ROAD TRIP DIARIES # 10
Townsville Marina with Castle Hill in the background
After several bushwalks, beach strolls, an encounter with a python, a hiatus with a police officer and taking a wrong turn to a remote fishing village, we finally reached the charming city of Townsville. It was late and dark already when we arrived in the city so we just went straight to the camping ground near the city center on our first night. We then moved to the Aquarius Hotel the next day upon the recommendation of Charles’ parents who had stayed here as well during their visit. We have been living and eating in our camper van for the last 10 days so we thought it was time to splurge and stay in a hotel while at Townsville.
The Aquarius Hotel
Aquarius Pool we didn’t bother to use
The hotel was cozy and offers a stunning view of the Cleveland Bay, the waterfront walkways and the parkland. But the only memorable experience for me here was watching “Bandila”, while having my cereal in the morning. We spent most of our time outside exploring the town and sightseeing and I actually missed sleeping in the camper van during those two nights.
View from The Aquarius
The beach along The Strand
The first thing I noticed here was the temperate weather. It was winter then in Queensland but it was starting to feel more like the Philippines as we moved further North. Unlike its glitzy and glamorous neighbors, Cairns and Airlie Beach, which have probably more tourists than locals in the area, Townsville is a really livable city. It was the first place in Queensland we seriously thought about moving to someday.
Exploring on foot
One of the refurbished structures
The walking path at the waterfront
Some random building
We didn’t have a concrete plan for the day so we just explored the waterfront promenade along The Strand, which was just in front of our hotel. We joined a bunch of walkers and joggers along the waterfront and walked through the long stretch of beach until the rock pool at its northern tip. There was another stinger-free artificial pool for the public to use especially during the danger months of November to May when the deadly box jellyfish inhabit the waters of North Queensland.
Reef HQ Aquarium
The well-stocked aquarium prides itself as “the living coral reef on dry land” and is the world’s largest coral reef Aquarium. An impressive 2.5 million liters of water flow through the coral reef tank, approximately the size of 50 family swimming pools. But it is the natural setup of this complex ecosystem that makes it unique and more remarkable than other marine parks I have seen before. The hundreds of species and reef organism here are exposed to the elements like day and moonlight, rain and storms, just like the natural reefs are. They even simulate the ebb and flow of the ocean through a wave machine to emulate natural conditions as closely as possible.
This tunnel reminds me of Manila Ocean Park
Glow in the dark corals
It was already late in the afternoon when we reached Reef HQ Aquarium, so we missed most of the shows on offer. Good thing they gave us a free pass the next day to catch up on what we missed. We went back again to the aquarium the next day to watch the diving presentation and to visit the turtle hospital. This is where they bring injured and sick turtles for rehabilitation before releasing them back into The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. But it was Nemo and his adorable friends that got my attention the most in this huge complex. I used to just chase him underwater while snorkeling at Balicasag Island in Bohol, but at Reef HQ I could just stand and stare for as long as I wished.
Torres the Turtle – a resident of the Turtle Hospital
Nemo I thought you’re in Sydney
Just adjacent to Reef HQ is the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Aside from displays on North Queensland history from the dinosaurs to the rainforest and the reef, a good portion of the humongous building was dedicated on the wreck of the Pandora. HMS Pandora was the Royal Navy warship dispatched to the South Pacific in pursuit of the infamous Bounty mutineers and is considered today as one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Southern hemisphere. They used life-sized replica and artifacts from the ship to reconstruct many scenes – it was actually kind of creepy inside.
Museum of Tropical Queensland
Definitely not your ordinary museum!
Life-size replica of scenes from HMS Pandora
Reconstructing scenes by using detailed models with interactive displays
We spent the rest of our afternoons walking along the popular Flinder’s Street checking out the refurbished buildings and restaurants and drinking near the Marina. There was quite an eclectic selection of cuisine available from Thai, Indian, Greek, Chinese to the good old chains like Dominoes and Subway. Surprisingly there weren’t many tourists around even during daytime. It must have been the time of the year or perhaps visitors were busy exploring the outskirts of the city, which has more interesting things to offer as well.
(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)