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How to hike the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island

If you’re searching for a hiking challenge that inspires your next mind-body transformation, the famous Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is a lengthy four-day foray into some of Queensland’s most celebrated scenery.

An epic jaunt for those with both time and fitness on their side, this 32km Great Walk through Hinchinbrook Island National Park is rated as one of the top ten walks on the planet. The hike offers iconic visuals of what makes Hinchinbrook Island so special – vast tropical lands, mountains shrouded in mist, thick rainforests, waterfalls and the east coast’s white sandy beaches.

It’s as wild as it is ancient, 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).

The Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is ideal for the traveller that longs for the outdoors.

Here’s how to uncover all that it can offer during a four-day endeavour.

Come prepared to leave nothing behind

The best time to walk the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is from April to September, travelling from north to south, to make the most of the cooler weather and south-easterly winds.

Four days through the Thorsborne Trail leaves you entirely reliant on your own resources and prior planning. While being self-sufficient is a satisfying exercise, it makes preparation incredibly important, so we’ve created a guide to assist in packing before you head off.

Be practical in your pre-planning. Remember everything you take needs to be carried along with you, including any rubbish you may generate along the way. Leave each leg of your journey as you found it.

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. Along with this, use gritty sand and a sourer instead of soap to clean dishes to avoid contaminating water and soils on the island.

Hinchinbrook Island is crocodile country, and so your preparations for the hike will need to include plans to be croc-wise.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island

Getting to Hinchinbrook Island

With just 40 people permitted to camp on the island at any one time, you’ll be left to uncover a new kind of wilderness whose unique beauty is found in its ruggedness, seclusion and ancient allure.

The trail is managed under the minimal impact bushwalking and no-trace camping ethics to help minimise the impact and maintain the delicate and essential wilderness habitats and breeding grounds.

With this in mind, it’s best to keep to the trails to prevent erosion and preserve the beauty of Hinchinbrook Island. Camping permits are required for the seven campsites accessible along the Thorsborne Trail. A maximum of two nights is permitted at each area (except Mulligan Falls where the limit is one night).

To start your hiking expedition on Hinchinbrook Island, take a short ferry ride or private charter from towns Lucinda (from Dungeness) or Cardwell (from Marine Parade). The team from Absolute North Charters will accommodate you on one of their daily trips to both the northern and southern access points of the Thorsborne Trail.

DAY 1: 6.5km Hike from RAMSAY BAY to NINA BAY and LITTLE RAMSAY BAY

Time: Allow about 5 hours
Water stop: 100 to 200 metres upstream of creeks at either end of Nina Bay, or the lagoon at Blacksand Beach
Camping: Little Ramsay Bay, southern side of the lagoon

Set off from Ramsay Bay and follow the terrain along the coastline.

Around two hours into your journey you’ll pass through a tall open forest of eucalyptus along the saddle of Nina Peak. While a little off the beaten track, Nina Peak is a highly recommended detour that rests inland of the track and boasts a spectacular view across Ramsay and Nina Bay. Journey to the top and catch your breath amidst the forestry. A place where breathing becomes more comfortable, an effect the sea air and crisp natural surrounds tends to have on those who visit.

Nina Peak Hinchinbrook Island

Nina Peak, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

Hinchinbrook Island is well known for its natural habitats, among which are some of the most rich and diverse mangrove forests in the country. They’re an important breeding ground for many marine animals and a feature of the first leg of your Thorsborne Trail journey just before reaching a rest stop at Nina Bay.

It’s here you’ll descend upon your first creek crossing, which is best to cross at low or half tide.

Emerging from the dense, thick rainforest and making footprints in the white sands of Nina Bay will mark the final steps of day one on the Thorsborne Trail. From Nina Bay to Little Ramsay, you’ll be rock-hopping a few kilometres around the rugged headland before reaching your first campsite.

DAY 2: 10.5km hike from LITTLE RAMSAY BAY to ZOE BAY

Time: Allow 6 hours
Water stop: Zoe Creek (600m upstream from the campsites) and Banksia Creek (100m upstream from the beach)
Camping: South Zoe Bay and Banksia Bay

Little Ramsay Bay Hinchinbrook Island

Little Ramsay Bay, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

From little Ramsay Bay, the trail proceeds south, starting with rock-hopping around the headland once more.

Hiking through this stretch of trail will lead you through formations and waters that feel as though they belong to you, just for a moment in time. You’re unlikely to happen upon other hikers along this leg. Keep an eye out for local turtles, frequently spotted along this stretch of beach.

Follow the trail and you’ll come to your second creek crossing. While this crossing is simpler and less dangerous than others, it’s highly recommended you pack a pair of reef shoes to wear interchangeably throughout your journey for these obstacles.

Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island

Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

The hike to Zoe Bay is damp, swampy, and incredibly rewarding once you embark upon Zoe Falls to finish off day two.

Once arriving at camp, venture half a kilometre to Zoe Falls for an afternoon dip in the crisp, fresh, running waters. A never-ending shower to rinse the day’s hard work from your shoulders.

Sit quietly enough 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 friendly armies of small, blue soldier crabs on the sand flats near the mouth of Zoe Creek.

DAY 3: 7.5km hike from ZOE BAY to MULLIGAN FALLS

Time: Allow 4.5 hours
Water stop: Zoe Creek (600m upstream from the campsites), Sunken Reef Bay and Mulligan Falls
Camping: Mulligan Falls

Top of Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island

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

Set your alarm early and head off before the sun rises for spectacular views across Zoe Falls, nature’s own infinity pool.

Standing within the canopy covered shrubland and host of stone formations, this waterfall connects you to the grandeur of centuries past as the first light hits the water. Lay back with the pools as the sunrise washes over Hinchinbrook, in a trip-defining moment where your body and nature connect on a level found on few other journeys.

Begin your day by continuing along South Zoe Creek, following 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. This point in the hike offers a milestone moment, where on a clear day you can see out to the Palm Islands and Magnetic Island.

Thorsborne Trail Hinchinbrook Island

Photo by @reubennutt

From here, trek slopes of coastal she-oak and grass trees before arriving at renowned creek crossing, Diamantina Creek. While this is the most challenging creek crossing of your endeavour, particularly after heavy rain, you’ll be sure footed from your practice during days past. Be sure to take care here.

The end of your journey will find you at Mulligan Falls to set up camp. While it’s far too dangerous to swim at the falls, their cascading beauty can be enjoyed from the surrounding boulders. It’s important you don’t enter the restricted are around Mulligan Falls. Slippery rocks make the area too dangerous to be enjoyed by foot.

Mulligan Falls, Hinchinbrook Island

Mulligan Falls, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

DAY 4: The final stretch of 7.5km between MULLIGAN FALLS and GEORGE POINT

Time: Allow around 3 hours
Water stop: Mulligan Falls (fill up your vessel before you go)

Hinchinbrook Island Queensland

Mulligan Creek crossing, Hinchinbrook Island. Photo by @photobohemian

Be sure to fill up with fresh water at Mulligan Falls before you embark on the final leg of your hike. It’s the last reliable water source you’ll pass before reaching the end of the Thorsborne Trail.

This last leg delves deep into thick rainforest, so keep a close lookout for the orange marker points that will guide the way. There are a number of creek crossings before the finish line is in close sight, but once you reach Mulligan Bay the final 5kms is smooth sailing. There’s one final tidal creek crossing at Mulligan Creek. Try to only cross here at low-to-half tide.

George Point, the southern exit of the trail, is a further 5km walk along the beach, and then your adventure is complete. Stand at the surf’s edge and breath in.

See for yourself if it doesn’t feel easier after four days in the wilderness.