Townsville, Magnet Island & surrounding areas




The Strand, how I remember it from my childhood. Wonderful and happy memories, loved it like this. Thanks to Bruce Davidson’s facebook for this photo.

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Townsville: The Australian region where the sun shines 300 days a year

If you’re a curious explorer with a seeker spirit, Magnetic Island is the place to visit


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.

Queensland Place Histories: The Strand, Townsville

TOWNSVILLE 1901 – 2003

1941 – 1967

Between 1942 and 1945 Townsville played an important part in the War in the Pacific.

Townsville became a major military base, accommodating up to 90,000 Australian, American and other allied service personnel. The City was bombed on three occassions by the Japanese, and was used as a major offensive launching base during the battle of the Coral Sea. Crowds flocked to Flinders Street when peace was announced on the 15th August 1945. World War II Victory Day celebrations were held on the 10th June 1946.

Childcare services began in Townsville in 1947 when the Townsville Municipal Day Nursery was established in the City Buildings.

In 1948 the Foley Shield competition commenced. The Shield is North Queensland Rugby League’s premier competition.

Tobruk Memorial Pool opened on the 14th October 1950 and the new Townsville General Hospital opened in North Ward on the 21st April, 1951.

As part of a Royal Tour, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the city in 1954.  The first Magnetic Island to Townsville swim was staged in this year.  A huge success, it has become an annual event.

In 1956 Townsville’s Tobruk Memorial Pool was used as a training venue for the Australian swimming squad for the Melbourne Olympic Games. Training camps prior to the Cardiff Commonwealth Games in 1958 and the Rome Olympic Games in 1960 were also held at the pool.

The first bulk sugar terminal was constructed at the Townsville Port in 1959 and Premier Frank Nicklin opened the new Copper Refinery at Stuart.

The University College of Townsville was opened in February 1961 with 105 students. It became known as James Cook University officially on the 20th April 1970.

The bulk sugar terminal at the port was severely damaged by a fire in May 1963 at the time Australia’s biggest structural fire.  The town was covered by foul smelling smoke and fumes and the river and creeks in the town became discoloured and full of dead fish.

In 1964, Col. Sir Henry Abel-Smith, Governor of Queensland, officially opened the Jezzine Barracks at Kissing Point. He also unveiled the Centenary Memorial Plaque.  In 2014 Jezzine Barracks was opened as a community facility.

The CSIRO Davies Laboratory was established on University Road on the 27th July 1965.

Lavarack Barracks was established with Australian 3rd Task Force transferred to Townsville in 1967.Some Interesting Facts About Townsville

  1. Townsville was founded in 1864. James Cook University (1970) is located there.
  2. Townsville is the first to introduce guided Segway tours through a National Park in the country, with people invited to hop on two wheels to explore greenery and ocean views through the Town Common Conservation Park.
  3. Townsville has the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium
  4. Townsville has an average of 300 sunny days a year.
  5. In 1896, Japan established its first Australian consulate in Townsville, primarily to serve some 4,000 Japanese workers
  6. Townsville holds a Guinness World Record for the Longest Horns in the World. The region’s world famous Texas Longhorn steer, named JR, was certified by the Guinness World Records in 2011 to have the longest horns measured tip to tip, of all the cattle in the world.
  7. Townsville is home to one of Australia’s key military bases.
  8. Home to Little Crystal Creek, known as the best swimming hole in Townsville, Paluma is also a great spot for bird watching, walking, BBQ or picnic.

Townsville’s Castle Hill Saint story immortalised in new book about the rock graffiti

MARY WHO BOOKS  or from Peter Higgins on 0437 798 167



Copies available at the Thownsville Visitor Information Centre

Monopoly announces Townsville board game edition



PEOPLE & PLACES  North Queensland

My parents grew up in Brisbane, settling in Charters Towers for a few years, where I was born in Charters Towers, then moving to Townsville, where I grew up spending many family week-ends on Magnetic Island.

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.

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.


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

Arch Fraley, based in Townsville and Charters Towners during the war and served as photographer/waist gunner in the 5th Bomber Group USAAF.  Some of his wartime photos are on display at the Townsville Airpot and at several War Museums arounf the North.  These photos are of General Douglas MacArthur arriving at Barbutt Air Base late 1944, his aircraft “Bataan”. Unfortunately, the lighting and glass framed prints did not photography well using my phone when I saw the amazing war photos at Townsville airport.

