Reef HQ Townsville: How to See the Great Barrier Reef Without Getting Wet

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One of the best things to do in Townsville is to visit to Reef HQ Aquarium, home to a variety of Great Barrier Reef marine life, coral reef exhibits and a turtle hospital.

I’ve been to quite a few aquariums before, including large impressive ones in capital cities, but I found Reef HQ Townsville more enjoyable than the others.

The underwater viewing tunnel through the middle of the predator exhibit is definitely a highlight that most people want to see first. It feels like you’re walking along the bottom of the ocean floor and we found ourselves mesmerised by the sharks, turtles, sawfish and giant trevally swimming overhead.
clownfish at reef hq townsville
The other great feature of this aquarium is the giant coral reef exhibit. It’s huge, the size of an Olympic swimming pool, with an enormous range of fish and coral species unique to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also unique in that it doesn’t have a cover so it’s open to the weather elements just like a natural reef.

We wandered around the various exhibits amazed by the sheer diversity of marine life. We watched glow-in-the-dark fish, lion fish, crown of thorns starfish, stone fish, stingrays, colourful and textured starfish, sea snakes, sharks, baby saltwater crocodiles and lots more.

Marine Education

Facilities like Reef HQ Townsville are vital for educating people about the importance of the Great Barrier Reef and marine conservation.

sea cucumberWe learned about seahorses and how the males carry the eggs and give birth. We also discovered that Finding Nemo got it all wrong because all clownfish are born male and then many become females later. And we learned about which creatures only have one hole to eat and poo out of. Who knew?!

The Discovery Centre also allows you to touch various marine creatures under the guidance of an aquarium expert, which is great if you’ve got kids tagging along.

Turtle Hospital

Make sure you also go along on a guided tour of the Turtle Hospital. The day we went the centre was running at full capacity with 10 turtles utilising all the tanks.
reef hq townsville turtle hospital
They were being treated for a variety of conditions including floating syndrome and injuries caused by boats, crocodiles and sharks.

Once the turtles have been rehabilitated they are released back into the ocean, primarily to the location where they were originally found. The Turtle Hospital runs tours and educational talks a couple of times a day and is definitely worth the visit.

travel nq fast facts:


  • The Reef HQ Townsville Aquarium is the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium
  •   The Turtle Hospital has released 36 rehabilitated turtles back into the wild since the hospital opened in 2009
  •   Membership gives unlimited entry for a whole year to the aquarium
  •   Located at 2-68 Flinders Street, Townsville, www.reefHQ.com.au or call (07) 4750-0800

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