CHASE THE SUN
PALM TREES, POOL BARS AND AN ISLAND PARADISE REMOVED FROM TIME – A TRIP TO THE TROPICAL NORTH HAS NEVER LOOKED BETTER
Bougainvillea spills over whitewashed walls framing a fiery sunset. A poolside panorama of striped umbrellas and designer deck chairs flows past palm trees to an azure ocean bristling with masts.
It could be a sun-soaked slice of Europe. Maybe Bali.
It’s Townsville. And it’s not what you’re expecting. While the trip is a first for me, friends who know the city well are surprised by my holiday snaps.
Infused with energy from the recent revamp of benchmark-blitzing property The Ville (by the same owners as playground for the rich and famous Orpheus Island), the North Queensland hub demands a visit — or a revisit.
While endless summer seekers have long flown north, the destination is at its best now, in the milder months. There are plenty of bargains to be had on the accommodation front, but it’s hard to compete with The Ville’s location and all-in-one attractions.
And nothing beats that feeling of a fresh reno, when you’re the first to slide into crisp white sheets or threaten the sanctuary of the spa bath with way too many bubbles. That’s exactly what my roomy resort suite delivers.
Fittingly for a paradise saturated in sunshine 300 days of every year, the pool is the piece de resistance, its infinity-edged waters lapping that postcard view.
Perch at the swim-up Splash Bar or on the sleek semi-submerged white deck chairs and you’ll be set. The cocktails and club sandwiches come to you, or head into one of the excellent on-site eateries.
The airy alfresco-angled Palm House is like a designer kitchen on steroids, combining the customisation of chef-tended stations with the scope of a buffet.
I’m enjoying a sunny breakfast in the restaurant’s palm garden when my racy red ride makes its not-so-subtle entrance.
Nautilus Aviation’s impessive chopper, which touches down in the resort’s “backyard”, is the ultimate way to roll when you’re ready to explore further afield.
We circle the city’s stony sentinel Castle Hill, where athleisure-decked locals defy the heat daily for pinnacle views almost as good as the ones we’re currently enjoying, before making our way over the ombre ocean.
A seagrass buffet grazed by fat dugongs gives way to the brilliant blue-greens fringing Magnetic Island, where tourists go topless in Barbie-pink convertibles on their way to explore the 23 bays and beaches.
With only a day to play, choosing just one spot to spread my towel is tough. Inspired by the black and white photos of bathers splashing in retro suits that line my hotel room, I settle on Alma Bay. It’s easy to believe it hasn’t changed at all.
Chalky granite headlands collide with the clearest of cobalt waters, the screech of sulphur-crested cockatoos and chortle of kookaburras contributing to a uniquely Australian soundtrack.
Stretching out on sun-warmed rocks after
a dip, it’s tempting to take a leaf out of the books of the koalas slumbering in nearby eucalypt nooks. The whole island feels trapped in time, inexorably nudging holidaymakers into its more leisurely timetable.
But napping would mean missing Magnetic’s magic. The fort walk is one of the best to spot koalas, while ridiculously adorable rock wallabies hang out at the Arcadia pier at dusk. Stumble on the butterfly forest at the right time of year to get caught in a cloud of dancing blue tiger butterflies. Long lunches are the only kind served here and a seafood platter on the breezy balcony of Barefoot Art Food Wine fits the bill.
A convenient 20-minute ferry marks my reluctant return to reality and from there it’s just a short stroll to The Ville, or onwards towards Townsville’s famous palm-lined strip The Strand.
I enjoyed the French fusion flavours at Michels Restaurant in town, but my most memorable meal was closer to home. Back on that bougainvillea-draped deck where the dream begins, Miss Songs is a new modern Asian restaurant that would give any in the capitals a run for their money.
To see what I mean, combine the seafood san choi bau and Peking duck pancakes with ringside seats for the signature far North Queensland sunset. The writer was a guest of The Ville