The largest city in northern Queensland, while Townsville doesn’t have the big attractions of Cairns, it still has plenty of dog-friendly things to do. Find out what it’s like to visit Townsville with a dog, with ideas on what to do with your pup, as well as dog-friendly parks, dining and accommodation.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Townsville
Many of the most popular attractions in Townsville are dog-friendly, at least if you keep your pup on a leash. Consider ticking off some of these…
1. Head up Castle Hill
Townsville is dominated by Castle Hill, the 286m high outcrop that looms up above the city centre and the Strand. Don’t visit Townsville without heading to the top and taking in the view from the multiple lookouts.
There’s two options available for getting to the top: driving along the steep windy road, which isn’t suitable for caravans, or walking up. The most popular walking trail heading up is the Goat Track, starting from Hillside Crescent. Allow 1 hour for the 1.3km return walk with around 1300 steps. Some walkers also make use of the road, but I wouldn’t recommend this option if you’re with a dog.
If you would prefer to drive up, there’s still three short walking trails available at the summit: the Summit, Radar Hill and Pill Box Walks. Use them to access the different vantage points overlooking different parts of the city.
Dogs should be on a leash while in the Castle Hill Reserve, both at the lookouts and on the walking trails. At the time of my visit, I noticed a sign about rangers carrying out checks for unleashed and unregistered dogs.
2. Stroll Along the Strand
Townsville is home to a beautiful stretch of sand close to the city centre, the Strand, running along North Ward. It’s also the only patrolled beach in the area, plus has a rock pool at the northern end.
Not surprisingly, dogs aren’t allowed onto the actual beach, but as long as they stay on a leash, they’re welcome to stroll with you in the park that runs behind the beach. There’s plenty of trees to provide shade, as well as picnic tables and cafes scattered along its length.
Don’t miss going out onto the short jetty about halfway along. Just off the jetty is the Siren sculpture, part of the Museum of Underwater Art, which is best viewed at sunset as it changes colour to show the current water temperature of a nearby reef.
3. Run Free on Pallarenda Beach
While dogs aren’t allowed onto the Strand, there is an off-leash beach not far from the centre of Townsville, where your dog can run free as much as they want.
Head to Pallarenda Beach, on the northern edge of Townsville, past Rowes Bay. Dogs are allowed off-leash in the section between access points 8 and 9. The former access point is just before Emmerson Street.
Be aware that stingers are a risk in Townsville, particularly between November and May, but may be present year round. Additionally, check if there are any signs about recent crocodile sightings, which are also an issue along this stretch of coastline.
I’ve also seen reports that “Secret Beach”, next to South Townsville is dog-friendly, but didn’t have a chance to confirm.
4. Visit the Botanic Gardens
Townsville is home to not just one but three botanic gardens, scattered around the city and each with their own personality.
The largest botanic garden is Anderson Gardens, while the smallest is the historic Queens Gardens, close to the road going up Castle Hill and with beautiful vistas looking up to the peak.
However, my pick of the gardens is the Palmetum, on the southern side of the city, near the main university campus. It’s home to a huge collection of palm trees, one of the largest and most diverse in the world. The Palmetum features a beautiful rainforest section, plus a lagoon surrounded by a savannah zone.
Dogs are allowed in all three botanic gardens, but need to be kept on leash. Our pup particularly loved his walk through the rainforest area of the Palmetum, stopping and sniffing constantly!
5. Explore the Jezzine Barracks Precinct
Kissing Point Fort was built during the early days of Townsville on the outcrop at the northern end of the Strand. For many years the surrounding area, known as the Jezzine Barracks, was defence force land. However, since 2009 the precinct has been returned to public use, except for the Army Museum in the centre.
While dogs are likely not allowed into the museum, they’re welcome to join you in the rest of the precinct on leash. Head up to Kissing Point Fort, which still features two cannons, plus an interesting paving depicting the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Then walk along the Coastal Boardwalk to the start of the Ethno-Botanical Trail, with signs detailing the local bush foods used by the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area, who called the area Garabarra. There’s also some beautiful sculptures scattered along the way.
6. Spot the City Street Art
For more beautiful art in Townsville, head to the streets of the city centre for a huge number of street art murals commissioned by the local council in recent years. Centred around Flinders Street and Stanley Lane, the council have put together this handy map.
The full trail takes about 45-minutes to walk, and as it’s all outside, your dog is welcome to join you, unlike with traditional art exhibits. There’s also an augmented reality app that you can download to enhance your experience – just refer to the map for details.
