Poor Old Townsville!
Sadly this large city in the north of Queensland is not endowed with the best reputation.
Known more as a slightly down heel urban sprawl than an exotic tourist destination, it was not with high expectations that we entered Townsville as part of our great budget 4wd around Australia.
Yet, how surprised I was!
Having initially feared being ‘stuck’ in the ‘ville’ due to the fact we needed some mechanical work done on our trusty old Landrover, it was actually after a great 5 days that we left to start work on nearby Magnetic Island.
In that time, I’d actually had my eyes opened to what a thriving tropical city Townsville is becoming and how much there is for tourists, especially us budget ones, to do here.
As a result, here’s my list of 10 Amazing FREE Things to do in Townsville.
Grab Your Copy of How to Road Trip Australia on a Budget
My ultimate guide to road tripping Australia on a shoestring is now available, meaning you can finally get ALL my top tips for driving around all, or parts, of this amazing country in one handy eBook, including…
- Full Planning & Preparation Guides
- Day by Day Itineraries & Routes
- Complete Packing & Gear Lists
- Top Money-Saving Tips & Hacks
- Rambutan Townsville Is This The Best Australian Backpackers?
- Brisbane to Cairns : Perfect 20 Day Itinerary
- The 10 Best Free Things to Do on Magnetic Island
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
#10 Meander the Markets
Markets, markets, markets! Yes, part of the advantage of the tropical weather is that being outside during the evening is an absolute pleasure!
As such, the Friday Night Strand Markets are definitely one of the best free things to do in Townsville.
Make sure you go hungry as you’ll be hard pushed to turn down the incredible sights and smells from food around the world on offer here.
Join the crowds at the stall that tempts you the most and then enjoy your fabulous fare sat on the nearby beach under palm trees, enjoying the breeze – bliss!
The Cotters Markets on Flinders Street on a Sunday are also well worth checking out – we got some great cheap veggies there.
THE BEST BUDGET ACCOMMODATION IN TOWNSVILLE
If you’re looking for some great budget accommodation in Townsville, then look no further than Rambutan YHA, quite possibly the best backpackers in the whole of Australia!
#9 Bike through Botanic Gardens
With 4 different botanical gardens to choose from, hitting up at least one of them is definitely a great free thing to do in Townsville.
The Palmetum is probably the most famous Botanic Garden in the city, showcasing as it does, the greatest public collection of palms in the world.
Open from sunrise to sunset, the Ross River bikeway runs between these gardens and the river and makes for a great few hours.
#8 Go to the Gallery
The Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, on the corner of Flinders Street, is certainly one of the best regional galleries I’ve seen in Australia.
As such, it’s definitely one of the top things to do in Townville, not least because it’s free!
When I visited the Gallery, a fabulous portrait exhibition was showing and it was awesome to see the work of emerging artists right alongside some more established names.
It was the perfect thing to do after the Sunday markets and, it was right next door!
#7 Enjoy Movies at the Riverway
In one of Townsville’s newer precincts, awesome free movies are shown every Friday from May until December.
Grab a seat under that stars and make the most of the blissfully warm evening as you settle down for some family fun.
If you don’t fancy a movie, then there’s plenty of other free stuff to enjoy at the Riverways.
Take a dip in the pool, cycle the many paths, check out the Pinnacles Gallery or enjoy a stroll right along the river bank.
There really is something to please almost anyone.
#6 Stroll the Heritage Trail
Learn about Townsville’s fascinating history for free care of either a great self-guided walk or an organised bi-weekly tour.
Both methods are great for getting to know about the heritage of the area, as well as when and how it developed into a bustling metropolis.
Not being a fan of tours, I opted for the self-guided option and merrily bumbled my way around some of the main parts of the city reading the fascinating plaques that adorn many of the historical buildings here.
With 6 self-guided routes to choose from this is one of the best free things to do in Townsville, not least because it’s so easy and accessible.
5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
#5 Swim at the Strand
No trip to a Queensland city would be complete without a dip in its free public pool – a wonderfully safe and easy way to cool down from the heat.
Townsville’s answer is the Strand, a gorgeous stretch of parkland that borders the beachfront here and is a paradise for visitors and locals alike.
Wander around, visit the ANZAC memorial, utilise the free barbie areas or just kick back with a coffee in a nearby café, the Strand is full of perfect lazy day material.
Best of all however, is the Waterpark, which is tons of fun for all the family and the best way to get a swim in without the hassle of any deadly stingers hanging around! Bonus!
#4 Explore City Lane
We stumbled along this little enclave off the main Flinders Street by chance and were so impressed.
From great little bars with craft beer on tap, through to delightful Paleo cafes, this is the hipster movement starting to poke its head above the water in Townsville!
What I loved most about City Lane was the great artwork about the place and the difference this youth-orientated corner had breathed into an otherwise run-down area of town.
If you’re here at the weekend, then exploring City Lane is definitely one of the best free things to do in Townsville.
DON’T MISS MAGNETIC ISLAND!
You can’t head to Townsville and not pay a visit to the beautiful Magnetic Island, which lies just off the coast here.
Book your return ferry tickets to Magnetic Island for one of 18 daily crossings, which take just 20 minutes.
#3 Relax at the Northern Beaches
Townsville’s northern beaches are the perfect retreat from city life and provide the ideal day out to enjoy the city’s great climate.
Boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, picking a beach day in this part of Australia isn’t hard, so pack a picnic and head to either Bushland, Toolakea or Toomulla beaches for the perfect day out.
And for those road tripping on a budget like us, you’ll also be pleased to know that Saunders Beach and Balgal Beach, both north of Townsville, also offer free camping for 48 hours – hoorah!
#2 Watch Sunset from Castle Hill
Slap bang in the middle of the city, Townsville’s Castle Hill dominates the city’s landscape.
It’s an epic natural monument that juts right out of this urban area, begging to be climbed!
If you’re feeling energetic, join the multiple cyclists, runner or walkers heading to the top of this great hill early in the morning.
Otherwise, make it an afternoon affair and puff your way up here to see the sunset instead.
With several viewing platforms, it’s easy to get a good view of the day disappearing, which is great, as things can get pretty crowded!
If you’re feeling lazy, you can also just drive to the top of Castle Hill and park. However, we felt like such frauds doing this that I really wouldn’t recommend it!
Instead, put on your lycra and join the masses, because watching the sunset from Castle Hill is definitely one of the most amazing free things to do in Townsville.
#1 Discover the Street Art
Who knew that Townsville had some of the best Australian street art outside of Melbourne?
Well, not me, that’s for sure.
As such, I was brilliantly surprised by the scope and quality of the street murals here and happily spent an afternoon meandering around the city, camera in hand.
Certainly one of the top free things to do in Townsville, the street art in the city is brilliant and discovering your favourite is a must!
Mine? The giant squirrel tied to a drainpipe of course!
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there’s my list of 10 amazing FREE things to do in Townsville.
Have you been to this northern Queensland city?
What did you get up to and enjoy during your time there?