Founded in 1864, Townsville is Queensland's third-largest city and one of Australia's tropical centers. It is the port city for the agricultural and mining production of the vast inland region of northern Queensland as well as the starting point of the main road to the Northern Territory. There are trips into the Outback and the Barrier Reef; the latter is about two hours away by fast catamaran.
In recent years, millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to attract more visitors to stay in Townsville rather than heading on to Cairns. A hotel-casino and marina have been built on the oceanfront; other parts of the city are being redeveloped while retaining many of its 19th-century buildings. The showpiece is the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, which offers an impressive
aquarium, an Omnimax Theater, shops and the Queensland Museum. From here ferries depart for Magnetic Island, a popular destination just eight miles offshore with fine beaches, lots of bird life, bush-walking tracks and a koala sanctuary.
Although the city sprawls a long way, the center is fairly compact and can be explored on foot easily. Just a short distance out of town are several museums worth visiting as well as parks, gardens and wildlife sanctuaries. The lookout point atop Castle Hill, which dominates the city, offers fine views over the town and the coast.
Trips to various offshore islands via launch and by air, outer reef cruises and fishing boat trips are available from Townsville.