1 NURSE A COLD ONE AT THE BREWERY
The Brewery is paradise found for beer geeks who find themselves in the country's far north. The city's only brew pub inhabits the Heritage-listed old Post Office building in Flinders Street and is the only place in Townsville where you can sip on an ice-cold ale that has been brewed in gleaming tanks just metres away. Order a Big Brew Burger and a pot of Townsville Bitter Premium.
2 INSTAGRAM THE STREET ART
The first piece of street art popped up on Castle Hill 50 years ago in the form of "a Saint" that was painted by local students on St Patrick's Day. Fast-forward to 2017 and the streets now contain artworks from renowned visiting street artists such as Fintan Magee and Lee Harnden. Follow the trail from the spray-painted portrait of local "graffer" Garth Jankovic – nicknamed The Smizla – to a whimsical Alice-in-Wonderland wall behind a suburban skate shop.
3 FOR A PIECE OF CAKE AT THE HOI POLLOI CAFE
Space is at a premium at this shoebox-sized cafe hidden down Denham Lane. While Hoi Polloi may well be located in a dead-end lane, the industrial little grotto is a happening hub when it pulls up its creatively vandalised rollerdoor each weekend. Order a piccolo and a piece of cake and perch on a piece of op-shop furniture alongside everyone from the hoi polloi to the 'Ville's hoity-toity. Alleyway coffee at its finest.
Denham Lane, Townsville.
4 TO SEE THE REEF WHILE YOU STILL CAN
Those who suffer with seasickness will enjoy being on terra firma while ogling this underwater world at the world's largest living reef aquarium. As well as showcasing 120 species of hard and soft coral, there are more than 150 species of marine creatures doing the tango to and fro in front of the glass. Do join a tour of the onsite turtle hospital, which promotes the rehabilitation of marine turtles.
2-68 Flinders Street, Townsville, reefhq.com.au
5. JEZZINE BARRACKS/GARABARRA
Jezzine Barracks is a magnet for those who enjoy learning about Australia's military history. The redeveloped 15-hectare heritage site sits on Kissing Point headland, which saw continuous military use from 1885 to 2006 and includes a military museum, fort observation decks and amphitheatre. The Jezzine Barracks precinct also chronicles the site's indigenous history with public art and plinths that honour the cultural significance of "Garabarra" for Wulgurukaba and Bindal people.
Jezzine Barracks/Garabarra, Kissing Point, North Ward
6. TRUDGE ALONG THE STRAND
Coastal boardwalks now connect The Strand with Rowes Bay and no visit to Townsville is complete without joining the locals who huff and puff along the landscaped paths each day. Enjoy The Strand on a Segway tour or, with the sea just beyond, via a sea kayak or a paddleboard yoga session. Thrillseekers will appreciate the stunning views of The Strand from above on a scenic Red Baron Seaplane.
7. VISIT THE FAR NORTH'S "LITTLE ITALY"
With more than half of the town's population of Italian descent, the township of nearby Ingham is known as North Queensland's "Little Italy". Ingham is just a short drive north of Townsville and Lou's Deli is an institution with its shelves bursting with olives, cheeses and salamis. Stick with the "pig day out theme" and visit Backfatter's heritage pig farm on the way back to Townsville.
Lou's Food Emporium, 73 Lannercost St, Ingham, +61 7 4776 1587, lousdeli.com.au; Backfatters, 338 Legges Road, Braemeadows, backfatters.com
8. GO WALKABOUT AT WALLAMAN FALLS
Australia's largest permanent single-drop waterfall is located 130 kilometres from Townsville and 52 kilometres west of Ingham in Girringun National Park. An expedition to the park is a popular day trip for Townsvillians, who are known to pack a picnic and make a day of it. While the main lookout offers stunning views of the 268-metre torrent of water as it tumbles down into the Herbert River Valley, the falls are also fringed by rainforest and it's worth lacing up your hiking boots for a few short walks.
Located at Lookout Road, Wallaman, tyto.com.au
9. MAGNETIC ISLAND
The island affectionately known as "Maggie" is another tempting proposition while in Townsville. As well as being a great jumping-off point to the Great Barrier Reef, there are a lot of plus points for staying and playing on the island: from seeing relics of World War II along Fort's Walk, to enjoying a champagne breakfast with northern Australia's largest wild koala colony or flopping about on one of the 23 beaches and bays that necklace the island, which is connected by 25 kilometres of walking trails.
Located just eight kilometres off the coast, magneticislandtourism.com
10. SS YONGALA
Rated as one of the Top 10 dive sites in the world, the SS Yongala wreck lies on its side in 14 to 28 metres of water just 48 nautical miles from Townsville. At 100 metres long, the coral-encrusted vessel that disappeared off the coast in 1911 is one of the largest intact shipwrecks in the country. Take a day trip from Townsville and dive at this enchanting wreck that is now an artificial reef and home to giant manta rays, trevally, turtles, barracuda and mangrove jack.