7. Head to Magnetic Island
One of the most popular tourist spots to visit in Townsville lies just off the coastline: Magnetic Island. Reached by a 20-minute ferry crossing, your dog is welcome to join you in visiting the island, although they are not allowed inside the national park that covers large parts of the island.
There’s two options for making the crossing. Firstly, the Sealink passenger ferry is great if you’re crossing on foot. Alternatively, Magnetic Island Ferries has a car barge, if you’d prefer to take your own vehicle, a more expensive option. Foot passengers are also welcome on board, but the crossing is a little slower.
Dogs are permitted on both ferry options at no additional charge. On the Sealink passenger ferry, your dog will need to stay on the outside deck, and either be leashed and muzzled or travel in a pet carrier. On the car ferry, dogs need to be leashed if you take them out of your car, and are not permitted in the cafe area.
On Magnetic Island, dogs are allowed on most beaches outside of the national park, including Nelly Bay, Geoffrey Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Picnic Bay and West Point beaches, as long as they are on a leash. Dogs are not allowed in the only campground on the island, but there are other dog-friendly accommodation options available if you visit for longer than a day trip.
On our visit to Magnetic Island, we strolled along both Geoffrey Bay and Nelly Bay beaches, the closest two beaches to the ferry terminal. (We didn’t take or hire a vehicle.) The Gabul Way boardwalk to Geoffrey Bay is a beautiful easy walk. We also went swimming at Alma Bay, although dogs are not allowed on this beach.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Townsville
While there’s only one off-leash beach in Townsville, there’s no shortage of off-leash dog parks scattered around the city. Many, if not all, of the parks are fenced, with excellent facilities.
We visit the Murray Paw Park – Off-Leash Dog Park and Rossiter Park Off-Leash Dog Park. Both were fully fenced with double gate entrances, had shade and benches, plus agility equipment, water, poop bags and bins. Murray Paw Park also had a second smaller section for small dogs, with a recommendation for dogs under 8kg or under 35cm high.
For a full listing of dog parks in Townsville, check out the council website.
Dog-Friendly Walks in Townsville
As well as dog parks, there’s plenty of dog-friendly walks available for you to do with your pooch in Townsville, although most of them require your dog to remain on leash.
As I mentioned above, on-leash dogs are permitted on the walking tracks at the Castle Hill Reserve, including the popular Goat Track. Keep in mind that there are plenty of steps on this steep climb! An easier stroll nearby is on the level footpaths along the Strand.
Another longer walking option in Townsville is the Ross River Parkway. Along the majority of both sides of the river leading from the city centre to Thuringowa are cycle-pedestrian paths, with on-leash dogs welcome to join you. The parkway also passes some of the off-leash dog parks in the city, such as Rossiter Park.
Dog-Friendly Dining in Townsville
Many of the open air cafes located along the Strand are dog-friendly, just ask before sitting at a table. One of the most popular options overlooking the sand is Juliette’s Gelateria, which serves both ice creams and hot drinks. On the day I visited, it was quite popular with both dogs and their owners. The nearby Juliette’s is also dog-friendly.
I also noticed while checking out the street art in the city centre that many of the city’s laneways have restaurants with outdoor areas, some of which are likely to be dog-friendly.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Townsville
If you’re staying in a caravan, campervan or tent, there’s plenty of dog-friendly camping options in Townsville, with the majority of the caravan parks in Townsville allowing pets on sites.
The council also permits free camping for a limited number of nights at selected reserves outside of the city, including at Saunders Beach and Balgal Beach. Dogs are permitted at each location except for Lake Paluma. While there is no charge, bookings are required via the council website.
If you’re after motel-style accommodation, there’s a number of motels that have pet-friendly rooms. One of the best options is the Shore Drive Motel, located right on the Strand and close to Jezzine Barracks. They offer pet-friendly budget Queens rooms for a reasonable price.
Alternatively, check out the City Oasis Inn. While this four-star hotel is close to the city centre, as suggested by its name it’s a lovely oasis thanks to its beautiful grounds and gardens. Selected standard rooms have been designated as pet-friendly, all on the ground floor with tiled floors. Pets are welcome to enjoy the lawn and gardens on the far side of the pool, as long as they remain leashed.
Keeping Your Dog Safe Around Townsville
Crocodiles are a risk in the waterways around Townsville, although Magnetic Island is generally crocodile-free.
Check for crocodile warning signs and any signs warning of recent sightings. Only let you dog enter the water in known safe areas, otherwise keep them on a leash and away from the water, especially close to creeks entering beaches. It’s a good idea to check with the locals.
Marine stingers are also a risk at the beaches around Townsville, predominantly between November and May, although they can occur in other months.