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Hinchinbrook Island National Park

Maxime Coquard © Tourism and Events Queensland

Hinchinbrook Island National Park

Rising dramatically from Great Barrier Reef waters, Hinchinbrook’s rugged mountains and glorious beaches provide a memorable backdrop for a tropical island adventure.

Walk in the shadow of the towering mountain range on the Thorsborne Trail.
Walk in the shadow of the towering mountain range on the Thorsborne Trail. © Andrew Bain
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Park Hinchinbrook
Traditional Owner Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger
Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Delve into the wild paradise of this spectacular World Heritage-listed island. Explore the park by hiking the challenging and world-renowned Thorsborne Trail; fishing the famous Hinchinbrook Channel and Missionary Bay; kayaking from one perfect beach to the next; or by simply enjoying a day visit to one of the many picnic areas and secluded beaches.

The cloud-covered mountain spine of the island is cloaked in fragile heath, and patches of lush rainforest and fragrant eucalypt woodlands descend to mangrove-fringed channels. The coastline is adorned with sweeping bays that meet golden beaches and rocky headlands. Rugged mountain streams and thunderous waterfalls dot the landscape and the waters surrounding the island are rich with colourful fringing reefs and lush seagrass beds.

Camping areas dot island's coastline. Choose from an open grassy area overlooking the channel or a secluded beach-side spot with ocean aspects and uninterrupted sunrise views.

The Aboriginal Traditional Owners of this area lived on Hinchinbrook Island for many thousands of years. Middens and fish traps made of stone are reminders of their long history. Today, the Traditional Owners work with our Park Rangers to take care of this precious place.

This island park is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, famed for its superlative natural beauty, outstanding examples of reef ecosystem development, evolutionary history and amazing diversity.

Keep discovering

Top things to see and do

Sunset Beach camping area is a popular stop over for kayakers.

Hinchinbrook's camping areas

See Hinchinbrook's camping areas.

Discover the incredible beauty of Hinchinbrook Island on the 32km Thorsborne Trail.

Hinchinbrook's journeys

See Hinchinbrook's walks.

You'll find a beach, creek and short walk at The Haven day-use area area.

Hinchinbrook's attractions

See Hinchinbrook's day-use areas.

Getting there and getting around

Hinchinbrook Island National Park is 8km off the Queensland coast at Cardwell, which is 171km north of Townsville and 203km south of Cairns via the Bruce Highway. The island extends from Cardwell south to the town of Lucinda (139km north of Townsville).

Access to Hinchinbrook Island is from Cardwell or Lucinda by either private vessel or commercial ferry. Vehicles are not allowed on this undeveloped island.

Private vessel

  • If you plan to head to the island in your own boat, first obtain a copy of the Hinchinbrook Marine Wonders brochure for information on transit lanes and boat speeds to aid dugong and turtle conservation.
  • Access to some areas of Hinchinbrook Island is weather and tide dependent and a good knowledge of the waters and potential hazards is essential.
  • Check local tide tables and weather conditions at the Bureau of Meteorology before you set out.
  • Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.

Commercial ferry

  • Several commercial operators service Hinchinbrook Island, transporting visitors to both the northern and southern access points of the island's Thorsborne Trail. Services vary according to demand, tide levels and time of year.
  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Road conditions

The Bruce Highway to Cardwell and Lucinda is accessible by conventional vehicles.

Fuel and supplies

Hinchinbrook Island is remote and isolated. Visitors should be well prepared and self-sufficient before setting off from the mainland. Fuel and supplies are available at Cardwell and Lucinda.

  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Wheelchair access

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities.

Camping

Rugged and remote bush camping opportunities are available within this scenic island national park. Camp sites are available for sea kayakers and boaters, and for walkers using the long-distance Thorsborne Trail.

See camping areas

Walking

Walking tracks on the island include three short, easy tracks from day-use areas in the northern part of the island and the long-distance four-day Thorsborne Trail along the island's east coast.

Map of walking tracks

Picnicking

Several day-use areas are located around the island, perfect for a boating stopover and a day spent exploring and relaxing.

Map of picnic tables/facilities

Viewing wildlife

With more than 19 mammal, 32 reptile and about 150 bird species, you are guaranteed a special encounter with some of Hinchinbrook's wildlife.

  • See pied imperial-pigeons, beach stone-curlews and an array of other shore and forest birds. Enjoy the vibrant wildflower displays in spring.
  • The island is surrounded by diverse marine habitats such as mangroves, fringing reefs and seagrass beds surround the island, providing food and shelter for dolphins, dugongs, turtles and estuarine crocodiles.
  • At low tide, a cacophony of 'slurps', 'pops' and 'clicks' emanates from the blue-grey mud in the mangrove forests. Snapping shrimps, crabs and mudskippers warn intruders or signal amorous intentions.
  • Read more about the park's natural environment.

