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Heading for the Great Barrier Reef? Motels in Townsville Offer a More Laid Back Vacation Experience

by Don Grant

If you're headed to the Great Barrier Reef and prefer staying in a fairly laid-back town, you might consider booking your motel in Townsville. You can find properties within steps of the sand, in the downtown core or along the Ross River.

Townsville Basics

Townsville is the second largest city along the Sunshine Coast, following Brisbane. The waterfront town fronts Cleveland Bay. The Ross River runs through the middle of the area. It is slower paced than Brisbane, but is becoming more popular as a base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef and Magnetic Island National Park. The latter is just offshore, reached by the Sealink Ferry.

About the Great Barrier Reef

This listed UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches some 3,000 kilometres along Queensland's coast. It is so large that astronauts on the International Space Station can see it when they orbit over Australia. Several tour operators offer day and multi-day excursions to this famed dive and snorkeling site.

Where to Find Motels in Townsville

Motels are found in three different areas of Townsville.

Downtown Townsville

Downtown Townsville has an assortment of brand name and locally owned motels, as does the rest of the city. Since you are a few blocks from the waterfront, this is the area where you usually find the best bargains. The beach and the marina are still within walking distance. If you prefer, you can hop on the Sunbus, Townsville's Public Transportation System. The Cotters Markets, selling everything from fresh fruit to handmade crafts, is held each Sunday at the Flinders Street Mall, an easy walk from almost anywhere in the downtown core.

Near the Strand

Motels near the Strand, the roadway that runs along Cleveland Bay, are the most prized and tend to be the priciest. Some are right across from the beach and offer ocean views. Others are within a block or two. You'll find higher-end motels that have swimming pools and small cafes, as well as apartment style properties that have kitchenettes. The Breakwater Marina, launching point for Great Barrier Reef tours, is within walking distance. Anzac Memorial Park, which fronts the beach, offers tree shaded open green space and hiking trails.

Along the Ross River

Most motels, like Burswood Lodge, along the Ross River are found along Flinders Street. This is the roadway that leads to the Northtown City Shopping Centre and the Reef HQ Aquarium. Motels on the northern side of the river are closest to the Breakwater Marina, the Townsville Entertainment Centre and the beach. A few properties are on the south side of the river, notably along Palmer St. and Dean St. If you get a water view, it's likely to be of the river. Once in a while you get lucky if you are on the upper floor of a motel facing east. You might see a distant panoramic view of the beach and the marina. If you stay on this side of the river, you might want to use the Sunbus or drive to get around. There are only a couple of bridges that cross the Ross River. You could end up taking a very long walk.

No matter where you stay in Townsville, you'll be within easy reach of pubs, restaurants, shops and the tour operators heading out to visit the Great Barrier Reef.