650km (one way)
Car or Camper
Ayr to Ingham
Ayr to Townsville
The first destination on the North Queensland Highlights road trip is the sweet lush region known as the Burdekin. Famous for all things sugar and farming the Burdekin region has a few surprises that you won’t want to skip. Bountiful is a word used commonly to describe the Burdekin region and not just for multitude of crops grown on the farms in the region but the local attractions as well.
Ayr and Home Hill, the two main towns, are separated by the mighty Burdekin River and connected by a 1km long bridge known as the Silver Link. Driving across this bridge it will become obvious why fishing is so popular in the area. Stop in at the Visitor Information Centre in Home Hill and grab a copy of the Burdekin Art Trail – it comprises of 20 works of art throughout four towns in the region and gives some great insight into the history and culture of the region. Don’t forget to stop in at a local café for lunch and explore the many boutiques the town has to offer.
Looking for something a little more adventurous? Why not book a Scuba Diving trip with Yongala Dive out to the famous SS Yongala. Known as one of the best shipwreck dives in Australia you will be amazed at the array of sea life swimming beside you including turtles, fish and even the occasional shark.
Townsville, Northern Australia’s largest regional town, is a thriving hub for visitors of all ages. As the unofficial educational centre for the Great Barrier Reef you are sure to learn more than planned during a day here. As you enter Townsville from the South you will see the signs for Billabong Sanctuary – trust us you will want to stop in here. This local Australian native animal wildlife park offers a tropical bushland setting on the shores of a billabong, where you can meet your favourite Australian animals – including, koalas, wombats, dingoes, snakes and even the odd salty.
In the centre of town, you will find Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium and the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Sure, to keep you and the kids entertained for hours you will not only see some pretty amazing sea life and artefacts but also learn a bunch too. What’s even cooler is the daily tours of the Turtle Hospital where injured and unwell turtles are cared for by dedicated local professionals before being released back to the wild.
To finish your day, we suggest climbing Castle Hill either by your legs or in your car to experience the most spectacular views in Townsville. Looking out over Magnetic Island, Cape Cleveland, Pallarenda and Mount Stuart you are sure to get an insta worthy sunset shot.
Just 20 minutes from Townsville’s city centre is the ultimate island jaunt on Magnetic Island. Clock-up a few more nautical miles with with SeaLink Queensland or Magnetic Island Ferries to the locally nicknamed “Maggie”, where the adventure is up to you.
Wake before the sun and take the gentle stroll along the Forts Walk – it’s the best place to spot a furry companion, and also a pretty sweet sunrise vantage point – can’t beat a 360-degree view.
Spend the day (or ideally days) exploring the 23 beaches and bays dotted around the island, either by car (if you travelled by Magnetic Island Ferries car barge), or hire the ultimate island cruiser with Topless Car Rentals. Even better, take a discovery tour with Aquascene Charters to access some of the most remote and exclusive beaches on the island.
Townsville to Charters Towers
One natural landscape that cannot be missed is the quintessential Australian Outback. Take a detour off the coast to Charters Towers, the gateway to the Outback, and visit some of the heritage-listed buildings that remain from the illustrious gold-mining era. Driving through the streets of Charters Towers is like viewing a living montage of Australian history and heritage. When gold was first discovered in Charters Towers in 1871, Charters Towers (or “The World”) became a gold rush town and quickly grew to become the second largest town in Queensland. Today, the magnificent heritage buildings are testament to the prosperity of years past. Learn the stories of yesteryear with a Ghost Tour of Charters Towers, and hear of tale from days gone by.
A trip to Charters Towers is never fully complete until you have experienced the iconic Tors Drive-In Cinema. Known for its amazing snack bar and affordable ticket prices you will be transported back in time as you enjoy a latest block buster or classic film through the original speakers on your car door.
Along with a bumper experience packed with historical relics, Charters Towers is also home to some of our favourite Australian animals. Here you will encounter kangaroos and wallabies – particularly on a sunset stroll up to Towers Hill. But if you’re looking to embrace your inner Cowboy, then look no further than the Texas Longhorn Tours. The 1100-hectare property – Leahton Park – is just 10km from Charters Towers, and home the largest herd of Texas Longhorns (cattle) in Australia. Standing proudly amongst the herd is JR – the former Guinness World Record horned steer whose horns now exceed 3.1 metres from tip to tip.
Optional Detour – Ravenswood
Got some extra time on your hands why not stop in at the township of Ravenswood on your way to Charters Towers and experience country hospitality at its finest with a good ole counter meal at the Railway Hotel. We’ve even heard they have a Whiskey Bar.
Charters Towers to Ingham
Today you will be heading back towards the coast for your next stop at Ingham in the Hinchinbrook Way. On your journey back why not try something different and head north from Charters Towers on the Gregory Developmental Road towards Herveys Range. Stop for morning tea at the Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms and indulge in the best scones in North Queensland.
From here you will be heading straight to Ingham the heart of the tropics, located 110 kilometres north of Townsville and 220 kilometres south of Cairns. It is the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage-listed rainforests of Tropical North Queensland. West of Ingham is Australia’s highest sheer drop waterfall, Wallaman Falls, at 305 metres.
Stop at one of the many Italian delis in town and grab a lunch platter da Vinci himself would be proud of and enjoy once you’ve made it to the falls.
North-east of Ingham is the majestic Hinchinbrook Island which is known for the popular yet exhausting hiking adventure that is the Thorsborne Trail. If you dare to take the challenge explore this prehistoric island and enjoy the view of a lifetime at Zoe Falls.
Just south of the town centre is Tyto Wetlands Information Centre, showcasing the spectacular birdlife and natural attractions of the region. Within easy walking distance of the centre is Tyto Wetlands – a “Birdwatcher’s Paradise”. The wetlands are home to more than 230 different species, including the Eastern Grass Owl. Hundreds of Agile Wallabies also appear at the Wetlands in the afternoon and early morning, certainly adding to the wildlife experience.