Canoeing and kayaking

Sea kayaking is a great way to explore the island at your own pace or with a tour group. Camp sites for sea kayakers and boaters are available but must be booked in advance.

Fishing

There are excellent opportunities for sea fishing in some areas around Hinchinbrook Island.

Boating

Boating in the waters around Hinchinbrook Island is rewarding. Launch your own boat from Cardwell or Lucinda or hire a house boat or other charter vessel. Make it a travelling adventure setting up camp at various sites on the island.

Other things to do

Fishing charters, boats, house boats and other charter vessels are available.

  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

When to visit

Opening hours

Hinchinbrook Island is open 24 hours a day.

  • During periods of severe weather access to the island may not be possible. Sections of the island may also be closed during planned burns.
  • Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Seasonal closures

To protect nesting beach stone-curlews, camping at Agnes Beach is permitted only between April and September.

Climate and weather

Hinchinbrook Island National Park has a mild subtropical climate. Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be very cool. The cooler months of the year, from April to September, are the best times to visit. Please carry suitable clothing to accommodate all temperature extremes.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.
To book the Thorsbourne Trail, you only need to book the trail, not the individual camp sites.

  • Search for Hinchinbrook Island, Thorsborne Trail in the online booking system.

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. There is some mobile reception available at Mulligan Bay camping area but it is generally poor or unavailalbe elsewhere in the park. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

Brochure

Download this brochure and take it with you:

Information provided in this guide is correct at the time of printing. Check park alerts for the latest details.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Be prepared

  • Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
  • Hinchinbrook Island is remote and isolated. You need to plan ahead carefully to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable visit.
  • Leave your travel details with a responsible person. Let them know your plans and contact them on your return. Have a contingency plan in place if you fail to contact them by the agreed time. If you change your plans, inform them.
  • Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.

Camping

  • To protect nesting beach stone-curlews, camping at Agnes Beach is permitted only between April and September.
  • Please remain behind the temporary crocodile barriers at The Haven and South Macushla camping areas at all times.
  • Bring insect repellent and clothing to avoid insect bites; biodegradable toilet paper and hand trowel, lightweight sleeping bag and a high quality, lightweight and waterproof tent.
  • Make sure you don't transport pests in your gear or clothing onto or around the island. Our national parks, including our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area islands, need your help to remain pest‑free.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Open fires

  • Open fires are not allowed.
  • Bring a gas or liquid fuel stove for cooking.

Drinking water

  • There is no drinking water provided in the park. You should bring enough water for the duration of your stay.
  • If you plan to collect water, bring adequate water-carrying containers.
  • Water is available in several creeks along the Thorsborne Trail but becomes scarce during the dry season. You need to bring sufficient water during this time. If creeks are dry or salty at recommended watering points, fresh water can often be obtained upstream.
  • Treat all water before use.

Rubbish

  • There are no bins. Take your rubbish with you when you leave.

Walking

  • Creek beds and rock surfaces can be slippery. Take care when crossing these surfaces.
  • Avoid bites from sandflies and mosquitoes. Beware bites and stings.
  • Make sure you don't transport pests in your gear or clolthing onto or around the island. Our national parks, including our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area islands, need your help to remain pest‑free.
  • Estuarine crocodiles live in this area, including on the beaches, in the ocean and in tidal areas such as creeks and mangrove areas. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • The fragile ecosystems of the mountain areas of the island are extremely rugged and dangerous. To protect the unspoiled nature of the mountains and in the interest of safety, hiking in these areas is restricted. Any group wishing to walk into the mountains will need to apply in writing to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. A topographical map and compass should be carried.
  • Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly.

Boating and fishing

  • Before you set out, first obtain a copy of the Hinchinbrook Marine Wonders brochure for information on transit lanes and boat speeds to aid dugong and turtle conservation.
  • Access to some areas of Hinchinbrook Island is weather and tide dependent and a good knowledge of the waters and potential hazards is essential.
  • Check local tide tables and weather conditions at the Bureau of Meteorology before you set out.
  • The waters adjacent to Hinchinbrook Island National Park are in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.
  • Before heading out on the water make sure you have a zoning map, know the zones and what's allowed there.
  • Fisheries regulations apply. You can obtain information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures from Fisheries Queensland.
  • Fishing is not permitted in the freshwater areas of the national park or in Creek Nine in Missionary Bay.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish ('stingers') may be present in the waters surrounding Hinchinbrook Island at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. Beware marine stingers.
  • Estuarine crocodiles live in this area, including on the beaches, in the ocean and in tidal areas such as creeks and mangrove areas. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.

