A quirky at­trac­tion

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - NEWS -

WITH a swag of quirky sights and a new cruise ter­mi­nal that prom­ises to bring in tourists from across Aus­tralia and over­seas, Townsville is at last shed­ding its “Brownsville” tag.

The north Queens­land city has long lan­guished in the shadow of Cairns and the Whit­sun­days as both a tourism desti­na­tion in its own right and an en­try point to the at­trac­tions of the trop­i­cal north.

How­ever, with a rapidly grow­ing and mul­ti­cul­tural pop­u­la­tion of 185,000 pre­dicted to reach up to 325,000 in fewer than 20 years, the largest city in north Queens­land is rapidly emerg­ing, with vis­i­tor num­bers up 7 per cent year-on-year.

Townsville’s at­trac­tions in­clude Mag­netic Is­land – 8km off the coast – the Great Bar­rier Reef, a string of world-class beaches and bar­ra­mundi fish­ing in the Bur­dekin or Hinch­in­brook rivers.

It also plays host to the wreck of the SS Yon­gala, rated one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, while, head­ing in­land, it is a gate­way to the old gold­min­ing towns of Char­ters Tow­ers and Ravenswood.

De­spite th­ese at­trac­tions, Tourism & Events Townsville En­ter­prise gen­eral man­ager Pa­tri­cia O’Cal­laghan said Townsville has suf­fered from a rep­u­ta­tion as a bor­ing place – earn­ing it the un­wanted nick­name “Brownsville”.

“Peo­ple’s per­cep­tion was that tum­ble­weed rolled down the street and we all went about in a horse and cart,” she said.

“But when peo­ple come up here, they can see that it’s a grow­ing, cos­mopoli­tan city.”

To­tal tourist ex­pen­di­ture reached $100 mil­lion last year, while sev­eral re­cent mile­stones have helped the city find to its groove. Chief among them was the open­ing of a new $85 mil­lion cruise ter­mi­nal last year, while the growth of fly-in, fly-out min­ing work­ers and the num­ber of de­fence per­son­nel based in Townsville have en­sured the city’s econ­omy keeps on tick­ing over.

“We’ve in­vested in at­trac­tions and a re­vamp of the Es­planade here in town,” O’Cal­laghan said. “It’s just a mat­ter of get­ting visi­tors here.”

Rather than fight Cairns and the Whit­sun­days for the tourist dol­lar, Townsville has sought to cap­i­talise on their en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity by of­fer­ing visi­tors a re­laxed, quirky al­ter­na­tive where they can spend a few days.

“We want peo­ple to go to Cairns, but we say make time to add a few days here,” O’Cal­laghan said.

It is th­ese at­trac­tions, and the life­style that goes with them, that per­suaded coun­try mu­sic star Adam Brand to re­lo­cate to Townsville from the Gold Coast in Jan­uary af­ter play­ing a gig in the city.

“It’s a re­ally beau­ti­ful life­style,” he said. “You can sit right on the edge of the wa­ter in two plas­tic chairs and look straight at Mag­netic Is­land with a cof­fee and a ge­lato.

“It looks like some­thing out of the Mal­dives.”

Brand, one of Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful record­ing artists, is open­ing a new restau­rant in mid-Fe­bru­ary, which he will man­age in be­tween tour­ing. He said he is bank­ing on the city’s con­tin­u­ing de­vel­op­ment to un­der­pin the ven­ture, named Brandy’s, which will of­fer a mix of wood­fired pizza, pasta, ta­pas, paella and his own brand of cof­fee in an in­for­mal set­ting.

“My mu­sic and what I do on stage, it’s just very real, very down to earth and ac­ces­si­ble,” he said. “The restau­rant will be an ex­ten­sion of that.”

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