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Townsville and Magnetic Island make the perfect paradise package!
5th March 2020
The Townsville coast sitting on the very precipice of the Great Barrier Reef stands at the easternmost point of the Overlanders Way. The first and most obvious calling card of this sunshine infused locale is the monolith in the heart of the city, Castle Hill. If your ticker is up to the challenge, start your day here by climbing one of the many goat-track steps to the summit. Trust us, the trudge is worth it. Once basking in the high of early morning cardio, fresh air and friendly G’days from fellow walkers, you’ll be singing Castle Hill’s praises. Alternatively, if you’ve got wheels, the tarmac is a sweat-free option. Either way, the mercurial waters of the Coral Sea will reward your effort, the ocean sometimes greeting you with deep azure blues, and others, in lazy green hazels. As they say, that’s life in the tropics; beautiful one day, stunning the next.
If sweating your way to the top of a hill isn’t your thing, then a leisurely stroll down The Strand waterfront will certainly do the trick. You’ll find the fantastic Strand water park for the kids, the stories of Jezzine Barracks or Cape Palleranda Trails, serene reef-protected waters for swimming, and plenty of shaded grassed areas for lazing with a gelato or coffee in hand. Speaking of caffeine, our hot tip is to follow your nose! You’ll smell artfully roasted beans from a mile away, leading you to where the locals themselves congregate for their espresso hit. Of course, in addition to finding serious baristas around the city, you’ll also discover a thriving food culture!
Satiate the beast!
To curb the hunger pangs, hit-up locations like Palmer Street, the many options along The Strand, The Ville Resort and Casino or the well-loved local hang-out Otto’s (sweet doughnuts, but the house-made pastries!). Whether it’s fresh prawns off the reef, crisply battered mackerel unfurled from steaming white paper or mouth-watering grass-fed beef from the interior, you’re sure to find your fix. But of course, the local melting pot of cuisines expands broadly, including flamboyant mixes of Mediterranean, Asian fusion, Middle Eastern, Texan BBQ and even Peruvian treats. Bottom line, do not leave without treating yourself to some local deliciousness!
A Reef experience for the land lovers
With the glucose levels restored, it’s time to do some exploring! Get along to Reef HQ to see the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, and then wander right next door to the Museum of Tropical Queensland and get lost in the story of HMS Pandora, Queensland’s earliest recorded shipwreck. Here, you’ll learn how wrecks make for a fantastic diving experience, so, slap on some sunscreen and pull on the ‘togs’ (a.k.a. local slang for ‘swimwear’) to join one of the many diving tours on offer around Townsville.
Get the ridgy-didge underwater world experience
You can drive an hour south to experience what is recognised as one of the world’s best dive sites, the SS Yongala, join Aquascene Tours for a serene snorkelling experience, or check out Remote Area Dive or Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive to venture further afield out to remote islands and the Great Barrier Reef itself! In fact, there are myriad ways to experience one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, ranging from helicopter tours with Nautilus Aviation, through to cruise ship and whale watching tours with SeaLink Queensland, along with remote island hopping to the likes of Orpheus and Pelorus.
Push on to Paluma
Once you’ve had your seafaring fix, push on to the sweet mountain air of the stunning Paluma Ranges, approximately 88kms North of Townsville via the Bruce Highway. Stop for some Devonshire tea at Paluma Village, enjoy a meandering walk through the rainforest, and cool off in the sparkling freshwater waterfalls and swimming pools of Big and Little Crystal Creek. Speaking of waterfalls, Wallaman Falls, the longest single-drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere, is another natural wonder. Take a picture from the lookout, or walk down into the gorge at Girringun National Park itself, where you’ll feel the rainbow-fringed cloud of mist offering cool relief long before you finish your descent.
The magnetism of Maggie!
In Australia, the term Maggie carries many meanings; it may be a nickname for a person called Margaret, a reference to the much loved (and sometimes feared) Magpie bird, or in the proximity of Townsville, a reference to what has been described before as the “world’s best castaway island.”, Magnetic Island. Only a 20-minute ferry ride from the port of Townsville, this blissful island getaway boasts sandy palm-fringed beaches, hiking trails wending through granite boulders and native hoop pines, and easily accessible snorkelling adventures!
Home to irresistible cuddly types!
There are secret coves for romantic picnics, beaches that will require your hiking boots and a sense of adventure to access, and secluded bays only accessible by boat. You’ll even find fresh waterfalls and inner island pools that come to life in the wet season. Maggie is rich with native wildlife too, including gregarious rock wallabies and adorable koalas! You’ll find the former in a large colony around Geoffery Bay, while the sleepier of the two will be found nestled in a gum tree on the historical walk to ‘The Forts’. Take a water bottle and a camera; the trails, the lookouts, and most especially the koalas, rarely disappoint.
Choose your Magnetic experience
One of the island’s great charms is the ability to choose your style of holiday. Steep yourself in opulence at a luxury resort, stay at a quaint bed and breakfast, or save your dollars at one of the backpacker hostels. Float in salt-buoyed serenity at Alma Bay, or thrill seek at Horseshoe, with jet skis, kayaks, tubing and horse riding ready to entertain you. Once you’ve had your fill of sand and sun, retreat for a cold brew and hearty meal at one of the welcoming licensed establishments, cafes and restaurants sprinkled throughout the island.