Townsville, Magnet Island & surrounding areas



The Strand before……………………like when I was a kid. Wonderful and happy memories, loved it like this. Thanks to Bruce Davidson’s facebook for this photo.

Including some places I enjoyed when growing up, not to mention a great place to spend the winter especially if you enjoy walking and swimming.

PEOPLE & PLACES  North Queensland

STINGER  SEASON:  The beaches are undeniably beautiful the sea is shared with a few nasties, mainly jellyfish, also know as ‘stingers’.  Swimmers and snorkelers need to take them seriously, as a sting will require a hospital visit and, in some cases, can be fatal.  December to March is ‘Stinger Season’ and several beaches have stinger nets in place, creating safe places to swim and lifeguards n duty.


Townsville with Castle Hill in the background. Photograph by Nghi Nguyen

AQUARIUM, experience the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet, at the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. As the National Reef Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Reef HQ Aquarium will open your eyes to an amazing world filled with thousands of charismatic marine creatures. With impressive exhibits the aquarium offers an ever changing, always fascinating experience, showcasing rare and extraordinary features of the Great Barrier Reef.

DSC_2677ARMY  MUSEUM  NORTH  QUEENSLAND, Jezzine Barracks and Kissing Point, located at Townsville’s beautiful Jezzine Barracks, the Museum collects and exhibits objects and stories relating to the history of the Australian Army in North Queensland.  Jezzine Barracks has been home to Australian military units for over 120 years and is now a fitting home to showcase the Museum and its extensive Collection of the history of the Army in North Queensland.  I grew up with Jexxine Barracks across the road.

Other museums include Maritime Museum, Museum of Tropical Queensland, National Trust Heritage Centre, RAAF Townsville Museum, Townsville Museum & Historical Society, Quarantine Museum.

TOWNSVILLE  ART  SOCIETY is now located at Hut 26, Jezzine Barracks.

BILLABONG  SANCTUARY, an Australian Native Animal Wildlife Park, 10 minutes out of the centre of Townsville, on 11 hectares of tropical bushland settings. Masses of towering gums create shade and fringe the turtle-filled lagoons, while various birds and kangaroos wander free range.  Koala and crocodile shows, touch lizards, snakes and small crocodiles.

CASTLE  HILL is a red rock monolith in the heart of Townsville offering panoramic views, and a slice of military history. There is a popular walking track for fitness focused locals, with a rocky “goat track” a favourite for shedding those unwanted kilos. A road offers access for vehicles and pedestrians. The hill is just metres short of being classified as a mountain.

The rock face is home to Townsville’s iconic “saint” – a graffiti rendition of the popular television show’s stick figure emblem. The Hill’s vantage was used by visiting American soldiers during World War II. According to local legend, the visitors famously offered to demolish the hill and use the rock to build a bridge to Magnetic Island. A World War II observation bunker sits on one corner of the hill, which also boasts public amenities, a function centre and car parking to those wanting to enjoy the best view of Magnetic Island.

Walking up Castle Hill offers plenty of challenges for those looking to increase their fitness levels, whilst enjoying the view and aligning with nature.

GELATO, the best in the world at Gelatissimo, 21 The Strand and the local used to call it the Ozone Cafe

cowboys1COWBOYS:  North Queensland Cowboys are an Australian professional rugby league football club based in Townsville.  Supporters come from all over the vast area of North Queensland when they play at their home ground for sell out games.

HERITAGE TRAILS:  Trail 1 Civic Pride, Trail 2 Early Townsville, Trail 3 South Townsville and Port, West End Cemetery Trails include Life, death and memorialisation in early Townsville, Townsville Women and Publian’s trial

The Community Information Centre is conducts free walking tours on Wednesday’s and Fridays from April to August on request, but bookings are essential.  For more information contact the Community Information Centre on 4771 4230 or visit them at Level 1 Northtown, 280 Flinders Street, Townsville CBD.

birthday-creek-fallsMOUNT  SPEC, Paluma Range National Park straddles the summit and escarpment of the Paluma Range, rising 1,000 m above the Big Crystal Creek floodplain. This is the most southerly national park in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Tropical rainforest grows on the cooler mountain tops and in the valleys, while open eucalypt woodland covers the foothills. Casuarinas and paperbarks fringe the creeks in the lower, drier parts of the park. Bloodwoods, ironbarks, poplar gums and cocky apple trees grow here. The park is home to many animals found only in the Wet Tropics.

