The Great Barrier Reef & Our Beaches
Townsville, North Queensland
– Home to the Central Great Barrier Reef
Immerse yourself in one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders and discover a pristine underwater wonderland. The official headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville North Queensland is the gateway to the central section of the reef, home to pristine coral, spectacular marine life, the SS Yongala wreck and the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA).
Central Great Barrier Reef spans the central Barrier Reef from Townsville in Northern Queensland, south to Mackay and includes many of the iconic islands (such as the Whitsundays) and famous reefs that this region is known for. One hundred twenty-five kilometres of reefs offer coral gardens, amazing drop offs and outer reefs with pinnacles and deep-water coral off the coast of Townsville.
The Townsville region offers scuba and snorkelling enthusiasts a plethora of world class submersive experiences and unique Great Barrier Reef visitations. There are numerous experienced local dive and reef excursion operators based in Townsville who will have you out and amongst it before you can get your flippers on. Local operators have the capacity to accommodate all levels of experience, from snorkelers and beginners to the most invested scuba diver.
Ideal for night dives, the reef is located on the continental shelf and in the shape of a perfect circle. Natural formations range from soft corals and isolated bommies to branching corals and plate formations. Marine life includes a buffet of fish, reef sharks, rays and eels.
One of the region’s most famous reef attractions for scuba divers is the Yongala Wreck, considered one of Word’s top ten wreck sites. The 110 metres long SS Yongala shipwreck is famous for losing all onboard 122 lives in cyclonic weather on the 28th January 1896, one of the worst marine disasters in Australia’s history.
Advanced scuba divers will see a fantastic variety of reef life, giant sea turtles, manta rays, giant barracuda, and sea snakes. Queensland Groupers are by far the most spectacular fish on the wreck.
Marine Biologists visiting the SS Yongala claim that the wreck has a broader variety of coral than most reefs. For Advanced Scuba divers, only the SS Yongala wreck offers amazing dives with abundant marine life. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to experience this incredible world class attraction. A must for the ‘bucket list’.
The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA)
The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is a series of globally-significant artworks located on the Great Barrier Reef in Townsville North Queensland. MOUA’s inspiring art pieces have been created by the world’s leading underwater sculptor – Jason deCaires Taylor. As Jason’s only underwater art museum in the Southern Hemisphere, MOUA has been created to inspire and educate the globe about reef conservation. The artworks have been built to allow for coral planting to support reef restoration.
Located at John Brewer Reef on the Great Barrier Reef, it is here you’ll witness magic of the world’s greatest natural asset and also discover the beauty and ever transforming wonder of MOUA. The Coral Greenhouse is located approximately 2-hour boat journey from Townsville city. The best way to experience the Coral Greenhouse is by booking a dive or snorkel experience with one of our approved tourism operators. If you would like to dive MOUA but aren’t a certified diver, book an introductory dive to experience the best of this magical underwater art installation.
Suitable for first time divers, certified divers and snorkelers. Visit this spectacular underwater marvel and witness as these incredible artworks over time transform into their own eco-systems thriving with marine life.
Townsville – Situated in the heart of the GBR
Townsville is the largest tropical city in Australia, enjoying over 300 days of sunshine each year. This amazing climate lends itself to tourism activities all year round and supports an abundance of outdoor activities.
One of the most interesting things to see in Townsville is Reef HQ, the only living coral reef in captivity. This incredible facility allows everyone to get up close and experience life on the reef. No need to get wet or risk sea sickness, Reef HQ’s underwater observatory is the ideal reef life experience if you prefer to keep your feet safely on dry land.
Palm Island is about 65 km north-east of Townsville and is the main Island of the Greater Palm group taking in 64 square km of small bays, sandy beaches and steep forested hills rising to a peak of 548 metres.
Other islands in close proximity to Townsville include Fantome Island, Pelorus Island, Orpheus Island (with its very exclusive resort), Curacoa Island, Falcon Island, Esk Island, Brisk Island, Barber Island and Eclipse Island.
Magnetic Island (pictured below), just offshore from the city of Townsville, is a 52 km² mountainous island which has effectively become a suburb of Townsville having well over 2000 permanent residents.
It is accessible from Townsville by ferries arriving at Nelly Bay. There is a large 27 km² national park and bird sanctuary and excellent walking tracks can be taken between the populated bays and to fascinating historic tourist destinations such as the World War II Forts.
The name of the island came about because of the apparent “magnetic” effect it had on the ship’s compass of Captain Cook as he passed the island when sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770.
Whether your passion lies in gently floating above pristine coral outcrops or exploring some of the world’s most renown dive sites and newest underwater installations, Townsville delivers unique Great Barrier Reef experiences.
Townsville and its surrounding region is blessed with some of Queensland’s most pristine and unique beach settings. The city’s serene oceanside setting, its ease of access to some of the north’s best island and resort experiences and proximity to the splendour of the Great Barrier Reef spoils locals and visitors alike with endless ‘palm tree’ clad possibilities.
Townsville’s main public beach stretches for 3 kilometres along The Strand, adjacent to the city centre. Many of the city’s other popular beaches lie to the north of the city or are located on Magnetic Island, just a short 20 minute ferry ride away.
The beaches on the city’s northen fringe are great for the families and day trippers. Enjoy a beach cricket, a picnic under the palm trees or a long beach walk in the afternoon sea breeze. The entire coast is protected by the Great Barrier Reef, so waves are generally small.
If you’re looking for little more excitement, Magnetic Island offers a range of beach craft experiences including stand up paddleboarding, jet ski hire and ocean kyaking. There is something for every sun lover in Townsville.
