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Townsville & Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Low
The Strand Townsville
Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island Moke Low
Alma Bay, Magnetic Island Low
Radical Bay Magnetic Island
Peppers Blue on Blue Magnetic Island Low

Townsville & Magnetic Island

story by: Tom Ricketts

To most Kiwis, Tropical North Queensland means the beaches around Port Douglas, Palm Cove and the city of Cairns. However just over four hours drive south of Cairns is a lesser visited part of Tropical North Queensland that boasts over 300 days of sunshine each year, has national parks, a vibrant nightlife, beautiful beaches, part of the Great Barrier Reef, and has a stunning World Heritage listed island laying just offshore. Welcome to Townsville and Magnetic Island.

Sitting on the palm fringed Cleveland Bay, Townsville is actually the largest city in Tropical North Queensland, with a population of about 200,000 compared to Cairns’ 150,000. The city centre is based at the mouth of Ross Creek where it meets the warm North Queensland waters. In recent years the city has undergone a large beautification project and Palmer Street has emerged as the leading ‘tourist strip.’ Many of the city’s best hotels are located along this street, some with views over the river. Also lining the river are oodles of restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as some of the city’s best attractions such as the Reef HQ Aquarium and Cotters Markets. Jupiters Casino and the Townsville Entertainment Centre are just a stones throw away at Breakwater Marina which is fast becoming something like Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.

On the other side of the CBD is The Strand. The road leads along the gorgeous park lined city beach with charming old villas and hotels all vying for views over the ocean to beautiful Magnetic Island. As well as the golden sand beach, the Strand boasts several children’s playgrounds, a small waterpark and a jetty, all free to use.

Townsville is a great city, but the real jewel in the region’s crown is majestic Magnetic Island, or Maggie as it is known by the locals. Just 20 minutes offshore, half the island is designated national park and is covered in 25 kilometres of forest walkways which lead to amazing, unspoiled beaches seemingly a world away from civilisation. Or if walking is not your thing, hire a ‘Moke’, the local form of transportation which looks something like a cross between a small jeep and a golf cart. Ridiculously fun to drive, these vehicles easily get you over to isolated beaches such as the aptly named Picnic Bay or Radical Bay. Spend your days lazing in the sun and cooling off with a dip in the warm waters. Divers are very well catered for with several wrecks just offshore, as well as the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

Being only half the size of Auckland’s Waiheke Island, or double the size of Wellington’s Kapiti Island, Magnetic Island is home to a small population of about 2000 people, most of whom live in the island’s only town, Nelly Bay. Previously only having had basic accommodations and facilities, the island was long the domain of backpackers wanting an inexpensive island experience, however in recent times several fabulous new accommodations have been built including the luxury Peppers Blue on Blue Apartments. Thanks to its backpacker past, there is still a yearly Full Moon Party where up to 3000 people groove to the tunes of local and international DJ’s on the sand, with fire twirlers, body paint and more. Or for the more refined, the annual three day Great Tropical Jazz Party held each spring might be more your scene.

On the topic of exciting events, Townsville entertains with a year round calendar ranging from the adrenalin charged V8’s in July to the soothing sounds of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music held in July/August. You’ll find plenty of authentic experiences where stunning natural attractions are complimented by a large range of activities catering to all ages. The progressive and vibrant region of Townsville and Magnetic Island is waiting for you! 


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