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Get active with visiting friends and relatives in Townsville

Have you ever had friends or family due to visit, but — aside from the must-have coffee at Juliette’s, trip up Castle Hill and visit to the Island — you’re stumped for what else to do? Why not introduce them to the very best attractions of Townsville’s active playground and turn it into a trip they won’t forget. 

Walk the Forts on Magnetic Island

A great option if your visitors are keen to see a koala (Magnetic Island has the largest wild koala colony in Australia), the Forts Walk — with its resident marsupials and spectacular views — is arguably one of the best walks in the Townsville region.

The Magnetic Island Forts Walk starts at the turn-off to Radical Bay on Horseshoe Bay Road and is 4km, or 90 minutes return (graded moderate). It offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the coast and Coral Sea, plus intriguing WWII history with a number of gun emplacements, an observation tower and a command post. There are some climbing sections so wear decent footwear and bring water. When you’re done, make sure you head downhill to Horseshoe Bay and reward yourself with a cool beverage at one of the beachside cafes, or the Marlin Bar.

There are plenty of other great walks to do on the island too. One of our favourites is Nelly Bay to Arcadia.

More info:

Go beyond Castle Hill’s Goat Track

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Instead of driving visitors to the top of the Hill or trekking up the busy road or Goat Track, why not take your friends on the tracks less travelled and see a whole different side of Castle Hill? Have a look at our Castle Hill Map to see the complete array of tracks. If your guests don’t particularly like hills, we highly recommend following the Maidenhair Trail along the base of the hill from West End Cemetery (Church Street). It will eventually spit you out on Hillside Crescent, where you can walk down to Gregory Street, the CBD or The Strand for breakfast, and choose a new route back… or get someone to pick you up.

More info:

Walk or run from The Strand to Pallarenda

OK — you don’t have to do the whole 10km or so and back — but now we have the award-winning Jezzine Barracks heritage precinct and the coastal boardwalk, it’s possible to walk from Jupiters Casino all the way to Pallarenda along the coast. Either enjoy a section of it along The Strand, or nail the whole thing, and make the most of it by stopping for coffee along the way. Tobruk Kiosk, opposite Tobruk Pool, is dog friendly if you’re bringing your four-legged mate.

Trip Advisor has a map of the area you can zoom in on:

Lock in an active event

If your visitors aren’t restricted by a certain time of year to pop-in, why not set a mutual challenge and get friends and family signed-up for one of our famous active events? Whether it’s the Townsville Running Festival, Townsville Triathlon Festival, Adventurethon, the Paluma Push or something else that tickles your fancy; these top-notch events already draw competitors from all over the country for good reason. And there’s nothing like a shared challenge to get everyone motivated and then buzzing with achievement afterwards.

More info:

Discover Stand Up Paddleboarding

You can experience the world’s fastest growing water sport on The Strand or Ross River. Your choice of location may depend on the time of year and how keen you are to wear a stringer suit (stinger season October/November to April/May), but either way, SUP is a great way to explore the local area while getting a sensational core workout at the same time. If you don’t have a board or paddles, they can be hired from Outer Limits Adventure Fitness or In the Loop.

More info:

Try indoor rock climbing and bouldering

No matter what your wall-scaling skill level is, Hot Rock Adventure Centre has a climbing obstacle for you to try out with as many friends and family as you like. There’s a climbing wall that’s graded up to five, so you can start on the easiest level (one) and progress; plus there’s also bouldering for those who like to stay closer to the ground, and slack lining. This facility is indoors so you can visit throughout the year and there are special sessions to suit all levels, including a weekly ladies’ climbing night and junior classes.

More info:

Jump around at the Barra Fun Park

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A good option if your guests are up for doing something a bit different, the Barra Fun Park is at Kelso and has plenty of room for activity. There’s the more sedate fishing, but also cable water skiing and — our favourite — the aqua fun park. This inflatable haven of awesomeness offers laughs for every age. Climb all over the playground and bounce each other high into the sky, all the while staying lovely and cool.

