Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive
Alva is a relaxed Burdekin location, 15 minutes drive from Ayr. 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. At low tide Alva Beach makes for excellent exploring, with lots of small crabs, shells and birdlife. Outer sand bars create inshore lagoon areas popular with kite surfers on weekends. The beach is also popular for fishing, with many anglers bringing in decent catches to show off. 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. Alva's Yongala Dive operates a Dive Shop and accommodation, specialising in PADI dive courses, with day trips out to the SS Yongala wreck. This world renowned dive is one of the best on the Great Barrier Reef. Alva Beach Tourist Park has a kiosk. If you're spending the day at Alva, bring a picnic or barbecue lunch to enjoy in the park near the surf club.
At the top of Anzac Park, the Ayr War Memorial takes pride of place. It commemorates those who died in service in various theatres of war including the First and Second World Wars, and Korean and Vietnam Wars. A rotunda is situated nearby. The all-abilities playground in Anzac Park has a variety of playground equipment, and is fully fenced. This is a fantastic place to let the children shake off a car trip, use up some energy, and get some fresh air. Stretch out and watch the kids enjoy themselves. The Sway Fun Swing allows children in wheelchairs to join in the fun. Only one street back from Ayr's main street, there are plenty of nearby meal outlets and cafes. Bring a picnic for the family, or use the sheltered barbecues.
Situated on the north side of the mighty Burdekin River, 85 kilometres south of Townsville, the prosperous rural community of Ayr is the main town in the Burdekin Shire. This is prime sugar country, with about 80,000 hectares of land under sugar cane, and an annual production of about 1.25 million tonnes of raw sugar. The district also contributes one-third of the nation's mango harvest and is a major producer of melons and many other fruit and vegetable varieties. Nearby is Alva Beach, offering miles of unspoilt sandy coastline and is a popular spot for beach fishing, birdwatching and windsurfing. It's also a close launching point for a dive tour to the world famous dive wreck, the 'SS Yongala'. Yongala is Australia’s largest and most intact historic shipwreck and gives you the opportunity to come face to face with the charismatic mega marine life of the world heritage Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Burdekin sits on a vast natural aquifer which is artificially replenished with water from the Burdekin River. A rich network of creeks and mangrove lined estuaries make the area a mecca for fishing and crabbing. The Burdekin is a known hotspot for fighting fish, the barramundi, as well as estuary species such as mangrove jack and trevally. The surrounding wetlands offer excellent birdwatching opportunities, with over 280 species being recorded in the area. This includes the cotton pygmy-goose, which is listed as endangered in New South Wales. The spectacular Burdekin River Bridge is the district's best known landmark and is the longest crossing of its type in the country. Known as the Silver Link, it is the only bridge in Australia built without a firm foothold.
If your interests include machinery or history, make sure you visit the Brandon Heritage Precinct. With plenty on display, the complex is the base of the Burdekin Machine Preservationists. This group of machinery enthusiasts are happy to welcome visitors to view their collection of machinery, tractors and other relevant items of interest. The Brandon Heritage Precinct contains a Workshop area, Steam Shed and Blacksmith Shop and displays a collection of machinery that was used in the Burdekin District. The Burdekin Machine Preservationists have completed their restoration project of a 1910 Marshall C Class Tractor. This tractor, which is on display at the complex, is the only one of its class left in the world. Tours can be taken through the complex on Mondays between 9am and 4pm when the Burdekin Machine Preservationists are in attendance. Suggested entry is gold coin donation. They have a wealth of mechanical knowledge, so feel free to ask lots of questions.
