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How to hike the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island

If you’re after an out-of-this-world hiking trip that’s as epic as they come, tackling the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island needs to be on your bucket list: Four days, 32 kilometres, and the adventure of a lifetime.

Hinchinbrook Island National Park is as wild as it is ancient, and – while it could be mistaken for Jurassic Park – you’ll find this World Heritage-listed wonder just 8 clicks off the coast of Cardwell, less than two hours from Townsville (or 203km south of Cairns).

Rated as one of the top 10 walks on the planet, the Thorsborne Trail is kind of a big deal. With just 40 people permitted to camp on the island at any one time, venture to Hinchinbrook and you’ll uncover a new kind of wilderness whose beauty is found in its ruggedness, seclusion and ancient allure.

Packed with towering mountains shrouded in mist, thick rainforest, cascading waterfalls, white sand beaches and adventure around every corner, this lesser-known island is just waiting to be explored.

Here’s how to hike the Thorsborne Trail over four days.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island

PACK’ER UP

When you’re completely reliant on your own resources, preparation is key. Where do you even start when packing for a 32km hiking trek where you have to carry your own food, clothing and shelter for four days? We’ve got you covered. Here’s what to pack for a Hinchinbrook Island adventure.

CATCHYA CIVILSATION, HELLO HINCHINBROOK

To start your hiking expedition on Hinchinbrook Island, take a short ferry ride or private charter from Lucinda or Cardwell. The team from Absolute North Charters will sort you out, operating daily trips to both the Northern and Southern access points of the Thorsborne Trail from both towns.

DAY 1: RAMSAY BAY – NINA BAY – LITTLE RAMSAY BAY

Distance: 6.5km (allow 4.5 hours)
Water stop: 100 to 200 metres upstream of creeks at either end of Nina Bay, and the lagoon at Blacksand Beach
Camping & Food boxes: Little Ramsay Bay, southern side of the lagoon

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Before reaching Nina Bay – about 2km into the hike – you’ll find a rough track leading off the main trail to Nina Peak. Be sure to stop off and climb Nina Peak, you will not regret it! While this will add a few extra k’s to the day (with a pretty steep climb up top), this is the highest point between Ramsay Bay and Nina Bay, and it’s more than worth it for the spectacular view over Hinchinbrook Island. Check it out!
  • Descending into a forest of red-flowered black mangroves and spotted mangroves, you’ll reach the first of oh-so-many creek crossings. Plan your day of adventures around the tides, as it’s best to cross the creeks at low or half tide.
  • Emerging from the dense, thick rainforest, and making footprints in the white sand of Nina Bay is truly a moment to behold. From Nina Bay to Little Ramsay, you’ll be rock-hopping for a few kilometres around the rugged headland before reaching the campsite at Nina Bay.

Nina Peak, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

DAY 2: LITTLE RAMSAY BAY – ZOE BAY

Distance: 10.5km (allow 6 hours)
Water stop: Zoe Creek (600m upstream from the campsites) and Banksia Creek (100m upstream from the beach)
Camping & Food Boxes: South Zoe Bay and Banksia Bay

Little Ramsay Bay, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

 HIGHLIGHTS

  • From Little Ramsay Bay the trail proceeds south, starting with rock-hopping around the headland once more, where you’re likely to have Little Ramsay Bay to yourself.
  • Next, it’s time to take on the first (and easiest) of many running creek crossings! Pro-tip: They say hindsight is 20-20, and they’re not wrong! We did the hard (wet) yards barefoot, so you don’t have to. Pro-top: Pack reef shoes, and keep these accessible on your pack to change into for creek crossings. You will not regret this.
  • The hike to Zoe Bay is wet, swampy, a helluva lot of fun and more than worth it for what’s waiting for you at the end of this day. Say, g’day to Zoe Falls! Once arriving into camp, venture to Zoe Falls for an arvo swim – it’s just 450-metres from the campsite, so ditch your pack and cool off in the refreshing waters of this Hinchinbrook beauty. Sit quietly and peacefully in the falls, and you’ll be greeted by the curious jungle perch and yabbies who call Zoe Falls home. At low tide, keep your eyes peeled for armies of small, blue soldier crabs on the sand flats near the mouth of South Zoe Creek.
Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island

Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

DAY 3: ZOE BAY – MULLIGAN FALLS

Distance: 7.5km (allow 4.5 hours)
Water stop: Zoe Creek (600m upstream from the campsites) and Banksia Creek (100m upstream from the beach)
Camping & Food Boxes: South Zoe Bay and Banksia Bay

