Hiking vs Kayaking or Boat: How to discover Hinchinbrook Island
If you like to walk on the wild side, it’s time to discover a kind of wilderness reserved for the pages of outdoor adventure magazines and the outskirts of Townsville, North Queensland: Hinchinbrook Island.
The Jurassic landform sits eight clicks off the coast of Cardwell. It’s pristine, untouched and only 7000 other visitors per year even think to come.
Dishing up a kaleidoscope of colours and landscapes (think: mountains, rainforest, heath and white beaches) all within 399km2, there’s just one hurdle to discovering Hinchinbrook Island… there are no hotels.
So, you’ll need to decide if you’ll see it by hiking or kayaking. Let this be your oracle:
Why Discover Hinchinbrook Island by foot?
- Opportunity to pace the famous Thorsborne Trail
- Immerse yourself in the wilderness rather than just look upon it from afar
- Swim in both the #instaworthy waterfalls, not just Zoe Falls
- High fitness level required
- You’ll need to carry all your gear
- Tropical insects may urge you to walk faster
Meet the Thorsborne Trail
If you haven’t done the Thorsborne Trail, your hiking boots ain’t seen nothing yet!
The Thorsborne Trail is Queensland’s number one coastal/island bushwalking experience as voted by the people who know it best, Queensland Parks and Wildlife.
It’s a true wilderness walk – 32km, 3 nights, 4 days – and not the kind that’s finished with luxury lodges, vino or massages at the end of each hiking day. Instead, you’ll find diverse scenery that will make your eyes fatigue faster than your body, as they work to absorb it all.
What you’ll see while hiking Hinchinbrook Island
Walking Hinchinbrook Island will give you the best chance of getting amongst its ever-changing vegetation – just be prepared for your boots to get wet and socks to get sandy, as you move between rainforest, creek and beach in mere metres.
From ascending to the top of Nina Peak for a bird’s eye view of where you’ve come from and where you’re going, to descending to the mangrove-lined channels, hiking the Thorsborne Trail is really the only way to see it all.
The trail is like walking through an Australian landscape hype-reel, with contrasting environments most often joined by creeks and dips that need mountain goat skills to navigate.
Hiking = Joining the camping club on Hinchinbrook Island
By night, you’ll camp in seven designated sites dotted across the island, some of which are reserved for Thorsborne hikers only. Consider this your exclusive camping club.
While she’s rated a grade five hike by Queensland Parks and Wildlife, the longest day will see you traipsing 10.5km, so you don’t have to worry about navigating near-marathon lengths (here’s looking at you, Cooloola Great Walk).
Sure you could do it faster, but we recommend taking time to stop and smell the roses, breaking the trip up into four legs: 6.5km, 10.5km, 7.5km, 7.5km.
If the sound of remote island bushwalking has you lacing up your gators – a word of warning – you’ll want to book well in advance. The beauty of this island is that it’s capped at 40 people to keep things pristine and all kinds of perfect.
Ready to do it? Don’t forget these packing tips.
Why discover Hinchinbrook Island by boat?
- Your own transport to the estuary fishing around Hinchinbrook Island
- Opportunity to camp on the elusive Haven Camp Area, which even Thorsborne hikers don’t venture to
- Own boat = storage = wine!
- You’d need some serious orienteering skills to find your way onto the Thorsborne Trail, so you won’t be able to join the iconic trail
BYO Boat = Fishing on Hinchinbrook Island
BYOB (bring your own boat) to moor on Hinchinbrook without being beholden to walking 32kms or stepping foot anywhere near the Thorsborne Trail.
Those with their own boat get the choice of the plum camping spots on both the east and west side of the island – with most boats choosing Macushla camping area to settle their sand pegs for the night.
For campers who BYOB, most come across to the island for one thing and one thing only: fishing. Everyone knows where there’s crocodiles there’s barramundi, and the waters of Hinchinbrook are no exception.
Use Hinchinbrook as your island base, while you spend your days fishing before returning island-side to cook your catch and sleep under the stars.
Why discover Hinchinbrook Island by kayak?
- Your own camp chef
- Storage so you don’t have to carry everything yourself
- Guaranteed extra strength in your arms after a week kayaking the water (#instantfitness)
- You won’t get to pound the hallowed Thorsborne Trail turf
- A lot of sunshine – you’ll definitely want to slip, slop, slap for all this Vitamin D
For those with sea legs and a sense of adventure, join Coral Sea Kayakers to see the island with a few more creature comforts than those by boat or boot.
Kayakers have the best of both situations, on a seven-day expedition from Mission Beach to Hinchinbrook Island, which includes time on and off the water. It’s not all paddle time either. There’s just 3-4 hours paddling each day which allows plenty of time to explore the island on dry land.
An underrated perk is the catering, with the kayaks packed to the gunnels with wholesome meals for the trip.
Each evening dinner consists of three courses accompanied by wine – not your average camp cook and definitely more exotic than the hikers chowing down on dinner from a packet, a culinary reality for people carrying everything they need for four days on an island.