Just one hour's drive south of Townsville is the Burdekin Shire - the sugar capital of Australia, fishing mecca, bird watching paradise and traditional homeland of the Gudjuda Aboriginal people. The Burdekin region is one of the only districts in Australia which still employs the traditional practice of burning cane prior to harvesting. During crushing season, the Burdekin horizon is often lit up by the spectacular sight of these cane fire burns. The widely-renowned Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships are held within the region, giving spectators the opportunity to walk through a paddock of burnt sugarcane, enjoy the food, drinks and activities on offer for the whole family and witness the pure grit and determination as competitors cut through tonnes of burnt sugarcane. The district is made up of the neighbouring towns of Ayr and Home Hill and includes over a dozen other smaller centres. It is as famous for its rich, flat farmlands as it is for its amazing waterways and scenic beauty. The Burdekin maintains a healthy reputation for its friendly residents, great specialty stores and boutique shopping and a laid-back lifestyle. The Burdekin River Bridge, which links Ayr and Home Hill, is the districts best known landmark. Known as the Silver Link, the 1,103 metre crossing is the only bridge in Australia without a solid footing and is longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. An Engineering Heritage National Landmark award was unveiled of the southern side of the bridge in 2010. The district is a well known fishing mecca, with access to barramundi, mud crabs, other estuary species and off-coast reef fishing. The Burdekin is also the closest point to the world famous SS Yongala wreck. Ranked as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, the SS Yongala gives divers first hand encounters with manta rays, bull sharks, turtles and barracudas. If you are seeking a more relaxed experience while in the Burdekin take a swim or relax at Alva Beach.
The Burdekin Diorama provides a shady location to stretch your legs and discover the Burdekin's rich heritage. Easy to stop into, and interesting to find, you'll enjoy the diorama's surrounds. The Burdekin delta sits atop an amazing resource: the aquifer, a ground source of fresh water. Replenished by the Burdekin River, this managed system is explained through maps, photos, diagrams and charts at the Burdekin Diorama. Excellent resources and hard working people are what it takes to make a region prosper. The Burdekin district knows the good fortune of both. Some of the facts and figures are surprising! The local sugar cane industry, with its original hand cane cutters, is important to understanding the area's history and prosperity. The Burdekin Diorama helps get a glimpse into the journey of the Burdekin's sugar cane industry. Five recently installed stainless steel panels shine a further light on people, events and work, which impacted the region's history. You'll find the Burdekin Diorama near Home Hill's Inkerman Sugar Mill, on the southern side of the Burdekin River Bridge. The Burdekin Diorama is just over an hours drive south of Townsville.
The Burdekin River Bridge is the district's best known landmark. Locally known as the Silver Link, it is a road and rail bridge which also has a pedestrian walkway. The bridge makes an excellent subject for architectural photos or a great location for holiday snaps. Taking 10 years to complete, the bridge was opened in 1957. It replaced a low level traffic bridge and a rail bridge. Remnants of the old rail bridge can be seen just downstream from the Burdekin River Bridge. Visitors wanting to experience walking across the Burdekin River Bridge are asked to park near the Burdekin Diorama. This is on the southern side of the bridge. You can then walk along the pedestrian walkway onto the bridge. During the crushing (sugar cane harvesting season) this gives you a good view over the sugar cane bins in the holding yard of the Inkerman Sugar Mill. For more detailed information on the Burdekin River Bridge, see the Burdekin Diorama, or call into the Gateway Visitor Information Centre in Home Hill.
Located in the main street of Ayr - only one hour's drive south of Townsville - sits one of Australia's finest little proscenium arch Theatres. Every year, the Burdekin Theatre plays host to hundreds to live performances, conferences, meetings, festivals, exhibitions and local events. The Burdekin Theatre is undeniably the home of arts and entertainment in the Burdekin.
Constructed by the RAAF in 1943, the No 211 Radar Station on Charlie’s Hill was one of twenty radar installations along the North Queensland coastline. These operated to give an early warning of approaching enemy aircraft during World War II. When visiting this historic site, igloos of reinforced concrete which provided bomb-proof protection for the radar equipment can still be seen. The wooden towers which supported the transmitting and receiving aerials have been removed. However, foundations from various structures near the igloos may still be found. The buildings are listed in the Queensland Heritage Register because of the site’s historical and military significance. Charlie’s Hill is a six minute drive south of Home Hill. Travelling along the Bruce Highway, look for the signs on the left, just after Iyah Creek. Turn onto Charlie’s Hill Road and travel about 1.5 kilometres, until the hill is visible on the right. The access to the hill from the road is an unsealed track. The site is maintained by the Burdekin Shire Council.
Groper Creek is a laidback location, where you can sit back, relax and unwind. You can launch your tinnie from the boat ramp, or fish from the jetty. The area is well known for its fantastic fishing and crabbing. Groper Creek is located towards the mouth of the Burdekin River about 15 kilometres from Home Hill. Head out along Groper Creek Road and you'll travel past sugar cane farms, and through a wetland area full of birds and wildlife. Have a look around the Groper Creek settlement, at the huts built high on stumps. The kiosk and the public phone box are also up high. Bring your camera, as these buildings have their own personality! With the caravan park on the banks of the creek, if you decide to stay longer, check in, set yourself up and enjoy the surroundings.
