Katrina Hahling

My town, birthplace of Wikileaks Editor-in-chief Julian Assange, shares its name with the home of the Powerpuff Girls and is synonymous with humidity. I get odd looks when I mention Townsville – it’s like naming a place Citytown. Don’t fret! Reason prevails as the port on Australia’s north-east coast was named after founder Robert Towns: Towns’ ville – Townsville.

As a resident I never understood why people would holiday in Townsville. There are far more exotic places to visit. Since relocating six years ago Townsville becomes ever more enticing with each return. Ocean, beach, palm trees by the seaside. Rivers, bushland, gum trees inland and infamous sunshine wherever you are. There’s plenty of space and animals abound; kangaroos in your backyard, birdsong your morning alarm.

A 20-minute ferry trip finds you on Magnetic Island, fondly known as “Maggie” by the locals. The small island set Captain Cook’s compasses haywire in 1770. A magnetic effect – hence, Magnetic Island. There’s been no further evidence to support the claims but it’s a beautiful place. A tropical getaway on a quiet island where you can swim in blue ocean, go hiking, visit forts from World War II, see Koala’s in the wild and generally relax. Some 2,000 lucky locals live on the island and those who work or attend school ‘commute’ the 20 minute ferry trip to work daily.

With its fingers in numerous industrial pies, Townsville continued to grow despite the global financial crises. Thanks to solid growth in mining, defence, university, construction and tourism sectors - the population is expected to nearly double by 2016 to 230,000. The growth and influx of people and funds is visible to the naked eye.

The town’s once slumping CBD has seen a turn around with the re-opening of the mall allowing traffic through and restructuring/landscaping to the primary beach ‘The Strand’. Slowly but surely the area has seen an upgrade: renovations, refurbishments and people kicking the suburban dream and relocating to inner-city apartments. The two main restaurant and club strips are busy most nights of the week, with new cafés and restaurants cropping up as demand from hipsters rises.

Sitting on a deck in good company gazing back at the city and its iconic Castle Hill I can see why people holiday here now. Especially from the water’s edge – locally brewed Townsville Bitter in hand, palm trees silhouetted on the fading blue sky – it looks pretty.

Katrina Hahling