Top of Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @reubennutt

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Setting your alarm to rise with the sun is more than worth it to climb up to nature’s own infinity pool (aka the top of Zoe Falls) to experience the beauty as first light collides with this Jurassic world. Laying back in the infinity pool as the sunrise washes over Hinchinbrook is a defining moment of the hike, and a memory you’ll carry with you. This makes a great spot for breakfast and a cup of tea too, before hitting the trail!
  • Continue along South Zoe Creek then follow a spur to the granite rock pavement of a saddle. At 260m above sea level, you will have reached the highest point on the Thorsborne Trail! Spectacular doesn’t come close to describing this view. On a clear, postcard perfect day you can see out to the Palm Islands and Magnetic Island.

Photo by @reubennutt

  • From here, trek slopes of coastal she-oak and grass trees before arriving at the renowned creek crossing, Diamantina Creek. Let’s be real, this is the most challenging creek crossing of the hike, particularly after heavy rain. But, you’ll have had heaps of practice from a morning of creek crossings venturing from the top of Zoe Falls to the saddle. Take care here!
  • At the end of this day, arrive at Mulligan Falls to set up camp. Now, you can’t swim at Mulligan Falls – but trust us, you won’t want to. This cascading beauty is best enjoyed from the boulders surrounding the falls. Please note: Do not enter the restricted area surrounding Mulligan Falls. Slippery rock pavings make the area very dangerous.

Mulligan Falls, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

DAY 4: MULLIGAN FALLS – GEORGE POINT (AKA, THE FINISH LINE)

Distance: 7.5km (allow 2.5 hours)
Water stop: Mulligan Falls

Mulligan Creek crossing, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Be sure to fill up with fresh water at Mulligan Falls, because this is the last reliable water source you’ll pass before reaching the end of the Thorsborne Trail!
  • Delve into thick rainforest and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for orange trail markets (it can be hard to find the trail at some points)
  • Today, you’ll cross not one, not two, but five creeks! After four days of adventure hiking, with the finish line almost in sight, what’s five more creek crossings?
  • Once you reach Mulligan Bay, the final 5kms is smooth sailing, with one final tidal crossing at Mulligan Creek. Be sure to cross here at low-to-half tide.

Bucket-list worthy? Absolutely.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL

TRAIL RATING: Let’s be real, the Thorsborne Trail is difficult and not for the faint of heart… but what would an adventure be without a challenge? The humidity, temperatures and rainfall will vary the difficulty in taking on the Thorsborne trail. Please note: this trail is not graded, with many river crossings which can vary in difficulty depending on the tides, rainfall and weather conditions.

BEST TIME TO WALK: April to September.

LENGTH OF TRIP: Minimum three nights to uncover the wonder of this wild, untamed paradise. This will allow you plenty of time to enjoy what makes Hinchinbrook one-of-a-kind; the secluded swimming holes, spectacular views, mist-covered mountains and adventurer’s paradise.

BEST WAY TO WALK: Walking Hinchinbrook Island north to south will treat you to the best views, plus you’ll be hiking into the prevailing south easterly (aka Mother Nature’s air-con) winds during the winter months.

CAMPING PERMITS: As only 40 people are permitted on Hinchinbrook Island National Park at any one time, you’ll need book a camping permit well in advance of your hiking adventure. Visit the Queensland National Parks Booking Service to make a booking.

BE CROC-WISE: Hinchinbrook Island is true croc country. Here’s everything you need to know about being croc-wise.

LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS, TAKE NOTHING BUT MEMORIES

  • Everything that you take in, must be taken out including all food, rubbish, sanitary items.
  • Where toilets aren’t provided, move well away from campsites, walking tracks and creeks, and use a trowel to bury waste at least 15cm deep.
  • Avoid contaminating water with soaps, detergents, toothpaste and cosmetics – use wet wipes showers
  • Use gritty sand and a scourer instead of soap to clean dishes and scatter wash water so that it filters through the soil.
  • Keep to the walking trails to prevent erosion and preserve the beauty of Hinchinbrook Island.
  • Hinchinbrook’s wonder lies in its wilderness, leave it that way. Keep wildlife wild and don’t feed fish and other wildlife.

Are you keen to hike the Thorsborne Trail? Or have you done it already? Share your story with us below.