NORTH  QUEENSLAND  POTTERY  SOCIETY, NQPA is a small group of dedicated potters who work together to form a not-for-profit association in Townsville. Our aim is to promote pottery throughout North Queensland and act as a catalyst for the pottery community in the region. Our studio at 15 Flowers St in Railway Estate is extremely well-equipped and provides a creative environment where members’ and students’ pottery skills are nurtured. Mum is a founding member of the society and a life member is their historian.

imagesRIVERWAY  ARTS  CENTRE located in Thuringowa Central on magnificent Ross River frontage, Riverway is one of Townsville’s most exciting destinations, offering a dynamic combination of residential, commercial, cultural, sports and leisure activities.  Riverway is a riverfront parkland attraction located in stretching along 11 km of the Ross River, with areas at Pioneer Park, Loam Island, Apex Park and Ross Park at the Ross River Dam.  Including the Pinnacles Gallery, Theatre and the Riverways Lagoons.

UnknownSAUNDERS  BEACH is part of the Northern Beaches precinct of Townsville and has a residential community and some commercial accommodation. The beach is largely untouched and visitors still literally have the beach to themselves.

With over six kilometres of beach to discover, take a long refreshing walk, drop a line in to fish, and claim a piece of paradise to yourself. Have lunch at the Cafe or Take-Away and store under a magnificent fig tree, then relax at the beautiful Saunders Beach Park. Stay on the beach at the Retreat House or Ocean View Units. A boat ramp is also available for the keen fisher.

Saunders Beach Park is also a designated limited free vehicle camping area.

ST  PATRICK  COLLEGE  is an independent Catholic girls secondary college (day and boardng), educating young women in the Mercy tradition.  As one of the most iconic schools in North Queensland, St Patrick’s is ideally located on Townsville’s Strand beachfront and has recently undergone a major campus revitalisation.  St Patrick’s College offers quality 21st century teaching, innovative  learning spaces and facilities, boarding for rural and remote based families (including Mon-Fri boarding) and exceptional pastoral care.

imagesREEF HQ gives you an up-close idea of what is out there, in a 2.5 million litre tank with an underwater viewing tunnel.  The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reek, 2,300 kilometres long, visible from space and ranked one of the seven wonders of the natural world.


THE  STRAND is a 2.5 km seaside foreshore with a long walking path taking you through the shade of fig tress, olympic sized swimming pool, restaurants, cafes, marina, life saving clubs, casino, beer gardens, majestic historical buildings, entertainment centre and a ferry terminal for Magnetic Island and the outer reef, add to the many activities available just along The Strand area alone.

many-peaksTOWN  COMMON  CONSERVATION  PARK , known locally as the Town Common, the park is close to the bustling city centre of Townsville and is a great place to enjoy nature and fantastic coastal views.  Visitors can hike across the Many Peaks Range, enjoy expansive island views while riding the Under the Radar or Smedley’s trails or take the trail to the beautiful and secluded Shelly Beach.

Deep-water lagoons, seasonal wetlands, coastal woodlands and sheltered beaches bordered by rocky headlands all feature in this park. Mangrove-lined tributaries of the Bohle River meander across the floodplains that fill each year during the wet summer months.

Up to 280 bird species have been recorded in the area. Magpie geese, brolgas and many others gather here to feed and nest, particularly as the wetlands dry out and food sources become concentrated in the remaining lagoons.

THURINGOWA  BOWLS  CLUB   great value meals.

TOBRUK  MEMORIAL  BATHS was opened in 1950. The baths are significant as Australia’s most substantial public memorial to the Australians who fought and died during the Siege of Tobruk, a coastal town on the edge of the Libyan Desert, from 9 April to 13 December 1941.

