For beginner bubblers, the sheltered waters and fringing reefs of Magnetic Island are a good bet, as is the further-out Lodestone Reef, a shallow, white-sanded spot teeming with rays, clownfish and (harmless) reef sharks.
Adrenalin Dive (adrenalindive. com.au) offers Yongala dives (from $264) and liveaboards (from $895), as well as day trips to Lodestone (from $309, including intro dive).
SHOPPING Though the climate makes no strenuous demands on one’s wardrobe – sandals, sundresses and shorts will do nicely – Townsville boasts a sophisticated, sartorial shopping scene.
Boutiques, pop-up shops and cafes line Gregory Street, just off The Strand; make a beeline to Bille & Me (billieandme.com.au) for tropical kaftans, or check out the designer duds, jewellery and offbeat homewares at Urban Loft (facebook.com/urban.loft.3) and The Home Room (facebook.com/ thehomeroom).
The Flinders Street precinct, a short stroll southwards, is lined with indie retailers and specialty stores; seek out the Strand Emporium (strandemporium. com.au) for upmarket boho threads, rifle the racks of cool couture at One Designer Clothing Culture (oneclothingculture. com.au) or hit Batik Bazar for Hawaiian shirts, floaty dresses and hippy duds. For one-off finds, time your visit with the Label Traders Market (facebook.com/ labeltraderstownsville), a vintageonly bazaar held the third Sunday of each month. Other popular places for a rummage include Cotters Markets (every Sunday) and Strand Night Markets (first Friday of the month). Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Townsville twice a week, commencing March 31. See airniugini.com.pg.