20 of the best things to do with kids in Townsville and beyond

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know much about Townsville before visiting, apart from it being the home of the Cowboys football team and being the gateway to Magnetic Island.

We didn’t know that 27 degrees in Townsville is a normal winter’s day. That it’s Queensland’s second-biggest city. That it has history and heritage, is quite striking to look at, and is a perfect destination for families with loads to see and do.

Here are 20 of the best things to do with kids in Townsville and beyond for all budgets.


1. Splish splash at The Strand

Lagoon at The Strand

Looking for a place the kids can cool down and go crazy? The Strand has you covered with low-pressure water cannons and a huge tipping bucket at the Waterpark along the 2.2km long palm-lined beachfront path.

Finish it off with a zip line into the rock pool swimming lagoon.

2. Walk up Castle Hill

View from Caste Hill

Ditch the car, rev up the kid’s internal motor, and hit the trails to the top of Castle Hill – the imposing pink granite monolith you can’t miss in the centre of town. The 360-degree views will be worth it.

The Cudtheringa or West Ridge tracks are best for kids. If need be, bribe them with an afternoon ice-cream (see where further down).

3. Stroll through Palmetum Gardens

You can’t come to Tropical North Queensland without learning more about palm trees, and the lush, tranquil Palmetum Gardens makes it easier for kids to choose one to hug (hang on, I think that was me doing the hugging!).

It has over 300 species of palms, many rare and threatened, and includes most Australian palms.

4. Go koala spotting on Magnetic Island

Koalas Magnetic Island

Look down, look out, and look up! Hidden WWII fortifications and large boulders are waiting for the kids to climb, stellar views out to the Palm Island Group and Bowling Green National Park are waiting to be seen, and high in the treetops sleeping koalas are waiting for you to say hi.

The 4km return Forts Walk is one of the most popular on Magnetic Island and one of the best places in Australia to see wild koalas.

5. Swim at Alma Bay

Alma Bay Magnetic Island

Pack your cozzies, buckets, spades and towels for a swim in the sheltered waters of pretty Alma Bay on Magnetic Island.

6. Break a sweat on a mountain bike trail

Buckle up those helmets and choose a track that suits your kids’ age and ability.

The Freshwater Lagoon Loop at Cape Pallarenda is good, while Douglas has a dedicated Mountain Bike Reserve and Scrub Pythons has a fantastic beginner’s mountain bike track for kids to try.

7. Picnic at Jezzine Barracks

Jezzine Barracks

With so much activity to do, you’ll crave a restful break. There’s plenty of open space and shady trees for a picnic at the Jezzine Barracks.

You get views over to Magnetic Island and, if the kids want to keep moving, there’s a boardwalk connecting The Strand to Rowes Bay.

8. Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park

The magnetic views just keep coming! Try them at Cape Pallarenda as you traipse through the open woodland and vine thickets. Head straight for Shelly Cove; it’s an easy walk and possibly the most scenic.

9. Do nothing at sunset at Horseshoe Bay

Sunset Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island is THE place for sunset. Lie back on any of the palm trees that lean over to kiss the sand and lap up the serenity of the natural colourful light display closing out the day while the kids play on the beach, or fight you for the palm tree!

10. Ross River Parklands

Swim, walk, run, cycle, fish, water ski, or just watch the birds. The Ross River parklands offer plenty of choice with two huge swimming lagoons, the Riverwalk, an Arts Centre and restaurants. Mums and dads, go collapse at the Ross River Hotel and let the kids play!


11. Texas Longhorns Wagon tour

Texas Longhorns Wagon Tours

Here’s a random fact for you: Leahton Park has the biggest herd of Texas Longhorns in Australia. You can get to know them on this unique Texas Longhorns Wagon Tour just outside of Charters Towers.

The tour comes with a cowboy drawl, hand pistols, stories, and J.R the bull, the former world-record holder for the longest horns.

12. Ice cream at Juliettes

The ice-cream at Juliette’s comes in many weird and wonderful flavours, such as mascarpone and caramelised fig, fairy floss, and lemon meringue. Eat it from the deck chair at the beach or while you stroll The Strand.

Psst: check out these other yummy Townsville spots!

13. Breakfast with the koalas

Frilly Lizard on head

Could there by anything higher on a child’s wish list than breakfast with koalas, snakes and lizards? Throw in a glass of sparkling wine for mum and dad upon arrival at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village on Magnetic Island and it becomes high on their list too.

Breakfast comes with local produce such as bush tomato chutney accompanying local grilled mackerel. In between mouthfuls you can cuddle koalas and make friends with the other critters.

14. Billabong Sanctuary

Billabong Sanctuary

Race a turtle and pat a dingo – is this the dream of most young children? Or is it to cuddle a koala, feed a kangaroo, and stand close to a snapping crocodile?

The Billabong Sanctuary will give your kids this intimate experience with daily animal shows in a serene sitting beside a tranquil billabong.

15. Barra Fun Park

Bait up and lure in a barra. Townsville’s largest outdoor activity park transforms fishing into effortless fun, giving the kids more time to careen down water slides and toboggan rides, bounce about on tramps and jumping pillows, and try their hand at wakeboarding and skiing. Parents, join them if you dare!

16. Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium

Reef HQ Aquarium

Learn how to care for and love our underwater marine life. Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium is home to the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium.

Our girls raced from one gigantic fish tank to the next, eager to discover more about this colourful reef system they thought was only made for the Nemo’s of this world.

17. Townsville Military Tours

Townsville Military Tours

Did you know that Townsville was a major staging point for the Allied war effort in the Pacific? Me neither. Never fear, Tony’s passionate storytelling on his Townsville Military Tours will fill in the gaps about Townsville’s (and Australia’s) military history from the Boer War to current operations in Afghanistan.

My two young daughters were engaged and curious for the entire tour (especially during the cake break) and I was delighted they were experiencing real education.

18. Tour Magnetic Island in a bright topless car

Magnetic Island Topless Car

Time to show your kids you haven’t lost your hipster edge. Rent a bright orange or pink topless mini convertible and cruise around the island to see the sites.

Be sure to blast the tunes, “I whip my hair back and forth”. Your squealing kids will be begging you to drive the only Maggie road “just one more time!”.

19. Museum of Tropical Queensland

Ever wanted to fire a cannon or find out what life aboard a sailing ship is like? The Museum of Tropical Queensland explores life in the tropics from prehistoric times to modern day through family-friendly exhibitions.

There’s a replica of the HMS Pandora, the ship sent to capture the Bounty and her mutinous crew, and the gun crew will show you how to load and fire a cannon.

20. Cruise around Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Cruise

One of the best ways to experience Magnetic Island is from the outside looking in. The views from the water show a different side of Maggie: boulder-strewn headlands, hoop pines, sandy beaches and fringing coral reefs.

Big Mama Sailing circumnavigate the island taking you to secluded bays and beaches only accessibly by boat to snorkel, swim, and lap up the sunshine.

Have you taken the kids to Townsville yet? What did you like best?