POLL: Wollongong happiest place in Australia

Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country

Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country

Smile - you live in the happiest city in Australia.

Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country, in a mammoth image processing study using photos uploaded to photo sharing service Instagram.

Jetpac, a San Francisco-based smartphone app, uses publicly-uploaded Instagram photos to create city guides showing the most popular aspects of a town, from "best views" to "most popular restaurant". The company announced yesterday that, after running a long series of image processing on 100 million images uploaded by Australians, photos from Wollongong residents were the happiest and most smile-filled of anywhere in the country.

"Finding the Happiest City in Australia took doing image processing … to count and size the smiles on people's faces from all the cities in Australia," reads the release on Jetpac's website.

"From counting the pixels, we were able to come up with a Smile Score for each city."

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

In the 'Smile Score,' a ranking of smile size in photos, Wollongong ranks 43.4, followed by Townsville on 40.1 and Canberra in third on 35. No doubt many will be happy that the area pipped Newcastle (34.9), the Gold Coast (28.4) and even Sydney, which placed 13th on 24.9.

Jetpac creates city guides on a multitude of topics from 'happiest places' to 'hipster hangouts', 'best views' to 'places men visit', with data on 5000 cities across the world.

The app uses software to identify and rank certain parts of a public photo on Instagram, from big smiles (making up the happiest places guide) to moustaches (which influence the hipster hangouts list).

Breaking down the Wollongong guides further reveals some surprising trends.

The happiest places in the Illawarra, based on smiles, include Hotel Illawarra, The Little Prince and Wollongong train station; the most photographed restaurants are Amigos, Harbourfront and Roppongi; and His Boy Elroy takes top place on the nightlife spots ranking.

The "top places for men" and "top places for women" lists, however, are perhaps the most surprising; Wollongong train station and Flagstaff Hill are the most popular spots for men to shoot Instagram pics, while women seem to upload the most photos of Chef's Choice and Marco's restaurants.

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Social media salute leaves residents amused and bemused

Wollongong residents responded to news of the ranking as Australia’s happiest city with excitement, joy and a touch of confusion.

“We were delighted to see Wollongong emerge as number one,” said Mark Sleigh, general manager of Destination Wollongong. 

“It shows us that our residents and visitors are digitally savvy and love sharing their favourite Wollongong moments via social media.”

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery echoed Mr Sleigh’s comments, saying it was a reflection of the region’s natural beauty and its people.

“We live in a fantastic part of the world, and it shows there are lots of happy people here,” he said.

“There is often a lot of negativity, but this is a positive message saying there is a lot to smile about.”

Katie McKenzie is the owner of The Little Prince, one of the region’s most popular bars. She was quite taken aback when the Illawarra Mercury told her the bar had been named happiest place in Wollongong.

“It is a happy place for us to work, and hopefully that feeling rubs off on customers.”

The rankings are based on volume of photos uploaded to Instagram, and Ms McKenzie said many customers whipped out phones to take group pictures or snap a shot of their drinks.

“Yes there are always a lot of people taking photos. We make pretty cocktails,’’ she laughed.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old tradesman Hanschen Stevenson said he was a bit puzzled at Wollongong train station being named the most popular spot for men.

Sitting on the platform awaiting a train home yesterday afternoon, he said there were many places he would rather be.

“I don’t think I’ve ever taken a photo at the train station,” he said.

 ‘‘I’d rather be at the beach or a nightclub.”