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.


Cape Pallarenda Quarantine Station is a heritage-listed former quarantine station at 1 The Esplanade, Pallarenda, City of Townsville, Queensland, Australia. It was built from 1915 to 1916. It is also known as Northern Regional Office, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Northern Regional Office, Environmental Protection Agency, and Cape Pallarenda Coastal Battery. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Registeron 23 April 1999.

Walking and mountain biking:  Set in a landscape of open woodland and rocky shores, the park protects a variety of animal and plant life and is a gateway to the recreational Cape Pallarenda Trails.  The Cape Pallarenda Trails are a network of shared walking and mountain biking trails in the Cape Pallarenda and Townsville Town Common conservation parks.  The trails range from short easy walks to challenging hikes and cross country mountain bike rides. Consider your fitness level before undertaking the extended trails.

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.


Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms began its life as the Eureka Hotel built by pioneer settler, Charles Saville Rowe in 1865 which was just one year after the sea side township of Townsville was first settled. The site is situated in Thornton’s Gap atop Hervey Range which rises 1000 ft above the plains below and sits on the old Georgetown Road which was the main road from the port of Townsville to the goldfields and pastoral areas to the west and north.

Enjoy the gardens, craft shop, walking track and the spectacular views of Townsville and surrounds from Piper’s Lookout as you travel down the range.

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.

REEF HQ Great Barrier Reef 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.  REEF 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.


  • LIONFISH Family: Scorpaenidae
  • BOX JELLYFISH Chironex fleckeri
  • IRUKANDJI JELLYFISH Carukia barnesi
  • SEA SNAKE Family: Hydrophiidae
  • CONE SNAIL Family: Conidae
  • STONEFISH Family: Synanceiidae

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.

The Strand & Kissing Point, Townsville – North QLD

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.


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.

TOWNSVILLE TOWN  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 recreational trails spanning mountain tops, sandy beaches and coastal wetlands. Ride, run or walk the Cape Pallarenda Trails to absorb some amazing views and enjoy nature-based recreation close to Townsville city centre.

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.  Vehicle access to the park is via the main entrance on the turn-off from Cape Pallarenda Road, near the Rowes Bay Golf Club. The Golf Club can be seen in a couple of photos.  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. The gate at this entrance is open from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm daily.

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.

UMBRELLA STUDIO  Umbrella Studio sits at the nexus point north to Cairns, south to Mackay and west to Mt Isa. Umbrella Studio was established in 1986 as a working studio for a group of emerging Townsville artists as the only artist-run initiative, and the first professional artist organisation north of Brisbane. It became incorporated in 1989 with six core artists who paid the studio rent, as well as full members who attended meetings, and a growing associate membership base. In 1991, a controversial decision was made to grow beyond the voluntary artist-run structure and engage a full-time paid administrator. Since the early 1990s, Umbrella has been transformed from an artist collective offering practical studio based facilities, to a funded and professionally managed members based contemporary arts organisation, with an annual program of exhibitions, public programs and special events.



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.

The Lynd Highway Cemetery was established in 1895.  It is the resting place for a number of interesting local characters including Jupiter Mossman who, as the local lore has it, was one of the party that discovered gold in Charters Towers; Doctor Leonard Redmond who discovered Australian Dengue Fever; Frederick Pfeiffer, owner of the rich Day Dawn PC Mine and James Knenniff who was the last bushranger in Queensland.

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.




Few know about Hinchinbrook Island and even fewer have been there



LITTLE CRYSTAL CREEK, Paluma Range, North Queensland Australia.
This beautiful mountain location began drawing tourists from as early as 1902. In 1913 there was a declaration of a township at Cloudy Clearing, with the joint purpose of protecting the rainforest and developing a sanatorium. The area became a popular tourist destination after WW2 and a series of guest houses were built despite very poor road access. In 1930 it was declared a tourist road and construction began under the
Unemployment Relief Scheme during the Great Depression. The bridge is a masonry arch dressed in stone considered an extravagance at the time. The road was officially opened in 1937 and this beautiful stone bridge remains a unique and magical tourist attraction.



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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