Around water

  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish ('stingers') may be present in the waters surrounding Hinchinbrook Island at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. Beware marine stingers.
  • Estuarine crocodiles live in this area, including on the beaches, in the ocean and in tidal areas such as creeks and mangrove areas. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Emergency

  • Carry at least one form of communication equipment. Satellite phones and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are the most effective.
  • Mobile phone coverage is unreliable. If you do have access to a mobile network during an emergency dial Triple Zero (000) or 112. Otherwise, send help to the nearest bay or coastal location to alert a passing or anchored vessel.
  • Emergency calls via marine radio, on VHF channel 16, should be made to the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association at Ingham for the southern end of the island (call sign VMR414), at Cardwell for the northern end of the island (call sign VMR423), or Townsville if the local stations are not responding (call sign VMR408).

Restricted access

Natural environment

Geology and landform

Hinchinbrook Island is dominated by a mountainous backbone featuring peaks such as Mount Bowen (1142m), Mount Diamantina (955m), Mount Straloch (922m), Mount Pitt (722m), Mount Burnett (655m) and Mount Barra Castle (579m). These mountains comprise two distinct rock types. The main mass centred on Mount Bowen consists of granite, while the mass projecting north-west and including Mount Pitt and Mount Burnett consists of silicic volcanics. The granite of the main mountain mass has weathered to spectacular, often jagged peaks.

The island is separated from the mainland by the narrow Hinchinbrook Channel, which represents the flooded valley of the Herbert River. Most of the island is mountainous with steep slopes and only a narrow coastal plain. Near George Point, there is an extensive deposit of sand and, at the north-eastern extremity of the island, a peninsula juts to the north. This peninsula consists of four separate rocky outcrops joined by sand dunes. Generally, these dunes are low-lying, but can reach heights of up to 60m near the northern end of Ramsay Bay. The sheltered side of these dunes supports an extensive mangrove and salt flat area on colluvial and alluvial deposits, with numerous deep channels. Another extensive mangrove area is present between Gayundah and Deluge inlets and numerous smaller occurrences are scattered around the coast.

Native animals and habitats

As mainland habitats are cleared or fragmented, Hinchinbrook Island is becoming increasingly important as a refuge for animal species of the coastal lowlands. The topography from mangroves to mountaintop provides a wide range of habitats. Significant species recorded include the pied imperial-pigeon, beach stone-curlew, estuarine crocodile, dugong and Australian snubfin dolphin.

Plants and plant communities

Hinchinbrook Island lies in the wet tropical rainforests biogeographic region. It is subject to hot and humid conditions and high rainfall, with occasional short spells of cooler, dry weather in winter. These factors, along with generally poor, shallow soils, determine vegetation patterns. To date, about 30 plant communities have been identified, with around 700 species recorded.

While areas of rainforest occur at low and high altitudes, most of the mountainous part of the island is covered with open forests and low heaths on shallow soil. The mangroves which line Missionary Bay and Hinchinbrook Channel form one of the largest mangrove areas on the Australian continent and include 31 species of mangrove. Some small but significant areas of broad-leaved tea tree woodland occur on the north coast. Vegetation types such as this have assumed conservation importance as similar types on the mainland face increased rates of clearing. This is true of most of Hinchinbrook Island's plant communities, particularly lowland types, which may well be restricted to Hinchinbrook Island in years to come. A survey of all the tropical lowlands from Ingham to Cooktown indicated that Hinchinbrook Island National Park and Hinchinbrook Channel are of outstanding importance because of the diversity of rare communities. About 14 species of rare and threatened plants have been recorded on the island, although it is highly likely that others exist awaiting discovery. One species of the shrub Comespermais known only from Hinchinbrook Island. Other species such as the blue banksia and sundew are restricted to the island and adjacent mainland.

Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Culture and history

European history

There are few sites of European cultural or historical significance on the island, with the exception of the wreck of an American B-24 Liberator bomber, which crashed on Mount Straloch's southern slopes on 18 December 1942. The bomber, known as the 'Texas Terror', crashed during a violent storm, killing all 12 people on board. Fresh from the factory and heading for the battlefields of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, the B-24 was being flown from Amberley to the bomber base at Iron Range in far north Queensland. Read more about the crash.

Cyclone Yasi in February 2011 shifted tonnes of sand to uncover the remains of an old sailing ship in Ramsay Bay. The brigantine Belle was lost 130 years ago while attempting to recover cedar that had washed ashore from another wrecked vessel, the Merchant. A total of five ships have been wrecked in the same area.

Last updated: 22 March 2018
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