Monday, May 31, 2010

Take a Tropical Townsville Getaway

Averaging 300 days of sunshine a year, summer never sleeps in tropical Townsville, making it the perfect destination to escape the winter chill.

Lying 8km or a 25 minute ferry ride from Townsville is World Heritage-listed Magnetic Island. With a range of accommodation available on the island from budget to five star resorts, Magnetic Island or Maggie as it’s affectionately known, is a great family holiday destination.

If 23 picturesque beaches and bays aren’t enough to keep the kids amused, what about spotting rock wallabies or koalas in the wild? More than-two thirds of Maggie is National Park and the island is home to northern Australia’s largest colony of koalas. If you aren’t lucky enough to spot one in the wild then head to Bungalow Bay Koala Village where the whole family can hold a koala or crocodile, take a guided tour of the island’s diverse environments and even have breakfast with the koalas. At Bungalow Bay’s popular bush tucker breakfast the kids will have fun cooking their own toast over an open fire and munching down a big brekkie while they are greeted by native wildlife.

With everything from sea kayaking to island jet ski tours, there are plenty of other family friendly activities on Maggie to keep everyone entertained. Snorkel the fringing reefs surrounding the island, hire a cart for a nine hole round of golf, take the kids exploring in a traditional mini moke (minimum age 12 years) or spend the afternoon seeing Maggie on horseback. Horseshoe Bay Ranch’s fully guided rides take you through the bush, onto the beach, and into the water and are a definite must do.

One of the best ways to see the island is on an Adrenalin Jet Ski Tour (Ph 07 4778 5533). You can circumnavigate the island on a three hour tour or take in the top end on a 75 minute tour. Both tours showcase a different side of Maggie as you view spectacular granite boulders, secluded bays and spot a variety of marine and bird life all from the back of the latest Seadoo luxury watercraft.

For a holiday the kids will never forget, why not charter a catamaran or yacht and cruise the crystal clear and calm waters around Magnetic Island. Tropic Sail offers private self-skippered and skippered sailing holidays from Townsville. The whole family can learn the ropes on this sailing adventure as you spot turtles, dolphins and dugongs, snorkel straight off the boat in warm tropical waters and discover fringing coral reefs and the 13 unspoiled islands of the Palms Group.

Back on the mainland, experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef without getting your feet wet at Reef HQ Aquarium. The attraction’s coral reef exhibit is the world’s largest coral reef aquarium and is home to 130 coral species and 120 fish species. Kids can learn about the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem and its inhabitants, see how the aquarium cares for sick and injured marine turtles at the Reef HQ Turtle Hospital, find Nemo as he swims amongst vibrant living corals, and chat to the divers as they swim with the sharks and other animals in the predator exhibit.

Right next door, the Museum of Tropical Queensland is bursting with exhibitions that will captivate visitors of all ages. Learn about the HMS Pandora, the ship sent by British Admiralty to capture the Bounty and her mutinous crew, explore a typical North Queensland rainforest environment in the Enchanted Rainforest or test your skills at the interactive science centre, Mind zone.

Townsville's fantastic beachfront promenade, The Strand offers everything you need for a great family day out. A jetty for fishing, bike paths and walkways, restaurants, cafes, a free kid’s water park, picnic areas, swimming pools and enclosures. The popular foreshore stretches 2.5km and offers stunning views across Cleveland Bay to Magnetic Island.

While in Townsville don’t forget a visit to Billabong Sanctuary, one of North Queensland’s best wildlife parks featuring over 100 species of Australian animals. You can cuddle a koala, hug a wombat and if you’re brave enough wrap a python around your shoulders and hold a crocodile!

For more information on holiday ideas in the Townsville region visit

Getting There
Townsville is a two hour flight from Brisbane. Virgin Blue offers direct flights to Townsville from Rockhampton, Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sydney. Qantas and Jetstar also fly direct from Brisbane and Sydney with connections available.

Traveltrain’s Tilt Train provides two services a week.

Magnetic Island is easily accessible via a 25 minute ferry ride from the Townsville Breakwater terminal.

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