Because of the warmer climate, the Tobruk Memorial Baths were used as a training venue for the Australian swimming squad for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and 1960 Rome Olympic Games. Team members include Australian swimming legends Dawn Fraser, Murray Rose and Lorraine Crapp. Six world records and 13 Australian records were set there in one night in 1956, with the footage featured on the first day of television broadcast in Melbourne. Training camps were also held prior to the Cardiff Commonwealth Games in 1958, and for the women’s Olympic Team in 1964.

QUEENSLAND  WEEKENDER  Townsville is one of those places that is under-rated as a tourist destination, predominantly because its northern neighbour, Cairns, attracts most international visitors. The capital of tropical north Queensland has plenty on offer, regardless of whether you’re travelling as a family, with a friend, or by yourself.  Includes the Great Barrier Reef, North Queensland Adventure Kayak Tours, Heritage Tea Rooms heading up Hervey Range, Hervey’s Range Quad Bike Tour including an abandoned rail tunnel, which was part of the old rail line to the Greenvale nickel mine.


MAGNETIC  ISLAND, 8 kilometres off the coast,is a short ferry ride from Townsville. The island boasts a total of 23 pristine bays and beaches and many only accessible by boat. After the Great Barrier Reef, the most visited national park in North Queensland. The island is home to koalas, rock wallabies, brush-tail possums and an abundance of birds. Nearly 70% of Magnetic Island (approx. 5184 hectares) is National Park, 320 days of sunshine, more than 20 bays and beaches and 25 kilometres of walking tracks guide visitors through varied terrains from pristine bushland to lush rainforest. There are also some short walks with pavement, making fantastic views accessible for strollers or wheelchairs.  Spot the koalas on the walks, swim, snorkelling, diving, horse riding, fishing.  Geoffrey Bay Marine National Park which prohibits fishing where you can feed and see them through the crystal waters when sitting on the old Arcadia ferry landing and feed the wild rock wallabies from your hand.



Magnetic Island has the unique distinction of being a suburb of the City of Townsville and one of the only Great Barrier Reef islands to have its own postcode, plus the only freehold land on an island in the Great Barrier Reef. The permanent population of the four towns that service the island – Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay – is around 2,500.

Although Captain Cook never even landed on Magnetic Island while sailing past on June 7th, 1770, it was the famous incident, recorded in his journal, where the ship’s magnetic compass ‘would not travis well when near it’  that gave the island its name. He then named it ‘Magnetical Island or Headland’ as he wasn’t even sure if it was an island or a peninsula.

The island was once part of the mainland until sea levels rose around 7500 years ago. The Aboriginal Traditional Owners, the Wulgurukaba, call Magnetic Island Yunbenun. Wulgurukabu people were ‘canoe’ people who plyed the waters of Cleveland Bay from West Point to Cape Pallarenda.  It was an important defensive post during World War II and today, many remnants from the war can still be found.

The new island walkway between Nelly and Geoffrey Bays has been named ‘Gabul Way’, after the great Carpet Snake, Gabul, from a dreaming story. Gabul, who originally came from Herbert River north of Townsville and travelled through nearby Palm Island, Magnetic Island and up the Ross River in Townsville thereby creating the landscape.  There are many wonderful walks for you to discover.

Magnetic Island to Townsville swim, Enjoy north Queensland’s tropical winter weather and participate in the longest open water swim in Queensland and northern Australia!  The Subway Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim starts at waters edge, in front of the Picnic Bay SLSC, Magnetic Island and finishes at water’s edge, in front of the SLSC  Clubhouse on the Strand Beach adjacent to the Strand Park jetty in Townsville. A total distance of   8 km.

It might only be a 20-minute ferry ride from Townsville, but once you set foot on Magnetic Island you’ll soon be running on island time.

