Since the ferry terminal was relocated to Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay has resembled a ghost town. Shopfronts were abandoned as businesses suffered from the decreased tourist traffic.
Stretching 2.2km, Townsville’s waterfront is interspersed with parks, pools, cafes and playgrounds – with hundreds of palm trees providing shade. Walkers and joggers take to the path from first light while beachgoers take over by mid-morning, and evening strollers are at it by late afternoon.
Runs a service from Cardwell's Port Hinchinbrook Marina to Hinchinbrook's Ramsay Bay boardwalk (one way $85, 1½ hours). It also operates a five-hour day tour that includes a cruise between Goold and Garden Islands spotting dolphins, dugongs and turtles, and docking at Ramsay Bay boardwalk for a walk on the 9km-long beach and picnic lunch.
The Bush Tucker Gourmet Breakfast with the koalas at ecocertified Bungalow Bay Koala Village lets you try guava champagne and breakfast in the company of some friendly native birds and creatures. If you’re not an early riser, there are animal petting and photo opportunities during the day (10am, noon and 2.30pm).
Highly recommended day trips in Townsville and further afield, with enthusiastic, informed commentary. Options include ‘Heritage and Highlights’ city tours (adult/child $40/18), Wallaman Falls (adult/child $125/55), rainforest tours (adult/child $125/55) and Aboriginal cultural tours (adult/child $140/65).
Yongala wreck dives ($220 including gear) from Alva Beach, 104km southeast of Townsville. It only takes 30 minutes to get out to the wreck from here, instead of a 2½-hour boat trip from Townsville. Book ahead for backpacker-style accommodation at its onshore dive lodge .
Situated 43km south of Townsville, this huge property has full- and half-day horse-riding trips as well as cattle musters for aspiring cowboys and cowgirls. Transfers for full-day rides and cattle musters are included from Townsville. Bookings essential.
The Strand-side Tobruk Pool is a bright and lively swimming complex, buoyed by its history as the training spot for the 1952 and 1964 Australian Olympic swim teams. The B&W photo exhibition and other human fish memorabilia are worth a look.
If you’re time-poor, this full-day tour with guides takes in the island’s best spots in its stretch 4WD. Price includes close encounters with wildlife, lunch at a local cafe and a sunset cocktail. Shorter tours are also available.
Calypso runs reef dives (from $264, including gear), wreck dives of the Lady Bowen ($225), and PADI open-water courses ($625). Otherwise, snorkel the reef ($169) or take a jet-ski tour around Dunk Island (from $224).