The Greyhound, one of the most popular ways to travel Australia, does the famous East Coast route. Many of you who have taken this bus route will know the mass amount of people who get on and off at Cairns, Airlie Beach, and Rainbow Beach; the three biggest hotspots for tourism in Queensland. Cairns is the well-known home of the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is of course the gateway to the Whitsundays, whilst Rainbow Beach is one of the most popular stops on the way to Fraser Island.
As the unofficial capital of North Queensland, one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, a popular stop among the V8 racing circuit, and home to CMC Rocks North Queensland and the 2015 NRL Grand Finalists, you would think that Townsville, in the sunny northeast of Australia, would be a haven for young travellers. It is the sad case, however, that most of the lovely backpackers, travelling families, and holiday makers making their way up the East Coast of Australia, will skip Townsville. It may be the case that Townsville has not made a big enough name for itself as one of the great destinations of Queensland, or maybe people have just heard that it is a boring industrial town. Whatever the case may be, it is a tragedy to hop on the Ring Road and drive straight by. So what are all these people, skipping straight from Airlie Beach to Cairns (or vice versa), missing out on?
Located in the heart of Townsville City, on historical Flinders Street, is The Brewery — Townsville’s own brewing company. Here, many locally made beers are offered in addition to some of the best food you have ever tried. If you are keen for a good night out, The Brewery is the place to be!
During World War II, Townsville was instrumental in the defence of the coastline. You can take a walk along the historical trail that is Cape Pallarenda, which includes many defensive structures and forts that are still standing today. The walk (or bike ride, if you prefer) will take you through the Pallarenda Wetlands as well.
The Great Barrier Reef
Did you know that Cairns is not the only destination on the Great Barrier Reef? The reef actually spans almost along the entire Queensland coastline, all the way to Fraser Island. This means you can get to the reef from almost anywhere along the coast. And yes, that includes from Townsville. One of the most popular diving sites is the wreck of the SS Yongala.
During Townsville’s first years, there was a very important bullock trail which connected the port to the mines over Hervey’s Range. The only remaining stop along said bullock trail is the former Range Hotel, which has transformed in to the Herveys Range Tearooms. Set high in the range, across the road from some quad bike trails, the quiet tearooms provide 150 years of Townsville history, and some pretty amazing coffee and scones — including the infamous Kopi Luwak coffee; worth $50 a serving.
Jezzine Barracks is a heritage precinct commemorating the military and Aboriginal heritage of Kissing Point. The Traditional Owners of the area, known as Garabarra, are the Wulgurukaba and the Bindal people, who for thousands of years used this area extensively. Aboriginal people were rapidly displaced as the town was constructed after the arrival of John Melton Black in 1864, after which the area was then used extensively by the military from 1885 to 2006. Showcasing 32 public displays of artwork, descriptive signage and the restored Kissing Point Fort complex, this public precinct and museum is completely worth the time you take to walk around. It is located at the western end of The Strand, right on the coastline, and has spectacular views (seen above).
Maggie Island (as it is known as by the locals) is a picturesque destination, only a short ferry ride from Townsville. It was once the home to the Wulgurukaba people who knew the island as Yunbenun. The archaeological artefacts and art sites are all the physical reminders left of their strong connection with the island. Local Dreamtime stories about the creation of the land, such as the Big Carpet Snake, reference Magnetic Island, and the further out Palm Islands. In 1770, whilst sailing past the area, Captain James Cook recorded in his journal an incident where the ship’s magnetic compass ‘would not travis well when near it’. This is what gave the island its name. Now the island is almost fully covered by National Park, and has extensive walking tracks throughout.
The Museum of Tropical Queensland
The Museum of Tropical Queensland (or MTQ) is the only branch of the Queensland Museums north of Brisbane. Their main focus is on the cultural and natural heritage of tropical Queensland. The HMS Pandora gallery is the main attraction for the museum, with the Running out of the Gun display taking place twice daily (stand back if you cannot handle loud noises). The museum also hosts many travelling exhibitions throughout the year, and ramps up the fun for kids over the holidays!
Reef HQ Aquarium
Reef HQ Aquarium is the LARGEST living coral reef aquarium in the world. Apart from showcasing the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, Reef HQ is also host to a turtle hospital, dedicated to caring for and rehabilitating sick and injured marine turtles. The hospital plays a key role in the awareness of threatened species, and the change that needs to happen to protect this threatened species. The biggest thing you can do to minimise the risk of injured and sick marine life is to stop littering the beaches and oceans. Plastic bags, straws and all the other rubbish floating around in the ocean will continue to injure and kill marine life for as long as we are using them.
I guess the only way you will know what you’re missing out on is to visit yourself, and I hope to see you in Townsville in the future; soaking up the sun and having a wonderful time! Have I convinced you yet?
Special thank to Marie from Marie Away for posting this as a guest post on her blog.
This is a guest post from Ashlee at The Heritage Travels. Thanks to Ashlee for sharing her knowledge on Townsville! Here’s some more info about Ashlee:
Ashlee is a twenty-something wife of a paramedic who lives in Australia. She has an Honours degree in archaeology from James Cook University, and is passionate about conservation and preservation. Ashlee also loves adventures, all things culture and heritage, travel (of course), and nature. She finds comfort in good music, good books and good entertainment!
The Heritage Travels began as a blog about the challenges of those with chronic illness and has transformed in to a place to combine her love of travel and heritage.
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