Back to nature

  • Work your camera and your legs on the Forts Walk, keeping an eye out for koalas, WWII military base ruins and views of the island’s 23 bays and beaches.
  • Set out on a self-guided snorkelling tour of Geoffrey Bay then hand-feed rock wallabies once back on shore.
  • Venture off the beaten path to some (almost) secret national park beaches including Arthur, Radical and Florence Bay.
  • snorkel trains at Nelly and Geoffrey Bays

Man-made adventure

  • Feel the wind in your hair behind the wheel of a classic moke or topless car, or set sail on a tall ship.
  • Saddle up for horse riding through Maggie’s best beach and bush real estate.
  • Get your heart racing at Horseshoe Bay with jet-skiing and sea kayaking.

6 things to do on Magnetic Island


This article includes CHARTERS TOWERS an hour-and-a-half drive, 140 kilometres south-west of Townsville. A mad rush for gold in the 1870’s turned the town into Queensland’s second largest city. Evidence of the town’s sudden wealth can be seen in the grand, perfectly-preserved banks and public buildings from the era, which still populate the town centre. In the halcyon years of the ‘rush’, Charters Towers had no fewer than 65 hotels.

There is also Leahton Park a property with Horseshoe B Longhorns, or Texas Longhorns, as they’re more commonly known and is the largest herd in Australia.  See the cattle grazing in the hand-made, old-style wagon, morning tea out the back of a chuckwagon. Michael is also a professional saddle-maker, so a quick tour of the saddlery is also a must.


ZARA  CLARK  MUSEUM  Lose yourself in the golden history of Charters Towers.

Battle of Attrition

See the Battles, Hear their Voices. Feel their Pain – Telling the ANZAC Story 1917.  Thousands of Australians lost their lives in the World War 1………

This year the Zara Clark Heritage Festival Exhibition focuses on the stories of the 152 Charters Towers men who lost their lives in 1917 at the major battles of Bapaume and Bullecourt in France, Messines and Passchendaele in Belgium and Beersheba in Palestine.

One special young man was John Angus McDonald, better known to his family as “Jim”. He wrote to his mother from the Western Front telling that “Winter was coming on us again” and asking her to knit him some socks. By the time his mother received his letter, he had been killed in action in Belgium. The awful irony was that his mother had already started knitting socks for her son.

This touching story is only one of the many we are hearing about these brave Charters Towers “Boys”.

In all, 38000 Australians were killed or wounded, from Messines to Passchendaele, and 76 in the only “real” victory for 1917, Beersheba.

Please visit the Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers, see Jim’s letter and the half-knitted pair of socks, and discover more about some of the other young men who also “did their duty”.

On ANZAC Day we are open 12 noon – 2 pm  and 10 am – 2 pm on all other days.


75 Minute walking History Tour. The Venus Battery is a remarkable survivor of the period of Charters Towers history as a gold mining and processing area.

The Battery was opened in July 1872, the same year that gold was discovered in Charters Towers. It was built by Mr Edmond Harris Thornburgh (EHT) Plant and his associate Mr Thomas Jackson. It was the first custom mill to be operated on behalf of the public in Charters Towers.
By 1919, most of the mines had closed in the area and the Mines Department purchased the mill. This was to ensure that there would be at least one operating mill in the area for gold producing mines in North Queensland.


RAVENSWOOD another side trip from Townsville and 89 kilometres east of Charters Towers. In 1868, gold was discovered in the area and a rush began that transformed Ravenswood into a mini metropolis, with a population of over 4000.

WAMBIANA STATION many farming families have been working their land for generations, such as the Lyons family who run Wambiana Station, a 57,000 hectare cattle property outside Charters Towers.





PALUMA, Lake Paluma



Accessible from either Townsville or Cairns, is home to the remains of the Earth’s longest flow of lava originating from a single volcano. The lava tubes are the largest and longest on the planet, and they make for some pretty spectacular scenery. We’re talking soaring archways, a landscape that harks back to prehistoric times and walking tracks that will make your inner Indiana Jones jump for joy. If you need more convincing, the word Undara is indigenous in origin and literally means ‘a long way’ so you know there’ll be plenty to explore.



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