A popular place in the Burdekin for visitors to take photos is located in Plantation Park, Ayr. The giant carpet snake is an impressive feature, and makes a fantastic backdrop. This 60 metre artwork depicts Gubulla Munda, the Aboriginal totem and the protective spirit for the Birri Gubba people. Gubulla Munda holds sacred cultural and spiritual significance to the Traditional Owners. Also, there are several plaques and a memorial stone. These mark the remains of Birri Gubba ancestors re-interred at this sacred site. The Gudjuda Reference Group commissioned the large sculpture Gubulla Munda Dreaming, which was constructed in 2004. It was painted by aboriginal artists. The monument was created to celebrate and promote indigenous culture.
Situated on the southern side of the Burdekin Bridge (known as the Silver Link) with an economy driven by sugar and agriculture, Home Hill offers landscapes dominated by lush green canefields as well as access to some of North Queensland's finest produce. Start your experience in Home Hill with panoramic views of the regions towns, farmlands, wetlands, waterways and coastline from Inkerman Hill. Take in the pristine beauty provided by nature's greens and blues and enjoy a skyline that seems to go on forever. Other attractions include the historic World War Two radar stations which can be found on Charlies Hill and for a step back in time take a stop at Tom's Toybox to view a private collection of working farm machinery from yesteryear. The township of Home Hill was established in 1913 from land carved out of the Inkerman Downs Station and is located just 12 kilometres south of Ayr. The two towns are linked via the Burdekin Bridge, the districts best known landmark standing at an impressive 1,103m long and larger than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. To walk across the famous landmark, park near the Lion's Diorama at the southern approach to the bridge and head to the pedestrian walkway. While in Home Hill, visit the Ashworth's Tourist Centre to discover murals that depict the district's rural life and view original Islander artworks at Zaro's Cultural Gallery. Visit the Silver Link Interpretive Centre, which opened in 2007 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Burdekin River Bridge. Located in the main street of Home Hill, the centre tells the history of the bridge through more than 120 photographs. The Comfort Stop in the centre of town is a clean, modern facility with free restroom, shower and barbecue. There is ample parking for caravans and motorhomes.
Inkerman Hill, a 10 minute drive south of the township of Home Hill, has recently been upgraded! With funding received through the Queensland Government's Scenic Lookout Upgrade Program, the Burdekin Shire Council is now able to provide their valued visitors a more enjoyable experience. The road up to the lookout has widened and the carpark improved. With a new lookout platform, shelters, toilets, interpretive and directional signage, you must check it out! This has to be put at the top of the to-do list when visiting the region with a walking track for those who wish to stretch their legs and a breathtaking view once you reach the top.
The Old Brandon Church is the place to go if you love historic buildings. Formerly Saint Patrick's Catholic Church, the building is listed on the Registers of both the National Estate and the National Trust of Queensland. This excellent example of a 'carpenter Gothic' church has stood on two sites in Brandon. After severe damage from cyclone Aivu in 1989, it was purchased by the Burdekin Shire Council, and in 1991 moved to its present site. It has been loving restored and is an excellent subject for structural photography. On Mondays, combine your visit to see this beautiful building with a visit to the Burdekin Machinery Preservationist's shed right next door. The Old Brandon Church is an hour's drive south of Townsville, and five minutes north of Ayr.
Yongala Dive is a PADI Dive Resort offering a full range of Dive Courses, Dive Lodge and Day Trips to one of the world's top dive sites- the historic S.S. Yongala Wreck. In 1911 it sank without trace in a tragic cyclonic event. All 122 people on board died and a legend was born. It would be another 50 years before the coral encrusted structure was found and today it is one of the world's most renowned dive sites and an adventure from start to finish. Departing daily from the sleepy village of Alva Beach, only 16 kilometres from Ayr and 90 minutes drive south of Townsville, Yongala Dive will take you on an unique adventure - premier diving with a maximum of 12 people, experienced dive staff, a four wheel drive transfer to the beach and a boat launch by tractor - getting there is half the adventure! To extend your adventure, why not stay a little while longer in their on-site 'Dive Accommodation' just a stones throw from the beach, or join one of the many training courses to further enhance your dive qualifications.