Adrenalin Dive, 252 Walker St, Townsville, 1300 664 600, adrenalindive.com.au
11. DRINK A CUP OF CAT POO COFFEE
There was once a time you'd never get the words "cat poo" and "coffee" in the same sentence. That time is gone. In 2006, Hervey's Range Heritage Tea Rooms introduced to the world kopi luwak, the rarest beverage on earth. Hervey's Range Heritage Tea Rooms is a day's drive from Townsville, so if a $50 cup of "cat poo coffee" doesn't appeal, settle for scones and a cup of tea at the historic inn, the oldest known building in North Queensland. 6 Thornton's Gap Road, Hervey's Range, 07 4778 0199, heritagetearooms.com.au
12. DO SOME LAZY LAPS IN THE SEA POOL
When the heat is soupy and the stingers are out, head to The Strand sea pool and waterpark for a spot of wallet-friendly fun for the whole family. The rock pool's landscaped surrounds include wet and dry playgrounds – with everything from slippery slides and giant buckets of water to a flying fox and mini basketball court. Note: the pool is closed every Wednesday for cleaning.
13. FOR SUNSET DRINKS BY THE SEA
On a clear day, the views to Magnetic Island from Longboard Bar & Grill are breathtaking. The bar kicks it up a notch for the Sunday sesh, when locals arrive on bikes with baskets or with shoes in hand via the beach. Enjoy an acoustic gig while sipping on a chardy and chowing down on Longboard's signature buffalo wings. Townsville Yacht Club is another bright spot to enjoy a bevvie while watching the boats bobbing on the water.
Longboard Bar & Grill, The Strand, 80 Gregory Street, Townsville, 07 4724 1234, longboardbarandgrill.com; Townsville Yacht Club, 1 Plume Street, 07 47721192, townsvilleyachtclub.com.au
14. TO CONQUER CASTLE HILL
Head up the red rock monolith the locals refer to as "the hill" between 5pm and 7pm each day and you will find it swarming with fitness-focused locals who reclaim the road leading up to the summit. In addition to the main drag, there are a number of challenging trails and rocky tracks that twist around the hill that is just metres short of being classified as a mountain. Once you've huffed and puffed to the top, you can refuel with food and drink from various vendors that line the road during peak hour.
Access Castle Hill from Castle Hill, explore-townsville.com/castle-hill.html
15. FILL YOUR NANNA TROLLEY WITH FRESH FOOD
The community vibe in Townsville peaks at the weekly Cotters Rotary Markets, which is as much about making social connections as it is about doing the weekly shop. Stabilise your nanna trolley by stocking it with everything from fresh produce plucked from local farms, to simple home-cooked dishes, artisan cheeses and boutique fruit wine. Play a game of "know your tropical fruit" with exotics such as mangosteen, rambutan, soursop, achacha and jackfruit.
Every Sunday in the CBD, from 8.30am to 1pm, townsvillerotarymarkets.com.au
16. MEET THE LOCALS AT CITY LANE
Townsville has a great range of new restaurants clustered in the City Lane precinct. There is The Courtyard, where it is about eating down and dirty dude food under the watchful eye of a wall of garden gnomes; the Paleo Cafe, where you can deploy the #eatclean hashtag on Instagram; Shaw & Co, for a bevvie and a burger; Sakama for sushi; and Donna Bionda for contemporary Italian. From the neck-strainingly dramatic graffiti murals that grace the brick wall near the back entrance to a collection of beautifully realised spaces bustling with people, City Lane feels more New York than North Queensland.
373-385 Flinder's Lane, citylane.com.au
17. GAWP AROUND THE ART GALLERY
The Perc Tucker Regional Gallery inhabits what was once the city's Heritage-listed former bank. Every year, the gallery features works by local and international artists, workshops and interactive exhibits as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks. Worth circling on your cultural calendar is the region's 10-day sculpture festival, Strand Emphera, which includes everything from sand sculptures to workshops, pop-events and performances.
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, corner of Denham and Flinders Streets, Townsville, 07 4727 9011, townsville.qld.gov.au/
18. ENJOY AN OUTBACK ADVENTURE
There's a bit of romance, and a bit of roughing it involved when day-trippers head inland from Townsville, which is the gateway to the Queensland Outback. Woodstock Trail Ride is located just 43 kilometres from Townsville, and even if you don't pass muster when it comes to assembling animals you will certainly admire the tapestry of earthy colours that stitch the landscape together. Those wanting to up the outback experience should head further west to Leahton Park, near Charters Towers, to meet JR, who holds a Guinness World Record for "the beast with the longest horns".
Woodstock Trail Rides, Jones Road, Woodstock, 0429 793 363, woodstocktrailrides.com.au/; texaslonghorn.com.au
19. EXPERIENCE AN OPEN DAY ON PALM ISLAND
The Indigenous people of Palm Island are inviting visitors to "Come Over" in order to hear first-hand about the history of the island they refer to by its Aboriginal name Bwgcolman. The Palm Island open days, held every two months, offer day-trippers the opportunity to take art classes and basket-weaving workshops at the beachside markets, which also feature stalls selling art and craft and traditional Palm Island cuisine. The tour includes a ferry cruise from Townsville, during which whales, dugongs and dolphins are often spotted frolicking in the aquamarine seas.
20. SIP AND SAIL ON A 58-FOOT YACHT
Sail out of the sheltered Townsville Harbour on a 58-foot yacht as it tacks around the region's tropical islands. The wooden sailing ship offers afternoon sailing trips, which include bombies off the boat and a barbecue, twilight cruises and charters. Have a go at pulling ropes and hoisting the mainsail in preparation for the annual Magnetic Island Race Week (August 31 to September 6) then kick back at the helm with a glass of bubbles. The yacht anchors off the island of Orpheus and wildlife spotting is part of the fun: look for whales, pretty parrot fish, reef sharks and giant birds of prey.
Carla Grossetti was a guest of Townsville Enterprise.