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Best free and low cost things to do in Townsville

Tropical North Queensland is the perfect place to visit if you love the sun, sea and the outdoor lifestyle.

Right in the heart of this region, Townsville is a tropical city located on the coast that is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls and lush national parks. 

It is also a hub of cultural and historical significance, with a rich Indigenous history and a bustling city centre filled with restaurants, shops and museums. 

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a local looking for new things to do, there are plenty of fun events in Townsville and heaps of free and low-cost things to do, so let’s get started!

Beaches

Townsville boasts a stunning coastline, and its beaches are some of the best in Australia. 

The Strand

The Strand is a 2.2km palm tree lined beachfront promenade with bike and walking paths, picnic spots, playgrounds, safe swimming beaches, exercise stations, a water park and restaurants and bars with to-die-for water views. It’s a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

The beach is surrounded by lush parks and gardens, making it a perfect place for BBQ’s and picnics and there are plenty of opportunities for swimming and sunbathing.

Pallarenda Dog Beach

If you’re travelling with your pooch and looking for a beach to let them run free then head up to Pallarenda Dog Beach just 5km north of The Strand jetty in central Townsville.

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is located just 8 km and a 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville. The island is home to some beautiful beaches including Horseshoe Bay, Alma Bay, Balding Bay and Nelly Bay. 

Arthur Bay is a great spot for snorkelling so bring your snorkelling gear, bathers and towel, walking shoes and pack a picnic lunch as there are plenty of picnic areas and walking trails to explore.

Balding Bay Magnetic Island

Water Parks & Pools

If you’re looking for a fun and affordable way to cool off, there are several water parks & pools in and around Townsville that are perfect for families and kids. 

Riverway Lagoons

Another great water park is the Riverway Lagoons, located in the heart of the city.

At more than three times the size of an Olympic swimming pool the Riverway Lagoons are situated among picturesque raintrees and overlook the tranquil Ross River. 

There are two lagoons with a maximum depth of 2 metres. The upper lagoon is better for more formal activities like swimming laps, and has designated areas for the disabled and elderly, complete with handrails and appropriate water levels. 

The lower lagoon is more relaxed and is ideal for kids to build sandcastles and play in the shallow waters, while the rest of the family can lounge on the shady timber decks.

Riverway Lagoons

The Strand Water Park

Your kids will love The Strand Water Park with its water cannons, water slides, playground & heaps more to do.

There are BBQs & picnic areas, toilets, outdoor showers and easy car parking.

It’s a great spot for the family to spend a few hours or even a whole day and best of all, it’s 100% free!

The Strand Water Park

The Strand Rockpool

If saltwater is more your thing and you want to avoid stingers (Box Jellyfish) that may be in the ocean depending on the time of year you’re in Townsville, then checkout The Strand Rockpool.

Located on the northern end of The Strand, the Rockpool is a stinger resistant saltwater pool that is a perfect spot to cool off and even have a picnic or BBQ.

There are toilets and outdoor showers, a playground, BBQ & picnic facilities and nearby car parking.

The Rockpool itself has easy access for wheelchairs and small children access with a shallow area which leads into a deeper pool for swimming.

Sunrise over The Strand Rockpool

Local Attractions

In addition to its beautiful beaches and water parks, Townsville is home to several local attractions that won’t put a dent in your wallet.

Castle Hill Lookout

If you have a car, take a drive up to the top of Castle Hill where you can get a panoramic view over Townsville, the coast and out to Magnetic Island.

You can also park at the base of the hill and walk to the top if you want some exercise which I covered further on.

The view from Castle Hill lookout

Jezzine Barracks

Another must-visit attraction is the Jezzine Barracks, a historic military site that was once used by the Australian Army. Today, the barracks have been converted into a cultural and historical park, and visitors can explore the historic buildings, gardens, and walking trails for free.

Jezzine Barracks is a historic military base located in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Today, it has been transformed into a cultural and recreational hub, offering a variety of activities for tourists and local residents alike. 

Stroll through the beautiful gardens and take in the historical buildings and monuments. The barracks also feature a cultural centre, which showcases the local indigenous culture and history, a playground, picnic areas, barbeque facilities, and bike paths, making it a popular spot for families.

For those interested in history, Jezzine Barracks offers a rich cultural and military history, with buildings and monuments that commemorate the Australian army’s involvement in various wars and conflicts. Visitors can learn about the important role the barracks have played in Australia’s history through guided tours and interactive exhibits.

