I had a hard time finding information from fellow travellers about things to do in Ayr (Queensland in Australia – not the Scottish town) when I planned our trip to the Townsville region. We spent a couple of days in the nearby Alva Beach with the objective to dive the SS Yongala wreck. But the dive finishes at 2 pm.
So, are there places we should check out in the afternoon? And what to do in Ayr if the dives get cancelled? I wrote the article I wish I found when I was looking for things to do in Ayr (Qld).
The distance from Townsville to Ayr makes it tempting to focus on things to do in Townsville rather than staying in Ayr. Indeed, it’s less than 90km and it takes less than one hour to drive from Townsville to Ayr. But I’m glad we chose to explore the Ayr region rather than going back to Townsville: the experience is entirely different, and it was perfect to chill out after our dives.
Ayr is in the Shire of Burdekin, known to be the sugar capital of Australia. We always comment on how boring the sugar cane fields look when we’re driving anywhere north of the Sunshine Coast: they form a wall following the road and you cannot see anything else. So I was happy to discover that there are a lot more things to see in Ayr than just sugar cane fields. It may not be as excited as the nearby Townsville and Magnetic Island in the north, and the Whitsundays in the south, but we enjoyed the short break we had around the Burdekin region.
In the end, we found many activities in Ayr and the nearby region and we were too tired to try them all.
If you’ve been to Ayr and Alva Beach, please leave your feedback in the comments to make this list of things to do in Ayr even better!
Please be aware that you are in the croc country
Potentially dangerous crocodiles are present in North Queensland waterways. Always take precautions near the creeks (even in fresh water), where swimming is not recommended, and don’t ignore the warning signs.
1. Scuba diving the SS Yongala wreck
The SS Yongala Dive is what brought us to the area and made me look for activities in Ayr. It’s one of the world’s best wreck dives, and one of the best scuba diving spots in Australia and on the Great Barrier Reef. The abundance of marine life at the wreck is mindblowing. It’s not only a must-do in Ayr, but it’s also a must-do in Australia.
The closest place to launch a boat to reach the wreck is from Alva Beach, 15 km away from Ayr.
Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.
2. Alva Beach
When you enter the town, there is a lookout to the right. From there, you’ll quickly realise Alva Beach has all the clichés of an Australian beach, with some great bonuses.
The landscape at Alva Beach dramatically changes from high tide to low tide, so you’ll have fun exploring it twice in a row. At low tide, the beach is a great place to watch the numerous crabs spread on the sandbanks. And have a look at the salt pans behind the beach when the ocean goes down.
It’s also beautiful at sunset, and one of the best places to be to watch the full moon rise.
If you go for a dip, keep in mind that it is recommended to wear a suit during the stinger season from October to May.
Many thanks to Josh / The Great Escapes for allowing me to feature his photos.
3. Kitesurfing or Stand Up Paddle Boarding
The inshore lagoon created by the outer sandbars on Alva Beach is a reputed spot for kitesurfing. I don’t know enough about kitesurfing to comment, but it’s described as “a location that has it all”. However, it’s not suitable for beginners because of the strong current.
The lagoons of Alva Beach are great for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). The closest place to rent a SUP is in Townsville.
Many thanks to Marvin / In The Loop Australia for allowing me to feature his photo.
Considering the number of boat ramp signs we saw in the countryside of Ayr, and the number of cars parked nearby, I wasn’t too surprised to find out that Burdekin District has one of the highest rates of boat ownership per head of population.
Fishing seems to be one of the most popular things to do in Ayr. You can try Ocean Creek, Plantation Creek or Groper Greek near the river. Alternatively, Alva Beach is a great spot for beach fishing.
If you’re travelling in the region without equipment, you may want to join a fishing tour. Try contacting Giru Fishing Tours on 0407 307 661, half an hour away from Ayr.
The Ayr region is full of beautiful wetlands. I love wetlands: they create amazing photo opportunities with all the contrasting colours. And the more you look, the more things you see.