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Mountain biking on world-class trails

Rockwheelers Mountain Bike Club has done a tremendous job of trail development in Townsville and — consequently — there are three main options for off-road riding. The facility that is owned and managed by the club is Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve, which has a fantastic network of trails of various grades to suit every level. Then there are the trails at Pallarenda, which are managed by National Parks, including Under the Radar, Smedley’s Hill and the much easier Lagoon and Freshwater Trails. The first two offer spectacular views and a winning backdrop for travel selfies. Lastly there’s the trail network at Ross Dam. This is fantastic for beginners, but can only be accessed at weekends and you need to be a member of Rockwheelers (due to the dam being a public water supply). But if your guests are likely to return it may be worth signing up.

More info:

Fishing and crabbing adventures

The perfect whole-body workout — catching your dinner! Taking your visitors out to nab some local seafood while exploring the coast or creek systems is an unforgettable North Queensland experience. You can hire your own boat — there are options for those with recreational marine drivers licences and those without — or there are also local charter companies operating.

More info:

Climb Many Peaks

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Many Peaks Walking Trail is ranked as one of the top things to do in Townsville by Trip Advisor. A challenging 5.7km (one-way) walk through different terrain including boulders, vine thickets, woodland, and steep sections; it takes wanderers across the range and to the summit of Mount Marlow, where you will definitely need a camera. Drink-in views over the Town Common wetlands and along the coastline from the Palm Islands in the north to Cape Cleveland in the south. Walkers can return on the same trail or via the Lagoon trail, which is the track that you need to enter on (either at the western end or 450m along the eastern end). Make sure you follow the orange trail markers to avoid getting lost and spending the night with the spiders (you’ll only usually see their webs during the day — you’ll know if you’re the first walker of the morning).

More info:

Learn how to kiteboard

Take advantage of Townsville’s reputation for hosting international kiteboarding events and book a lesson with friends and family for something different. In the Loop Kiteboarding provides lessons for all abilities at Pallarenda (Beach Access 14) — they can do custom group bookings and they supply the equipment so you can just show up and try it out. An average person takes about five to eight hours of lessons to get the hang of it, so it can be something you work on for when you next catch up.

More info:

Explore the Paluma rainforest

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If you have visitors arriving in the warmer months, a day trip to Paluma; or weekend away at Hidden Valley Cabins (about 20km beyond Paluma Village); is a great way to escape the heat and explore with temperatures usually a few degrees cooler near the ‘village in the clouds’. There are some great walks to do in the area and swimming holes to visit (Little and Big Crystal Creeks), plus lots of aquatic fun to be had at Paluma Dam.

More info: or

Kayak for fun and fitness

You can either hire your own boats, or join in on one of River-Sea Kayaking’s group tours. Hans Preuss, an experienced kayaker who knows the area inside out, offers sunset and bird watching guided tours; plus he also does fitness sessions, either one-on-one or as a group, which includes technique instruction. He even has a special class for Over ‘50s looking to get fit and improve skills — something to book Mum and Dad in for!

More info:

Take a self-guided cemetery tour

It’s not often that you can combine the cemetery with the pub, and get cultured at the same time. Townsville City Council’s Publican Trail is essentially a pub crawl through West End Cemetery exploring the lives of Townsville’s early publicans who were key to the development of the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It’s certainly a more gentle exercise, but it’s very interesting and a lot better than sitting on the couch at home. There are other heritage and cemetery self-guided tours through Townsville – find out more here:

More info about the Publican Trail:

Go on a riverside bike ride

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Hire some bikes and ride Ross River. If you’d like a gentle and scenic trip, try the 20km circuit from Riverway, heading back towards the city along the riverside bike paths, under the Nathan Street Bridge, continuing along the river to Bowen Road. You can cross to the other side of the river using the underpass, then start heading back along the river, going past the Palmetum, Riverside Tavern (lunch?), and then back to where you started. It’s a great way to explore Townsville on bike without the busy roads.

Here’s a map from MapMyRide:

Or download Townsville City Council’s Active Travel Guide.

Get involved

What active adventures do you have with visiting friends and family? Please comment below with your suggestions.

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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