Townsville is Australia’s Largest Tropical City,having more than 140,000 residents.Huddled under the 1,000-foot-high (300 m) Castle Rock,it is functional rather than scenic.The city is northern Queensland’s industrial center,home to James Cook University,and one of Australia’s biggest military towns.
Two entrepreneurs-a Scot named Melton and a wealthy sea capitain named Robert Towns-sowed the seeds of Townsville.In 1863 they built a wharf and a rendering plant here for cattlemen who couldn’t reach the port at Bowen when the Burdekin River was in flood. Gold rushes at Cape River (1867),Ravenswood (1869),and Charters Towers (1871) helped the city to prosper. During World War II Townsville was a strategic base for U.S. and Australian forces,and it was bombed three times by the Japanese in 1942.
Although Townsville is the administrative and commercial capital of northern Queensland,it struggles to hold the interest of tourists who prefer more fashionable Cairns and Port Douglas farther north.For one things, it doesn’t quite fit the image of a tropical city.
Visitors who expect lush rain forest are surprised to see typical olive-gray Australian scrub.The tropical heat and humidity are here,but the rain forests don’t start for 100 miles(160 km) north along the Bruce Highway.
Townsville does have elegant tropical architecture and stately figs along the Strand, and the city has spent millions trying to entice tourists. A casino is now on the waterfront, along with a superb aquarium, part of the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland that has reef coral,anemones, and schools of colorful tropical fish.
Townsville is also a base for visit to the Great Barrier Reef, and it is the only access point to Magnetic Island. Even so, most tourists continue to content themselvers with a trip to the aquarium, a picnic on Magnetic Island, and a sunset view of the city lights from Castle Rock. Then they go on to Cairns and the north.