I know when you think of Australia, you think of its beaches, unique wildlife, and a couple iconic cities. And to be honest, our only motive for visiting Townsville was an animal sanctuary. But going to a place with no expectations (except for cuddling koalas) and no knowledge of it in general allows you to be pleasantly surprised. It also helped that a travel blogger I follow, Young Adventuress, had just been in Townsville the week before and was posting things to do and tips while we were in town. Here’s a recap of our 48 hours there!
It took a 5 hour bus ride to get to Townsville from Cairns. The only scenery between the two was lush tropical forests and rural farm towns. Not the stuff that comes to mind when you envision Australia. But it was nice to get a glimpse of what life is like outside of the big cities.
We arrived in Townsville in the afternoon and found our hostel, Rambutan Hostel, on one of the main streets. It was new, modern, and had a rooftop bar and pool. Basically the exact opposite of the hostel we had just come from, and we couldn’t have felt more at home. We had three roommates while we were there: a German girl looking for work, an American girl travelling after spending the last year teaching English in China, and an Australian girl who worked at a cattle ranch 6 hours outside of Townsville and was in town to get her car fixed after a kangaroo had hit her. I could not have made up a more Australian story if I had wanted to.
Our only full day in Townsville we spent at Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary. If you are looking for a place to interact with native Aussie creatures, I couldn’t recommend a better one. Entry was only $35 and for $2 more, you got a bag of seed to feed the birds and kangaroos. Feeding the kangaroos was probably our favorite thing from the whole day. They all just free roam the sanctuary. If you see one, all you have to do is put some seed in your hand and go up to them, and they will sit and chomp next to you for as long as you want. They also offer free presentations on and feedings for each of the animals ranging from cassowaries, kangaroos, koalas, turtles, to every type of crocodile you could think of. Carly and I had come to Billabong with a very specific purpose, and we shelled out more money each so that we could hold and have a picture taken with both a koala and wombat. Wombats are probably best described as a cross between a large rodent and a bear, but their closest relative is actually the koala. Wanda the Reuben were so cute! They stole our hearts.
After all of that excitement, I started to feel a migraine coming on. Unfortunately, there had been a mix up with the transportation, and we were stuck waiting for over an hour for our ride back to town. By the time we got back to our hostel, I desperately needed food and found a place that could only be described as Australia’s sad version of Chipotle. I decided to order the vegetarian burrito thinking I’d play it safe with rice, beans, and some veggies. It also came with guacamole, and when you haven’t had guacamole in over a month, you take the guacamole. I think that was my downfall.
We decided to hike up to the top of Castle Hill, a spot with 360 views of the city and surrounding area. It is a popular activity for locals to do after work as the sun sets. I had been wanting to do it, and this would be our last chance since we were leaving for Sydney the next day. I also figured a little exercise and fresh air would help with my head. They really meant it when they said it was popular with locals. There were people everywhere. My stomach was a little grumbly, but I figured it was just digesting dinner after not really eating all day. We made it to the top in time for golden hour overlooking the city and sea. After a couple minutes and a few pictures though, we started to head back down because being on a hill with bushes and trees in the dark in Australia does not sound like my idea of fun. We were making pretty good time when half way down the hill I started to really not feel well. Why did food poisoning have to strike on a hill above town? I told Carly that I was not feeling so hot, and I don’t think we could have run down that hill any faster. I was saved by the first building we saw that also happened to be a hotel. But I do have to say I’ve never encountered someone in hospitality who was a more miserable person. Needless to say, it was an early night for me. And if you’ve been reading along and keeping score (with the visa fiasco) this was Australia: 3, Amanda: 0.
On our way out of town, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice breakfast at Jam Corner. If you ever find yourself in Townsville, I highly recommend it. This was another Young Adventuress tip, and it did not disappoint. We arrived just 10 minutes before breakfast ended so we were a little rushed to order and I panicked. I wanted to try their sweeter options that all sounded amazing, but since we had a long day of travel ahead, I went with the avocado toast and poached egg. It was the best way to end our stay in Townsville.