  


Flinders Street Mall is where shuttle buses often drop cruise ship guests and it’s a good start for shopaholics with a wide range of stores selling clothes, original artwork, and souvenirs. Nearby Gregory Street has a cosmopolitan “village“ atmosphere offering great shopping and outdoor café dining.

Food And  Drink

There’s a plethora of outdoor restaurants and bars in Townsville thanks to its 12 months of tropical weather. The Strand, Palmer Street and Flinders Street East - all an easy walk from the CBD - are the best places to explore and if you see plenty of locals in a joint, pull up a seat and check it out!    

Pick of the Excursions 

Of the various city tours that are offered, the ones that include Billabong Sanctuary are worth taking. About 15 km south of Townsville the Billabong Sanctuary is set among rainforests, wetlands and Eucalyptus trees and also offers a good Aussie wildlife experience. This is where you can see kangaroos, koalas, wombats, kookaburras and cockatoos in their natural environment along with captive crocodiles, cassowary, and other native wildlife. 

About 100 km west of Townsville is the old gold rush town of Charters Towers which provides a snap shot of a bygone era, with a bit of the Outback thrown in. Gold was discovered in 1871 and Charters Towers became one of the busiest towns in Queensland. Today, many of the historical buildings, which were once in ruin after the gold rush ended, have been restored to their former glory.

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  1. Posted by on 4th Nov 2019 Verified Customer

    Surprising 5 Star Review

    We stopped here on a Silverseas cruise a few years ago and thought it was a really lovely place. We did a barrier reef trip which was great, only thing was that it was incredibly hot and humid which made walking around difficult but the ship put on buses which helped. Nice place!

  2. Posted by on 4th Nov 2019 Verified Customer

    Insightful 5 Star Review

    I have never been to Townsville but always thought it was more of a port city than anything else. It sounds like a lovely place and I can understand why cruise lines would visit.

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