Northern Queensland's less-visited major city is easy on the eye: at Townsville's heart is its handsome, endless esplanade, an ideal viewing platform to fabulous Magnetic Island offshore. Surprisingly, a better museum and aquarium you will struggle to find in Australia. It's a pedestrian-friendly city, and its grand, refurbished 19th-century buildings offer loads of landmarks. If in doubt, join the throngs of fit and fabulous marching up bright red Castle Hill to gaze across the city's dry environs.
Townsville has a lively, young populace, with thousands of students and armed forces members intermingling with old-school locals, fly-in-fly-out mine workers, and summer-seekers lapping up the average 320 days of sunshine per year. Needless to say, the nightlife is often full throttle.
Townsville is only 350km from Cairns, but is much drier than its tropical rival. The splendid beaches of Magnetic Island are but a ferry jaunt away.