Explore tropical rainforest and awe-inspiring waterfalls in World Heritage National Parks, brush up on some local history and discover the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef in a living coral aquarium at Reef HQ. Take a sunset hike to Townsville’s best scenic lookout point at Castle Hill and afterwards soak up the city’s laidback dining scene. Get back to nature on picturesque Magnetic Island and go koala-spotting from an open-top jeep or ‘topless’ car. Or share breakfast with the koalas and crocs and set sail for a day of bay-hopping, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and beachcombing before heading back to the mainland.
At a glance:
Make cafe-lined Palmer Street your first stop for an al fresco breakfast beneath the palm trees. Leave the coast behind, pick up a hire car and drive west to explore the cascading falls and lush rainforest of Paluma Range National Park. Alternatively, stay in the city and travel back in time with a guided scenic tour of Townsville’s rich 150-year history. Hear firsthand of extraordinary battles fought by Australian troops as you explore the city’s countless military monuments and museums. Replenish your energy reserves with a quick pit-stop among the lush tropical gardens of the local tearooms, before heading east for a stroll through the city’s cultural and entertainment precinct. Immerse yourself in a fish-eye view of the Great Barrier Reef at Reef HQ, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. Mingle with shimmering shoals of fish, reef sharks and stingrays, and channel your inner wildlife warrior with a tour of the turtle hospital. Before the light fades, strap on your walking shoes for a sunset hike to Castle Hill – don’t forget to pack your camera and binoculars to make the most of the spectacular 360-degree ocean and hinterland views. Round off the day exploring the uber-cool bars and eateries of hipster hub City Lane.
Wave goodbye to the mainland and take a 20-minute cruise across to Magnetic Island, or “Maggie” as the locals call it – the Great Barrier Reef’s only island with its own postcode. Magnetic Island is home to tranquil bays, white sand beaches and Northern Australia’s largest wild koala colony. Get your bearings and brush up on your local knowledge with a guided eco-adventure in an open-top stretch jeep. Kick back and relax with the wind in your hair as you explore rugged coastline and dense eucalypt forest - remember to keep your eyes peeled for the local furry residents! Prefer being behind the steering wheel? Pick up the keys to your very own ‘topless’ car and take a leisurely tour of “Maggie’s” scenic lookouts, sheltered bays and meandering coastal roads. After lunch, ditch the wheels and explore the natural beauty of this tropical gem on foot or horseback (there are 25 kilometres of walking tracks to choose from). As the day winds to a close, snag yourself a comfy spot out front of one of Horseshoe Bay’s eateries and enjoy the lovely beachfront, drink in hand. Finally, head back to Nelly Bay to rest your head at Maggie’s luxury waterfront resort, Peppers Blue on Blue.
Start your second day on Magnetic Island at Bungalow Bay Koala Village with a crash course in bush tucker and some unusual breakfast companions. Learn how to cook using traditional techniques and ingredients and enjoy an authentic bush breaky among the resident koalas, crocodiles and native wildlife. Magnetic Island offers amazing snorkelling and opportunities to get up close and personal with the friendly local marine life. Aquascene run tours from their custom-made boat; strap a snorkel and flippers and discover the magical world that lies just beneath the surface. If getting wet isn’t your idea of fun, join a tour and circumnavigate the coastline taking in the rugged grandeur of the islands granite boulders and tropical scenery. Take a slow cruise back to the marina just in time for the last ferry back to the mainland.