Ayr is a regional town in the centre of North Queensland's sugar cane belt.
Where is it?: Queensland: Far North. Ayr 1287 km north of Brisbane; 88 km south-west of Townsville on the Bruce Highway and 12km away from the smaller town of Home Hill.
Burdekin Shire produces the most sugar cane per square kilometre in Australia utilising underground water supplies and water from the Burdekin Dam to irrigate crops when rains fail. The Burdekin sits on a vast natural aquifer which is artificially replenished with water from the Burdekin River. The area boasts more than 300 days of sunshine each year. Winter temperatures rarely drop below 11 degrees; a truly winterless destination. A rich network of creeks and mangrove-lined estuaries make the area a mecca for fishing and crabbing. The Burdekin is a known hot spot for the prized fighting fish, the barramundi, as well as estuary species such as mangrove jack and trevally.
Alva BeachNearby Alva Beach (16km) offers miles of unspoilt, sandy coastline and is a popular spot for beach fishing, birdwatching and windsurfing. It is also a close launching point for a dive tour to the world-famous dive wreck, the SS Yongala. Holiday houses and permanent residences fill the township, with Alva Beach a short stroll over the sand dune. A lookout area is located to the right as you enter the township.
On weekends during summer, the beach is patrolled by members of the Ayr Surf Life Saving Club. Located here since 1926, the club is one of North Queensland's oldest surf clubs. Care needs to be taken if swimming, due to changeable conditions and marine stingers.
Magnetic IslandThe mountainous Magnetic Island, just offshore from Townsville in Cleveland Bay, has long become established as a holiday destination with many hotels and several resorts in operation to cater for all levels of service. The locals like it so much it has effectively become a suburb of Townsville, with 2,107 permanent residents, but don't let that put you of from visiting, either for a day trip or longer.
Bowling Green Bay National ParkBowling Green Bay National Park (24km north) is the region's largest coastal park. Its coastal plains are dramatically set against a backdrop of rugged granite mountains rising abruptly in the distance. In this section of the park, Alligator Creek flows between two rocky mountain groups - Mount Elliot and Saddle Mountain.
Billabong SanctuaryBillabong Sanctuary and theme park is the only tourist attraction in the Ingham area to be nationally accredited by the Eco tourism Association of Australia and one of the only two attractions in the Townsville - Whitsundays area to receive accreditation. The sanctuary's facilities include hands on exhibits for the children, a swimming pool, conducted tours of the animals, nocturnal walks, and extensive picnic and barbecue facilities. The Sanctuary is dedicated to effective conservation of Australia's native animals through display, interpretation and education. It also reproduces some of Australia's major habitats; eucalyptus forest, rainforest and wetlands in a single location.
Home HillThe sugar town of Home Hill, which services the surrounding agricultural district, is noted for its seemingly endless main street. Home Hill is located on land that was part of the Inkerman Downs cattle station. The station was converted to sugar cane in 1911. The Inkerman sugar mill was opened in 1914 and its workers lived in what grew into the town of Home Hill. Rice was first grown in the area in 1968 and production has now reached such a level that it is sold throughout Australia and exported to the South Pacific and South East Asia. Home Hill is said to be named in 1911 by Surveyor-General - it was originally going to be named 'Inkerman', after the Inkerman Downs Cattle Station at the locality. However, so the story goes, the sign writer couldn't spell and the town became known as Home Hill.
The well preserved buildings of 211 Radar Station at Charlie's Hill, near Home Hill, are listed in the Queensland Heritage Register for their historical and military significance. The location gives extensive views over the surrounding countryside.
The Burdekin River was explored in the 1840s but not settled by Europeans until the 1860s and only then, in its upper reaches as the coast was marshy. The lower Burdekin was settled in the 1870s by R. W. Graham of Lilliesmere and A. C. Macmillan, who began growing sugar cane. The settlement which grew on the north side of the river was Ayr. The town was named around 1888 after the Scottish town of Ayr, the birthplace of Sir Thomas McIlwraith (1835-1900), Queensland Premier 1879-83, 1888, 1893.