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A Guide For Trekking The Rugged Hinchinbrook Island

03 October 2022
hinchinbrook lindsaybuckley

Australia’s not quite the mountainous trekking mecca that its neighbor New Zealand is, but it does have a few fairly well-known treks to its name: the Overland Track in Tasmania, the Bibbulmun Track in Southwest Australia, the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory. But did you know that one of its finest hikes is on a tropical island in Queensland?


Most have never even heard of Hinchinbrook Island, much less the Thorsborne Trail. Located just 8km offshore between Townsville and Cairns, Hinchy is actually the largest island in the Great Barrier Reef. It is delightfully diverse in its flora and fauna and terrifically scenic in its pristine landscapes (think Jurassic Park), which the government has endeavored to protect by limiting the trail to just 40 hikers at a time and allowing visitor access only on certain parts of the island.


If you’re reasonably fit and keen to hike the beautiful Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, here’s what you can expect:

leannecole outdoor photography

Most hikers tackle the trail from north to south, departing from Cardwell and arriving in Lucinda on the mainland. Its 32km can be comfortably completed in 4 days, though you may want to schedule a day or two extra just to relax and enjoy the beaches and swimming holes near the campsites.   First, you must secure a permit. You can check campsite availability and make a booking online at the Queensland Government Department of National Parks website.   Then, you need to arrange transport to and from the island. There are no ferries that run on a schedule, so you must book a private transfer in advance. Absolute North Charters runs boat transfers from Cardwell, while Hinchinbrook Island Cruises runs ferry transfers from both Cardwell and Lucinda.   Lastly, you may need to book accommodation in Cardwell and/or Lucinda, depending on your travel plans. If you have your own car that you’ve left in Cardwell and need to get back there from Lucinda to pick it up, either of the hotels you’ve booked in these towns should be happy to give you a ride there.

Hiking the Thorsborne Trail   Departing from Cardwell, your boat will whisk you through a maze of mangrove estuaries backed by mountains, and drop you off at Ramsay Bay where you’ll start the hike.   The first two days on the trail are significantly more challenging than the last two days, but early on Day 1 you’ll be rewarded with near 360-degree views from Nina Peak. From here, you’ll be able to glimpse the winding estuaries through which you just traveled, the nearby mountain peaks, and the many beaches scattered down the coast that you’ll soon be traversing.   One of the best things about the Thorsborne Trail is that it takes you through such varied terrain. Getting from one bay to the next sometimes calls for some serious rock scrambling; other times, the trail takes you inland and into the eucalpyt forest. The easiest bits will have you casually strolling across smooth sand beaches or plunging down the side of a mountain straight into the rainforest; the more challenging parts may call for slippery creek crossings or a rope-assisted climb to the top of a waterfall. Either way, you’ll get to reward yourself at the end of the day with a swim at either the beach or a nearby swimming hole, depending on where you are on the trail.   As far as camping goes, there are designated campsites at Nina Bay, Little Ramsay Bay, Zoe Bay, and Mulligan Falls. There are fresh water sources and rat proof steel boxes to stash your food in at each campsite. Campfires are not allowed anywhere.

Definitely make an effort to watch the glorious sunrises and sunsets while camping on the beach. Even better, lay out on the beach once it’s dark and look up at the sky to enjoy some of the best stargazing of your life. And when you’re camping inland at Mulligan, look out for the noisy pitta (a very colorful and boisterous bird) and common tree snakes that inhabit the area surrounding the falls.   The trek concludes with a lengthy walk across the beach at Mulligan Bay (which you shouldn’t attempt at high tide) to George Point, where you’ll be picked up for your final boat transfer to Lucinda.   Written by | Lindsay Buckley – >   Learn more about Lindsay and follow her travels on Facebook // >Twitter // >Instagram