Move Over, Paris — Is Townsville the Most Romantic City on Earth?

On June 2, I was 30,000 feet in the air with two questions rattling around in my noggin. Question one: Should I have my honeymoon before my wedding? Question two: Is Townsville the most romantic joint on this Earth?

Fortunately, though, I wasn’t going to wait long to get a crack at answering these Qs. ‘Cause my fiancée Izy was rattling near me, and our flight was almost over. We were travelling from NSW to Queensland to dive into all of the romance that Townsville could possibly offer. 

Townsville is a tropical city at the top of the Sunshine State. It’s known for its warm weather, superb vistas, and being home to many a Cowboys fan. However, it’s not known for being a honeymoon hotspot, and the city wants to change that.

Townsville’s Ross Creek
Image: Joel Burrows

The seat belt sign switched on. I buckled up my belt.

As the plane hit the tarmac in Townsville, a rush of excitement filled my belly. I had no idea what adventures were in store for Izy and myself. But I was so stoked to embrace the unknown.

Here’s my review of our Townsville honeymoon bonanza. 

Townsville: First Thoughts

Folks, I really don’t want to experience a proper winter this year. It rained too much in 2022. I want to feast on more swims and wet vibes.

This is why Izy and I sighed when we stepped off our plane. For a while, it was officially the second day of winter; it wasn’t winter in Townsville. The sun was shining, the temp was 28C, and I felt compelled to bin all of my coats.   

Townsville’s ANZAC Memorial Park
Image: Joel Burrows

If you’re someone who loathes miserable weather, then going to Townsville’s a must.

After Izy and I picked up our bags, we bantered with our taxi driver on the way to the Hotel Grand Chancellor. We then had a cheeky rest and got prepped for our first proper activity.

Overall, our first impressions of Townsville were mint.

Big Mama Sailing

Is there anything more romantic than drinking champagne on a yacht? Yes. It’s drinking champagne on a yacht with your Tarantino toes on display. Which, fortunately, Big Mama Sailing allows.

Big Mama Sailing’s Ragamuffin 111
Image: Joel Burrows

On a stunning Friday arvo, Izy and I set sail on the Big Mama, an 18m yacht that was built in North Queensland. And what followed was nothing short of divine. Each direction starred a rad vista. The waves melted into the sky, and the clouds melted into the mountains.

Big Mama Sailing’s champagne
Image: Joel Burrows

Better yet, there was a sea dog called Coco. This little dude was so chill and the only chihuahua I’ve ever respected. She just lay with Izy and I as we enjoyed our sunset charcuterie board.

Big Mama Sailing’s Coco and I
Image: Joel Burrows

Big Mama Sailing is run by Lisa Sampson. Lisa was a wonderful host who gave us some mint Townsville tips and complimented my Vegemite hat. But be warned; she will give you a playful hit if you tell her you have Barbecue Shapes every breakfast.

Big Mama Sailing sunset
Image: Joel Burrows

Bridgewater Q

Disclaimer: I have no idea what Bridgewater’s Q stands for. However, I do know one thing. I know that their dinner’s delicious. 

When Izy and I first walked into Bridgewater Q, we were amazed at their exquisite customer service. The staff were super attentive, knew how to bant, and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Bridgewater’s impressive selection of wines. They also helped us choose a starter and some mains.

As a starter, Izy and I shared a bowl of duck and kimchi wontons. The smokiness of the duck fused with the brightness of the kimchi in such an astounding way. What’s more, the wonton dough was perfectly cooked. These bad boys got my pallet hyped for our mains.

Bridgewater Q’s kimchi wontons
Image: Joel Burrows

For her main course, Izy got Bridgewater Q’s chilli chicken. Each bite of the dish was an explosion of citrus, spice, and juiced-up flavour. This dish also featured some charred wombok and crisped bok choy.

Bridgewater Q’s chilli chicken
Image: Joel Burrows

Meanwhile, I got the spaghetti nero. Now, if you don’t know what spaghetti nero is, it’s pasta that uses squid ink as an ingredient. This squid ink gives the pasta a rich and briny taste.

Bridgewater Q’s spaghetti nero
Image: Joel Burrows

While the pasta slayed, it wasn’t the best part of this dish. All my attention was grabbed by the fresh octopus and some chungus prawns overflowing on the plate. No joke, the octopus’ umami texture was a highlight of my whole trip.

Day Two: Yunbenun

After a stellar rest at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Izy and I were off once again. We were heading to Yunbenun, a tranquil island just off the coast of Townsville. 

Image: Joel Burrows

Yunbenun is the Wulguru name for Queensland’s Magnetic Island. This joint was renamed by the infamous Captain James Cook, who thought that it had a magnetic pull that interfered with his compass. 

