Ayr is a sizeable regional town in the centre of North Queensland's sugar cane belt.

Where is it?: 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.

Lookouts: 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.

Things to see and do:

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. Nearby Alva Beach (24km north) 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.

Surrounding area

The 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.

Cape Bowling Green: Bowling 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 Sanctuary and theme park (67 km north west) 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. Location: Bruce Highway, Nome.

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About Ayr

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.

Brief history

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.

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