As today is our last day in Townsville, and we’ve been here for several weeks, it’s about time that we gave a bit of an overview of our impressions of Townsville and what we’ve done and seen. [Don’t forget you can click on any photo to make it bigger]
It goes without saying that we have loved it here in Townsville. The weather has been absolutely perfect with every day in the mid or high twenties. Nights have been a bit chilly but it’s easy to pull up a blanket. Due to its location Townsville misses out on some of the weather extremes of other nearby towns.
Townsville has a population just under 200,000 and like most regional towns it faces a range of economic and social challenges from drought, the decline in the mining boom, and so on. Still, there’s plenty happening around town. For instance, we just missed the V8 Supercars before we got here but there has been the Townsville Races, the Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim, Mini Car Club Show ‘n’ Shine (click here for photos), Townsville Running Festival, Cyclones Hot Rod and Custom Car Club Show (click here for photos), a 3 day Jazz Festival, a Seafood Festival, Sunday Markets in town, Friday Night Market on The Strand, and the Townsville Cultural Fest next week.
Architecture wise Townsville is a mix of old and new, with typically older inner suburbs and newer outer suburbs with more modern facilities. The CBD still has many heritage properties but also many high-rise apartments and newer office buildings. There are plenty of traditional “queenslanders” up on stilts, many very nicely restored and updated. Up on the rocky areas there are some spectacular houses built on nearly vertical land.
Flinders Street is basically the main street in the CBD but there are other areas to visit including the Palmer Street restaurant and port precinct and the Flinders Street East nightclub area. On Sunday mornings, Flinders Street is closed off for a farmers and artists style market with all the traders open as well. We found some very exotic fruit and vegetables there.
One of the features of Townsville is that it seems to be surrounded by hills and mountains, and in fact parts of the city appear to have been built into the hills. Castle Hill looms over the city and a 2.9 km drive up a very steep and twisty road rewards you with spectacular panoramic views of the city and across to the nearby islands. Motorists have to watch out for pedestrians who walk or jog up and down the hill.
The Lakes Holiday Park:
One of the best things about our caravan park is its location. We are bounded by the Mercure Resort, the Lake, and a large Rugby complex, and we are 4 kms from town, 5 kms from The Strand and about 6 kms from the airport. It is less than a 5 minute walk to Red Rooster, Pizza Hut, Sizzler, Maccas, Subway, plus kebabs, Chinese, a convenience store, a fantastic butcher, and more. Castletown shopping complex is less that 1 km away and it has pretty much everything we need. Bunnings, BCF, Spotlight, Kathmandu, Harvey Norman, Joyce Main, Officeworks and just about any other store you need to visit is reasonably close by.
That said, each site at the caravan park has an ensuite, and has a double concrete slab with grass areas between sites, so there is plenty of room. There are even chains incorporated into the slabs so that vans can be chained into position during the wet season – how thoughtful! On weekends, there are model yacht races on the Lake behind our site.
We’ve done a full set-up with side-wall and both ends to add privacy and protection from the hot sun. Most meals are eaten outside under the awning and many are cooked on the van’s pull-out BBQ.
We have a great bunch of neighbours and have enjoyed many happy hours on the grassy area behind our vans by the Lake. There is also a Friday night BYO BBQ at the park’s swimming pool which is a great way to meet fellow travellers and assist in fund raising for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
We have spent a lot of time at The Strand, which is a palm tree studded promenade along the main Townsville beach. It is several kms long with a nice “Rockpool” swimming pool at one end and finishes in town at the other. It’s a beautiful shady and protected place to walk, run, cycle, skate, or whatever and is very busy at weekends.
On the beach side, every several hundred metres is a kiosk selling coffee, gelato ice-cream, fish & chips, or a bistro/bar, etc. There is also a fantastic water park for the kids, plus showers, toilet facilities, exercise stations, impressive kids’ playgrounds, barbeque areas, the Tobruk Memorial Baths, and more. On the opposite side of the The Strand are apartments, motels, restaurants (we especially liked Harold’s Seafood and Gelatissimo), more gelato places, coffee shops, and so on. Best of all there is plenty of space and shade to simply sit down and relax.
The vegetation is very tropical and there are some amazing trees along The Strand, including huge fig trees with their magnificent root systems. Some of the buildings along The Strand are built on almost sheer cliff faces, and there is even a waterfall from the top houses to street level.
A bit further on from The Strand is a busy marina with a good variety of yachts and boats, Jupiters Casino, the Entertainment Centre, the port area, and departure points for ferries to the nearby islands.
Magnetic Island is a simply spectacular place only 20 minutes by ferry from Townsville, and you can even take your own vehicle or hire a car on the Island. We caught the ferry – oldies’ return costs $16 – which lands at Nelly Bay and then simply caught the local bus to Horseshoe Bay – oldies’ day pass costs $3.60. At Horseshow Bay we had a good wander around town before having a light lunch at the Marlin Bay Tavern. Another walk up the beach in the opposite direction then it was back to Nan’s Tea House for dessert and coffee. By then we decided that it was time to catch the bus and then the ferry back to Townsville.
Next time we will make sure to arrive earlier and get on and off the bus at various stops and have a much better look around the island, as we only saw a small part of it. Or we might hire a Mini Moke and drive around, or we could do an island tour in a stretched jeep, or do a cruise around the Island in a boat or on a jet-ski, or catch the Red Baron biplane for a flight around the Island. Choices, choices, choices.! We will go back to Magnetic Island for sure.
We are so glad that after having owned the fifth wheeler for nearly four years that we have finally done a really good job of escaping Melbourne’s winter. This is more than just a holiday – this is a great lifestyle – and we love it.
We both love Townsville and we plan on coming back next winter – why wouldn’t we?