However, Cook was wrong. Yunbenun is not made from magnets. To this day, no one knows what was off with Cooks’ tools.

Instead, Yunbenun is made of romantic beaches, stunning walks, and unreal panoramas. When Izy and I stepped off the ferry, which took a spry 20 minutes, we were hyped to learn more and explore the unexpected.

Yunbenun vista
Image: Joel Burrows

Forts Walk

The Forts Walk is a bush trek that takes you across the heights of Yunbenun. It’s scattered with World War II equipment and koalas hiding in the trees. In fact, Yunbenun is home to Northern Australia’s largest colony of wild koalas.

When Izy and I did the Forts Walk, we were lucky enough to meet two of these little dudes. Both our koalas were zoinked, snuggly, and softer than they appear in the photos. 

Yunbenun koala
Image: Joel Burrows

Trust me; you need to bask in the glory of a wild koala. Their presence can’t be captured in pics.

Another Yunbenun koala
Image: Joel Burrows

Horseshoe Bay Fish and Chips

Sometimes romance is simple. Sometimes chocolate truffled strawberries aren’t better than standard strawberries. Sometimes, “I love you,” is having fish and chips on the beach.

Which brings us to Horseshoe Bay Fish and Chips. This place is now in my top three fish joints. My fillet was buck wild fresh, and the batter slapped my entire bod. Every chip had a perfect crunch, the perfect texture, and the perfect amount of salt. Even the potato scallops deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.

Horseshoe Bay Fish and Chips
Image: Joel Burrows

I give Horseshoe Bay Fish and Chips a solid A+.

Alma Bay

During a taxi ride on Yunbenun, our driver recommended that we splash around at Alma Bay. He said that it was the best beach on the entire island. 

In retrospect, I wish that this taxi driver and I had a chance to share an embrace. ‘Cause Alma Bay was phenomenal. Two stunning contours of rocks cradle a whispering bay. Better yet, the water wasn’t Sydney freezing. The swim that Izy and I had refuelled both of our souls. 

At the end of this paddle, I felt so inspired that I wrote the following poem. Enjoy.


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A post shared by Joel Burrows (@joel_writes_words)

Cactus Jack’s

As the sun descended, Izy and I left the beauties of Yunbenun behind us. Our hearts were full, and our stomachs now empty. On the ride back to Townsville, we agreed that we needed some comfort food. 

One gentle stroll later, we found ourselves at Cactus Jack’s restaurant. Cactus Jack is a joint that specialises in Tex Mex, a type of cuisine that’s often mid in Australia. However, this place was anything but average. The dishes we shared blew our pallets away. 

As an entree, Izy and I scored some southern fried chicken crispers. The seasoning on these sizzled, and the chicken wasn’t overly fatty. These chums disappeared from our plates within seconds.

Cactus Jack's southern fried chicken crispers
Image: Joel Burrows

Then, as a main, we shared some lit chimichangas. The fried tortillas were fire, and the Corona braised beef was even better. Every bite was a crunchy yet tender delight.

Cactus Jack's chimichangas
Image: Joel Burrows

If you want some great Tex Mex in Australia, then Cactus Jack’s a great bet.

Snuggles at the Hotel Grand Chancellor

After a long day of koalas, swimming, and food, Izy and I headed back to our hotel. What followed was something salacious yet entirely predictable.

A Hotel Grand Chancellor room
Image: Joel Burrows

That’s right; we cuddled in bed, bingeing YouTube.

Day Three: Final Thoughts From Hoi Polloi

It was around 8.00 am when Izy and I rolled off our bed and into the streets of Townsville. We were then greeted by the bustle of the Sunday markets, a bright aqua sky, and some immaculate vibes.  

However, both of us needed to wake up, so we marched straight over to Hoi Polloi Cafe. Hoi Polloi is a joint known for its caffeine game, and they didn’t disappoint. 

Once we got to this place, I ordered their cold brew. It was floral and fresh. The beans were off the charts. This coffee resurrected my mortal coil and then some. 

Hoi Polloi’s cold brew
Image: Joel Burrows

Meanwhile, Izy got a classic soy cappuccino. After taking just one sip, we shared a grin of delight. 

Hoi Polloi’s soy cappuccino
Image: Joel Burrows

We then talked about our getaway over Battleship as some board games were vibing on our table. Izy said her favourite part of the trip was swimming at Yunbenun. I told Izy I loved her. She then sank my last ship.

Hoi Polloi’s Battleship
Image: Joel Burrows

Afterwards, we got on a plane. We were soon back in a winter-drenched Sydney.

So, with all of this in mind, should you have your honeymoon before your wedding? Is Townsville the most romantic city on Earth? 

Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. But Izy and I had a bloody great time.

Townsville, thank you for your hospitality. I award you a 10/10.

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