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When we arrived in Townsville in far Nth Queensland we weren’t really weren’t too sure what to expect but soon found out that it’s the gateway to a host of different areas. A huge regional city that is regarded as the unofficial capital of Queensland by the locals Townsville is sprawled over a huge area with nearly 180 000 residents.

Funnily enough Captain Cook sailed straight past back in 1770 but did note and name Magnetic island ( a few miles just off Townsville ) as he headed north. It wasn’t until 1819 when the first white man explored the area landing in the now named Cleveland Bay, in the years leading up to 1864 the hinterland and coastline was opened up, established and a suitable site was found for Townsville. The years rolled and the town grew with a port, various plantations, huge pastoral stations and the extending town grew to nearly 2000. During the late 1880’s Townsville flourished with a rail system, government offices, a council was formed, roads and the first lots of land were offered by auction.

Roll onto today and Townsville is a bustling city that relies not only on some of the largest industries in Australia but some of the best tourism features in the world. Surprising the Port of Townsville is the 3rd largest in all of Australia moving nearly 60 000 containers each year, can cater for massive international cruise ships, and is the leading port for an array of minerals found in the area including the worlds largest zinc refinery.

Surrounded by National Parks, Townsville is the perfect place to be based to explore the outer reaches of this stunning area and is known as the gateway to many places by local tourism operators. One of there best viewing points to get your head around this place is Castle Hill which is smack bang in the middle of town which rises up nearly 290 meters high where it certainly dominates the landscape. If you have time there are many walking trails up and around Castle Hill for different levels of fitness, but be warned some of them are super crazy steep to the top with 1300 steps but if you haven’t got the time of fitness there is a sealed road to the top. Spending time up here is awesome where there are more walking trails around the top of this giant piece of Granite which surprisingly is heritage listed. The views are to die for across the port to Magnetic Island, west towards the mountain ranges across the city or up the coast line where you can also see outer islands and long stretches of beaches.

Back down in town the place to go is the vibrant Strand walkway which has been built along the esplanade where restaurant’s, coffee shops and hip market stalls line the way. But don’t be fooled by all the glitz and glamour along the way there are plenty of parks and shady trees to hide from the blazing tropical sun. This year is the 20th anniversary for the strand which has become one of the towns most popular destinations. The mix of buildings around Townsville is nothing short of stunning where new funky style meets heritage listed buildings that have been restored to their former glory. Some years ago the local council took the initiative to create street art on a stack of ugly walls, up narrow laneways and around the inner city.

Townsville is the closest port to the Great Barrier Reef so there are boats leaving for different locations and activities every couple of hours. One of the most popular tours offshore is out to Magnetic Island where for a few dollars and a quick 45 min cruise you can explore this 50km square piece of paradise. The island is what dreams made of - stunning beaches, wildlife, walking trails, secluded coves and with a little WW11 history thrown in which is surrounded by the Coral Sea and Mount Cook as the highest peak. Magnetic Island is the home to over 500 Koala’s in which over 50% of the island is now declared National park. Other close islands include the stunning Hinchenbrook which is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area or out to Orpheus which is surrounded by tropical reefs and lays claim to fame having 1100 Tropical fish out of the 1300 that live in the GBR. If fishing is your thing Townsville has it covered wether it be big game fish like Tuna or Black Marlin, bottom bouncing or throwing big poppers around for feisty pelagic’s.

Around the town itself there are plenty of other areas to discover, like one of the 4 Botanical gardens that surround the town, there’s a plethora of galleries, shopping centres, museums and Townsville’s town common area. Located just 6km away from town hugging the coastline this area has been set aside for the locals and tourist to enjoy its pure nature and serenity. There are many walking and bike trails, wetlands and headlands to explore, its a haven for tropical birds and animals and the best part it is free to explore. Down south of Townsville is the award winning Billabong Sanctuary where if by any chance you didn’t see any wildlife while around town, you can be guaranteed to see an array of animals, birds and crocodiles within the park where you can interact with the animals.

One of the best places to stay is the Bush Oasis Caravan park which is located just 17km south of town. Now this may seem a little far out of the way but the park is set in a beautiful bush landscape where the facilities are perfect yet it’s only a 15 minute drive back into Townsville but away from the hustle and bustle. The park has been beautifully transformed after the devastating floods with new facilities, plenty of huge grassy sites, a stunning pool and spa area and the camp kitchen is one of the best we have ever used including a state of the art coffee machine. Every afternoon dozens of Wallabies converge to the park to graze on the grass throughout the 14 acres. Martin and Fiona go to great lengths to make anyone feel at home here where around happy hour the fire is lit and stories are told. They are developing a smaller and greener footprint where they generate and clean it’s own water for the park as well as tapping into the tropical sun for reusable energy.

The art and culture, stunning wildlife, huge shopping centres, pristine beaches and the atmosphere surrounding Townsville is nothing short of amazing where industry mixes so well with tourism. It’s a city where you can set up camp for a month and be pleasantly surprised day in and day out.

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