Having been here for almost a full semester, I have found some of the highlights to be as advertised and others were unexpected. There is something for everyone here in Townsville.
1. Laid Back Culture
Being in northern Queensland, the pace of life is a lot slower than being in the city, or anywhere in the U.S. really. People are more easy-going, and enjoy themselves more here. That translates into a relaxed, fun-filled, and awesome experience.
2. Tropical Climate
If you don’t like being cold, this is the place to be. The weather is beautiful, especially during the dry season, with low humidity, and gorgeous sunny days almost every day.
3. The Great Barrier Reef
The reef is close by. You can take a ferry out to Magnetic island and snorkel above corals from shore. The reef proper is a little further out, but easily accessable after catching a bus to either Cairns or Airlie Beach.
4. The Strand/Pallarenda
The local beaches are great and easy to get to by bike or bus. The Strand is a gorgeous place to hang out, with beaches, shops, a water park, the rock pool, and more. Pallerenda is a little futher, but is more secluded and you can spread out and play sports, swim, etc. (I recommend buying a bike while you are here to make it easy to get to the store, or to go for a ride along the river)
5. Ross River/Crystal Creek
Speaking of the river, it is a few minutes walk down to the nearest access. Great for swimming if you don’t mind a few turtles. You can fish for barramundi, go waterskiing if you make a friend with a boat, or just sit and enjoy the river and all the wildlife around. Crystal Creek is about an hour north, but it is definitely worth the trip! The clear water is incredible to swim, jump, dive, flip, slip, and slide into. There are a bunch of rocks and cliffs to jump off, natural rock slides, and great swimming holes.
6. Reef HQ
Townsville has the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world. The tank is huge, and has schools of beautiful fish, large corals, clams, anemones, and more. They also house a turtle hospital that you can tour a few times a day, which is also very cool.
The sporting culture is very different here from in the U.S. In addition to being a completely different set of sports (for the most part, soccer and basketball being exceptions), the culture surrounding them is very different. For one thing, the equivalent of Intramurals here, Fischer Shield, is a very big deal between the various residential colleges and halls. Each sport earns points towards the big award at the end of the year for major bragging rights. I chose to play basketball, but there are a lot of opportunities to get involved, and I highly recommend it.