Townsville is often overlooked because it does not have an international airport and offers fewer tourist attractions than Cairns, which is 170 mi/275 km to the northwest. However, it also has fewer tourists, which means it feels more like a typical Australian town than a mecca for global travelers headed to the Great Barrier Reef.

At least a one-day stop is warranted there just to see Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef AquariumIn addition, the city has a lively casino, beachfront strip called The Strand, several museums and a botanical garden.

Townsville is on the train route of the Brisbane to Cairns Spirit of Queensland and the starting station for The Inlander to Mount Isa.

About 90 minutes west of Townsville is Charters Towers, an old gold-mining town that claims to be the east coast's beginning of the Outback. It once had its own stock exchange.

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