The wetlands just behind Alva Beach look fantastic, and you’ll have the opportunity to see even more of them as you drive in the countryside not far from the rivers.
6. Bird Watching
If you’re not a scuba diver and not a fisherman, then bird watching may be the best thing to do in Ayr for you. Just by driving around the countryside, we saw a lot of different bird species in the fields or flying above us, including impressive birds of prey.
Bird lovers will want to stop at the Horseshoe Lagoon Reserve, 30km away from Ayr, on the road from Townsville to Ayr.
7. Burdekin River Bank
It took us a couple of attempts to find a lovely spot with great views of the Burdekin River, but the drive in the countryside was lovely. We found a potentially good place on Google Map that led us to a car park at the end of Sandhill Road on Rita Island. And it was exactly what we were looking for. As the sun was setting behind us, the moon rose near the hills on the horizon. There was a tree in the carpark that was perfect to trick our eyes into seeing the moon bigger.
The Burdekin River and most waterways in the area appear brown due to the soil. However, it appeared slightly pink to me. Maybe was it due to the magic hour colours as we were there at sunset? Anyway, it was beautiful!
8. The Burdekin Bridge
The Burdekin Bridge is less than 10km away from Ayr, to the south. Longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Burdekin Bridge is called the Silver Link: it is a crucial connector during floods. Before the bridge, when the Burdekin River came up during the wet season, the Bruce Highway was closed, and people were stuck on each side.
Those interested in bridges will be surprised to find out that the 1-kilometre bridge does not have firm rock foundations: it is built on sand. They sunk massive concrete caissons 30m deep into the river sandbanks to sustain the bridge, which was not an easy exercise with the scuba diving equipment from the mid-20th century. The Silver Link has been recognised as a National Engineering Heritage Landmark.
I wouldn’t put it on the list of the most beautiful bridges, but it certainly has an interesting story.
9. Mount Inkerman Lookout
Less than 20km from the Burdekin Bridge, and less than half an hour from Ayr, Mount Inkerman Lookout offers extensive views of all the Burdekin region.
10. Alligator Creek, Bowling Green Bay National Park
If you’re looking for hiking activities near Ayr, have a look at the Bowling Green Bay National Park. It’s a 45-minute drive from Ayr, on the road from Townsville to Ayr. You’ll find short easy hikes (Mount Elliot boardwalk – 200m return, Alligator Creek lookout – 1km return) and more challenging ones (Cockatoo Creek – 3km return, Alligator Falls – 17km return).
Always keep in mind crocodiles inhabit the area and water levels can rise rapidly.
Bonus in September: The Burdekin Water Festival
Ayr gets very busy every year for the Burdekin Water Festival. Local entertainers, guest artists and a big parade transform the place into a big party.
Check out their Facebook page for the latest information: https://www.facebook.com/BurdekinWaterFestival/
Where to stay in Ayr (Qld)?
As we were diving the next morning, it was very convenient for us to sleep at the dive shop in Alva Beach, 15km away from Ayr. I found Alva Beach is a lovely place to stay when visiting Ayr as there are many things to do nearby. The Alva Beach Tourist Park (click here for more info*) is a great choice for accommodation in the area: you’ll find all you need in their mobile home. We met a few divers who were staying there, and they were pleased with it.
If you prefer to stay in Ayr, you’ll find a few motels to choose from (click here to view*).
If you visit Ayr on a day trip from Townsville, you’ll find more hotels up there. For those on a budget, I recommend the Civic Guesthouse (click here for more info*). It’s very simple but it has all you need for a good night at a reasonable price.
What are the best things to do in Ayr (Qld) according to you? Please share your tips in the comments below!
Where is Ayr (Qld)?
Ayr is located in Northern Queensland, 90km south of Townsville. You can drive from Townsville to Ayr in just one hour. If you’re coming from the south, it takes around 2.5 hrs to drive from Airlie Beach to Ayr.