Our 3-night Townsville itinerary
I was a couple of weeks into a 5 week trip to Australia’s East coast and after spending New Year in Sydney, I had since spent 5 nights based in Airlie Beach to explore the Whitsunday Islands. Now we were sat on a Greyhound bus, early on a Sunday morning, making our way up the coast to Townsville. The Queensland town would be our base for the next 3 nights and we planned to spend the afternoon we arrived in the local area, then a day visiting a nearby animal sanctuary and one day visiting Magnetic Island.
We had high hopes for Townsville after reading about it being an up and coming, bustling place to visit so after checking into our hotel, we headed straight back out to see what the town had to offer.
We were immediately struck by how quiet it was everywhere. It was Sunday and some of the stores seemed to be closed, others about to close for the afternoon so we walked down to the seafront. Here too, there were very few people about. Passing the marina, we then followed the path alongside the waterfront passing a few sculptures dotted along the front, a large children’s play area and outdoor pool, and a small beach.
We were hoping to find somewhere to eat at but instead had to settle for an ice cream from a truck near the beach.
Walking back towards the centre, we passed the Museum of Tropical Queensland. With very little else open and feeling we’d already see a lot of the town, we decided to go in and spent the next hour looking around. The museum had some natural history exhibits and some exhibits on the history of the region and was an interesting way to spend a bit of time.
After our visit to the museum, we crossed George Roberts Bridge across Ross Creek into South Townsville, still hoping to find somewhere to eat. Finding everywhere closed or deadly quiet, we instead settled for ice cream before walking back to our hotel, spending the evening doing laundry and ordering in Dominos!
For our first full day in Townsville, we had made plans to visit Billabong Sanctuary just outside of the main town. We’d bought a ticket which included a return journey in a minibus, the driver picking us up just across the road from our hotel that morning.
I’d visited animal sanctuaries on my previous visit to Australia and getting to hang out with the kangaroos and wallabies had always been a highlight of any trip so I was excited for the day. We expected to spend the morning there and maybe be back in Townsville mid-afternoon to explore a bit more and see if it was any more alive on a Monday but our visit to the sanctuary took actually took all day and when the last minibus left a bit before the sanctuary closed, we wished we could stay a while longer!
The sanctuary wasn’t any bigger than those I had visited in other parts of Australia but rather than leaving visitors to look around at their own pace, it offered the option of a program of animal meet and greets throughout the day. We attended most of these timetabled events which included feeding huge cassowary birds, cuddling a wombat, holding various reptiles, a talk about the crocodiles as we watched them being fed by the brave keepers and a turtle race.
The reason we didn’t want to leave at the time of the last bus back was because it clashed with a meet and greet session with the dingoes which we would have loved to do! But we really loved that there was so much to do and there were plenty of kangaroos and wallabies to hang out with between the scheduled events!
It was worth visiting Townsville just to go to Billabong Sanctuary!
Back in Townsville, realising that there wasn’t a great deal to do for the evening, we found a local cinema and made plans to go to an evening movie screening. We again struggled to find somewhere to eat, eventually making do with a hotel restaurant just across the road which offered a cheap 2-course menu and making it in to the cinema right before the film started!
The next day, we were down at Townsville marina early to catch the ferry across to Magnetic Island. Arriving on the island, we made use of the local bus service there, buying a day ticket and hopping on to reach Horseshoe Bay. We’d done some research on what Magnetic Island has to offer but hadn’t made any definite plans on how we would spend our day there.
Seeing the Bungalow Bay Koala Village as we got off the bus and having enjoyed our time with the animals at Billabong Sanctuary the day before, we decided to visit the sanctuary.
Inside, we were given a talk on some of the animals housed there and given the opportunity to interact with them, feeding some of the birds, stroking a koala and holding some of the weird and wonderful reptiles and other Australian creatures (I don’t recommend holding a spiky echidna!!). While we would probably have enjoyed this more having not had similar experiences at Billabong Sanctuary the day before, it was still a fun way to spend an hour.
From the koala village, we walked the short distance downhill to the stunning Horseshoe Bay. Here, we hoped to find some water-based activities to do before having some lunch. Seeing pedalos lined up on the shore we enquired about hiring one only to be told they were for children only.
Having kayaked in Airlie Beach just a few days earlier, we didn’t want to hire one of these again and weren’t brave enough to try the jet-skis so instead we decided to just go for a dip in the ocean to cool off. This was cut short when, not having stinger suits to protect us,we saw a jellyfish and couldn’t get out of the water quick enough!
Drying ourselves off, we went for lunch at one of the cafes lining the beach before catching the bus along to the pretty cove of Alma Bay then walking along to the nearby Geoffrey Bay, a long sweeping bay part of the Marine National Park Zone.
With time rapidly passing us by, we caught the bus further around the island to Picnic Bay. Here, we grabbed drinks and ice cream from a bar overlooking the beach before catching the bus back to the ferry terminal and returning to Townsville.
We’d enjoyed our day on Magnetic Island but as pretty as all the beaches were, they had all started to blend into one and we did wish we’d spent more time planning our day, maybe doing some of the many walks the island has to offer or hiring snorkeling gear.
Back in Townsville, rather than another inevitably unsuccessful search for somewhere to eat, we made do with the McDonalds near our hotel.
Then it was time to pack and have an early night ready for a dawn start to catch the Greyhound to our next destination, Cairns.