The Burdekin region is located in the dry tropics of northern Queensland and was named by Ludwig Leichhardt after the woman who financed his expedition – Mary Burdekin. The region considers itself to be the sugar capital of Australia, as it is the largest sugar producing region in Australia and one of the most productive areas in the world. The 1.3 million tonnes of raw sugar produced by the Burdekin district each season is about one quarter of Australia’s total sugar production. However, they may have to fight for the title of sugar capital, as Mackay fancies itself to be the epicentre.
The main towns in the area are Ayr and Home Hill, and they are separated by the Burdekin River. The Burdekin Bridge that spans the wide river was constructed in 1957 to replace the original low-level bridge that was impassable for much of the wet season because the river can rise by 11 metres. Also known as the Silver Link, the Burdekin Bridge was constructed over a decade and is 1,103 metres long, making it longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
A popular community event celebrated in the Burdekin Shire is Toad Day Out, which occurs annually on the 29th of March. It aims to reduce the spread of the dreaded cane toad, an introduced species that is wreaking havoc on our environment. Toads that are captured are humanely destroyed, with prizes for the heaviest toad and the biggest catch.
The big brother of the two towns, Ayr was named after a Scottish town and was established in 1883. The main street of town is fitted with speakers that seem to emit the sounds of the local radio station. The Queens Hotel in the centre of town offers super cheap meals ($6.90 crumbed steak on Thursdays) and there’s a lovely fountain sculpture outside the Burdekin Theatre.
Near the information centre is Plantation Park, home to a giant carpet python named Gubullamunda. It’s 60 metres long and was constructed in 2004 to promote indigenous culture.
About 10km south of Ayr on the other side of the Burdekin River is Home Hill. This little town was established in the early 1900s and was originally called Holme Hilll after a battle in the Crimean War. Unfortunately, the signwriter wasn’t told how to spell Holme Hill and created a sign that read, ‘Welcome to Home Hill’. Also, the town is not built on a hill… the closest hill is 10km away.
The Comfort Stop
This is a traveller’s dream! Hot showers, clean toilets, BBQs and undercover picnic area – all available for free to nomads that are passing through. If you do stop by in Home Hill and use their facilities, the least you can do is grab a beer from one of the three pubs, do some shopping at the local Friendlies supermarket, or grab a coffee from the Home Hill Café.