Immerse yourself in the Townsville way of life and discover The Strand, Townsville’s thriving beach foreshore! With a relaxed, yet energetic vibe, The Strand is bursting with activities to excite the whole family. The two and a half kilometre walkway offers spectacular views across to Magnetic Island and is popular for runners, walkers and kids with bikes and scooters. Enjoy the ocean breeze and a meal at one of the beach fronts many restaurants and cafes. Alternatively treat the whole family to a barbecue or beach picnic.
With a number of fantastic playgrounds and the popular Strand Water Park, The Strand will keep the kids entertained for hours. Take a swim in the ocean or the rock pool, test your balance on a Stand-Up Paddle Board or land on the beach after the adrenalin rush of skydiving!
Enjoy the shade of the palm trees with a good book or grab a gelato and just enjoy the stunning views. For fishing enthusiasts, the jetty is a great spot to cast a line.
At the end of The Strand, discover Jezzine Barracks and uncover the stories of Townsville’s settlement. Learn of the regions significant military and indigenous history and enjoy the outdoor art. If there is one thing that locals and visitors all agree upon, visiting The Strand is a ‘must do’!
Pallarenda Beach and Rowes Bay are essentially one long beach cut in the middle by Three Mile Creek. Both beaches are backed by a 1 to 2 km wide, low, coastal plain. Pallarenda Beach (859) is 2.5 km long, faces east and receives low waves usually less than 0.3 m. These maintain a low, 50 m wide high tide beach fronted by 100 to 200 m wide intertidal sand flats.
The northern end of the beach lies in the Environmental Park and has a number of facilities and picnic areas. Just south of the park entrance is a concrete boat ramp and a swimming enclosure, backed by the small Pallarenda residential settlement. The Cape Pallarenda Road runs right behind the beach, providing good access for the entire length, with a grassy foreshore reserve between the road and the beach.
Alma Bay – Magnetic Island
Alma Bay is on Magnetic Island in Arcadia. It is perfectly situated in the smallest of the four main bays on Magnetic Island.
Alma Bay is a very popular swimming spot for local and visitors alike. The Arcadian Life Saving Club patrols the beach on weekends and public holidays. Public amenities include a gas barbecue, picnic tables, shaded children’s p
layground, changing areas and toilets.
Alma Bay is famous for its ANZAC Day Commemorations. Real-life soldiers from the Thirty-Fifth Field Squadron (Reservist Engineers) annually re-enact the events that took place and make a dawn landing right on the beach.
Horseshoe Bay – Magnetic Island
Horseshoe Bay is the premier location for watersports on Magnetic Island offering activities to excite the whole family.
Along the shores of Horseshoe Bay is an array of equipment hire options including jet skis, kayaks and stand up paddle boards.
The Bay is great for swimming with an area inside a stinger enclosure as being well as fantastic fishing and sailing.
Horseshoe Bay has many restaurants, cafes or bars. The selection of shops and eateries along the beachfront is an ideal location for a meal with an ocean view. Alternatively pack a picnic and make use of the sheltered picnic tables while the kids enjoy the nearby playground facilities.
Picnic Bay – Magnetic Island
Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island is a spectacular location to enjoy a relaxing swim, beachside dining or a spot of fishing on the jetty.
Snorkel and explore the abundant marine life of Picnic Bay or see what you can spot from above while taking a stroll along the jetty.
Enjoy a meal along the beachfront at one of the dining outlets or pack a picnic and find a shady spot.
Balgal Beach forms part of the popular Northern Beaches district of Townsville.
Offering a superb sand beach and secure swimming in the stinger net from November to May,
Balgal is ideal for a relaxing day by the ocean or a fun way to spend time with the whole family.
There are a number of licensed cafés and accommodation available in the area including holiday units and designated tent camping and vehicle camping areas.
Bushland Beach is a beautiful stretch of beach in a suburban area, with visitor accommodation and facilities available. Ideal for fishing, swimming, walking and water activities. Low tide uncovers an old wooden shipwreck. The beach is well serviced with a resort, barbecue facilities, playgrounds and a boat ramp. Bushland Beach is part of the Northern Beaches area of Townsville, located 25 minutes drive from Townsville’s central business district. Access to Bushland Beach is via a turnoff along the Bruce Highway.
Saunders Beach is part of the Northern Beaches precinct of Townsville. Saunders Beach has a residential community and some commercial accommodation. The beach is largely untouched and visitors frequently have the beach to themselves.
With over six kilometres of beach to discover, take a long refreshing walk, drop a line in to fish, and claim a piece of paradise to yourself. Have lunch at the Cafe or Take-Away and store under a magnificent fig tree, then relax at the beautiful Saunders Beach Park. Stay on the beach at the Retreat House or Ocean View Units. A boat ramp is also available for the keen fisher.
This secluded beach is a great spot for bird watchers and family outings. With a designated free tent and vehicle camping area and views across the ocean, Toomulla Beach is a perfect beachside retreat. Launch for a day of fishing from the boat ramp.
Arthur Bay – Magnetic Island
Arthur Bay is located on Magnetic Island and is the perfect location for lunch or a swim. With fringing reefs out-skirting Arthur Bay, don’t forget to pack your snorkel gear.
With less traffic than the main beaches, Arthur Bay is perfect for sun lovers to immerse and relax under the cover of the granite boulders and native hoops pines that surround the bay.
Within a short walk, you can find one of the most iconic photo locations of Magnetic Island. Arthur Bay lookout is a 200 metre walk from the bay and showcases the island’s natural untouched landscape.