Reef HQ Aquarium

If getting up close and personal with marine life is your thing then checkout The Reef HQ Aquarium, another popular attraction in Townsville

The aquarium is home to a wide range of marine creatures, including reef fish, sharks, and sea turtles, and offers several interactive exhibits and displays. 

Admission is free for children under four, and affordable for everyone else.

NOTE: The Reef HQ Aquarium is currently undergoing a transformation into an educational and cultural icon for North Queensland, but it may be open again by the time you read this.

Waterfalls

There are few things I love more than a walk through the forest followed by a refreshing swim in a pristine waterfall.

Here in Australia we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of epic waterfalls and quite a few of them are close to Townsville.

Let’s check them out:

Wallaman Falls 

Wallaman Falls is a stunning waterfall located in Girringun National Park about two and a half hour’s drive from Townsville. The falls plunge 268 meters into the Stony Creek below, making it the tallest single drop waterfall in Australia and one of the tallest in the world. 

The area around the falls is covered in lush rainforest which offers a variety of hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views of the falls and the surrounding landscape.

Explore the Wallaman Falls Circuit Track, a 6.4 km round-trip hike that offers several viewing platforms of the falls and the Stony Creek gorge. The hike is considered moderate in difficulty and takes about 3 hours to complete. 

There is also a camping ground located near the falls for those who want to spend a night in the area and take in the beauty of the falls at dawn and dusk.

Wallaman Falls: Photo Credit DGriebeling

Blencoe Falls

Blencoe Falls is another stunning waterfall also located in Girringun National Park.

The falls plunge 90 metres to the pool below, before cascading a further 230m to the bottom of Blencoe Gorge.

While you’re there, check out the Herbert River Gorge which is lined with she-oaks and rainforest and keep an eye out for whiptail wallabies and emus and freshwater turtles.

Click here for more information about Girringun National Park

Jourama Falls

If you’re looking for some waterfalls to explore closer to Townsville then check out Jourama Falls in Paluma Range National Park about 100 km north of Townsville just off the Bruce Highway. 

The falls plunge 40 metres into a tranquil pool below, surrounded by lush rainforest and vegetation. The area around the falls is a popular spot for picnics, swimming, and bushwalking, with several hiking trails leading to different viewing platforms that offer breathtaking views of the falls and the surrounding landscape.

The Jourama Falls Track is a 3 km return track that starts & finishes at the Jourama Falls car park and takes about 1 hour to complete. 

The trail leads to several viewing platforms of the falls and Waterview Creek, as well as a secluded swimming hole. 

There are toilets, picnic tables and a gas BBQ at the day use area near the first causeway.

Crystal Creek Falls

Crystal Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall located in the Crystal Creek area around one and a half hours drive north of Townsville off the Bruce Highway.

The falls are surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and cascading into the Crystal Creek. 

The walk to the falls is challenging but worth the effort and there’s a beautiful pool at the end to cool off in when you get there.

On the road you drive in on to get to the falls you’ll pass Big Crystal Creek camping area so you can make it an overnight or multi-day trip and explore the area further. 

Hiking

There are plenty of great hikes in and around Townsville ranging from an hour or two all the way to multi day walks.

I use the All Trails app on my iPhone to find hikes and here are a few that you can check out.

Castle Hill Lookout via Castle Hill Road

This 5.8 km out and back track will take you to the lookout at the top of Castle Hill along the Castle Hill Road where you’ll get some epic views over Townsville and the Coral Sea towards the Great Barrier Reef.

The route has plenty of stairs to give your legs a workout but the elevation follows the contours of the hillside making for a gradual and continuous walk without any seriously steep sections.

It’s also sealed road all the way so you won’t need your hiking boots.

West Ridge and Castle Hill

This 8.2 km circuit hike starts and finishes from the West End Cemetery on Church Street in the heart of Townsville and follows a track flanking the edge of Castle Hill. It’s a moderately challenging walk that will take about three and a half hours.

There’s a good mix of well maintained paths, steps and single track with plenty of ups and downs to make sure you get a good workout.

You’ll get some great views over Townsville and the ocean with Magnetic Island on the horizon.

There isn’t much shade along the way so remember to take plenty of water.

Conclusion

Townsville is a vibrant and dynamic city that offers a wide range of free and low-cost activities for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, cool off at a water park, or explore the city’s rich cultural and historical heritage, there’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise.

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Steve Baile
Steve Baile
I’m the founder of Expedition Australia, a writer, filmmaker & adventure travel junkie. Passionate about my family, health and fitness, hiking, 4WD touring, adventure motorbikes, camping and exploring as much of the planet as I can.

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