Townsville is on the north-eastern coast of Queensland, adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, it is in the dry tropics region of Queensland. Considered the unofficial capital of North Queensland, Townsville hosts a significant number of governmental, community and major business administrative offices for the northern half of the state.
Popular attractions include "The Strand", a long tropical beach and garden strip; Riverway, a riverfront parkland attraction located on the banks of Ross River; Reef HQ, a large tropical aquarium holding many of the Great Barrier Reef's native flora and fauna; the Museum of Tropical Queensland, built around a display of relics from the sunken British warship HMS Pandora; The Townsville Sports Reserve" and Magnetic Island, a large neighbouring island, the vast majority of which is national park.
Such indigenous groups as the Wulgurukaba, Bindal, Girrugubba, Warakamai and Nawagi, among others, originally inhabited the Townsville area. The Wulgurukaba claim to be the traditional owner of the Townsville city area.
James Cook visited the Townsville region on his first voyage to Australia in 1770, but did not actually land there. Cook named nearby Cape Cleveland, Cleveland Bay, and Magnetic Island. In 1819, Captain Phillip Parker King and botanist Alan Cunningham were the first Europeans to record a local landing. In 1846, James Morrill was shipwrecked from the Peruvian, living in the Townsville area among the Bindal people for 17 years before being found by white men and returned to Brisbane.
Townsville lies approximately 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) north of Brisbane, and 350 kilometres (220 miles) south of Cairns, on the shores of Cleveland Bay, protected to some degree from the predominantly south-east weather. Cleveland Bay is mostly shallow inshore, with several large beaches and continually shifting sand bars. Magnetic Island lies 8 km offshore, to the north of the city centre.
The Ross River flows through the city and three weirs, fish stocking and dredging of the river in these reaches has resulted in a deep, stable and clean waterway used for many recreational activities.
The historic waterfront on Ross Creek, site of the original wharves and port facilities, has some old buildings mixed with the later modern skyline. However, the central city is dominated by the mass of red granite called Castle Hill, 292 metres (958 ft) metres high. There is a lookout at the summit giving panoramic views of the city and its suburbs, including Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island.
Townsville has a tropical climate. Owing to a quirk of its geographical location, Townsville's winter rainfall in particular is not as high as elsewhere in the tropics such as Cairns. The winter months are dominated by southeast trade winds and mostly fine weather. Townsville however lies on a section of coastline that turns east/west, so the lifting effect is not present. As a result, winter months are dominated by blue skies, warm days and cool nights, although at times significant rainfall may occur.