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Thorsborne Trail

Emma Schmidt © Queensland Government

Thorsborne Trail

Walking No Walking
Wheelchair access (may require assistance) No wheelchair access
Mountain biking No mountain biking
Horseriding No horseriding
Two-wheel driving No two-wheel driving
Four-wheel driving No four-wheel driving
Trail-bike riding No trail-bike riding
Canoeing & kayaking No canoeing & kayaking
Boating No boating
Dogs allowed on leash No dogs
Lookout (natural) No lookouts
Tent camping No tent camping
World Heritage Area

Legend

Walking No walking
Wheelchair access (may require assistance) No wheelchair access
Mountain biking No mountain biking
Horseriding No horseriding
Two-wheel driving No two-wheel driving
Four-wheel driving No four-wheel driving
Trail-bike riding No trail-bike riding
Canoeing & kayaking No canoeing & kayaking
Boating No boating
Dogs allowed on leash No dogs
Lookout (natural) No lookouts
Tent camping No tent camping
World Heritage Area

Embrace the wilderness on this renowned multi-day trail that explores sweeping bays, deserted beaches, heath-cloaked peaks and majestic waterfalls.

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 Owners Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger

Named after the late Arthur Thorsborne who, with his wife Margaret, shared a lifelong interest in nature conservation, this challenging 32km trail follows the eastern side of the island and takes between three and five days to complete.

Experienced hikers will be challenged and delighted on this exhilarating walk through lush rainforest and shadowy swamps, along mangrove-fringed creeks and long sandy beaches, and over colourful heath-cloaked peaks to cascading waterfalls.

Nights are spent under the stars on whisper-quiet beaches and deep in the rainforest near the base of a stunning waterfall.

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.

At a glance

Distance: 32km one way (a path where the start point is different to the finish point).
Time suggested: Allow 4 days walking time.
Grade:
Journey type: Walk

See below for detailed track notes for the Thorsborne Trail from north to south.

Ramsay Bay to Nina Bay camping area

Distance: 4km
Time suggested: allow 2.5hrs walking time
Grade: difficult
Camping area: Nina Bay
Water: 100–200m upstream of creeks at either end of Nina Bay, and the lagoon at Blacksand Beach
Toilets: Nina Bay camping area
Food boxes: Nina Bay camping area

From the boardwalk, walk south to the headland at the southern end of Ramsay Bay and look for the orange marker on a large rock that denotes the trail head. You’ll follow a ridge before descending to the middle of Blacksand Beach.

Continue along the beach beneath broad-leaved tea-trees and through tall forest to the saddle below Nina Peak. If you’re feeling up to it, drop your packs and follow the unmarked trail to the peak for impressive views over the northern part of the island and beyond.

From the saddle, descend along a seasonal watercourse into a forest of red-flowered black mangroves and spotted mangroves. Cross the creek (low or half tide is best) and then then follow the edge of the mangroves to the beach at the northern end of Nina Bay.

Nina Bay camping area to Little Ramsay Bay camping area

Distance: 2.5km
Time suggested: allow 2hrs walking time
Grade: difficult
Camping area: Little Ramsay Bay
Water: Creek upstream from the lagoon at Little Ramsay Bay
Toilets: Little Ramsay Bay camping area
Food boxes: Little Ramsay Bay camping area

At the southern end of Nina Bay cross a rocky section and head towards a small cliff. Climb the cliff and follow the headland to Boulder Bay. If the tide is particularly high, you may need to walk higher through the thick forest around the top of the headland. Keep an eye out for green turtles in the sea as they’re often spotted here. Rock hop around Boulder Bay to the base of the headland at the southern end, and follow the orange markers south-east over a low ridge to the northern end of Little Ramsay Bay.

Little Ramsay Bay camping area to South Zoe Bay camping area

Distance: 10.5km
Time suggested: allow 6hrs walking time
Grade: difficult
Camping area: Banksia Bay and South Zoe Bay
Water: Banksia Creek—100m upstream from the beach, and South Zoe Creek—600m upstream from the camping area
Toilets: South Zoe Bay camping area
Food boxes: South Zoe Bay camping area

From Little Ramsay Bay head south, crossing a tidal creek and rock hopping around the small headland. At the end of the next beach, walk to the upper edge of rocks above a larger sandy beach. From the southern end of this beach you’ll head south-easterly through a small gully to the top of a ridge.

There’s a side track to Banksia Bay (600m return) if you’re keen. The bay has spectacular fringing reefs and golden orchids grow on the beach-side rocks. You can camp here too.

Back on the main trail, continue south, descending to the Banksia Creek crossing and south-east to the saddle between Banksia and Zoe bays. At the top of the saddle, head down into a rocky creek in the Zoe Bay catchment.

From here you’ll walk through a succession of vegetation types, from dry open forest to rainforest and mangrove swamps—their distribution defined by rain, fire and drainage.

Next you’ll walk through palm swamps in tall rainforest between North Zoe and Fan Palm creeks. The trail may be less visible in these areas so look carefully for the trail markers. The best places for water are Fan Palm and Cypress Pine creeks.

Listen for the deep 'wallock-a-woo' call of brightly-coloured but elusive wompoo fruit-doves, and look for the hooked tendrils of yellow lawyer canes and hairy marys. These climbing palms use hook-studded branches to climb towards the canopy. Although not poisonous, these tendrils can take a firm hold of your skin, packs and clothing.

Be prepared to get your feet wet as there are several creek crossings and swampy sections before you arrive at Zoe Bay. The camping area is near the mouth of South Zoe Creek, about 400m along the beach. At low tide look for platoons of small, blue soldier crabs on the sand flats near the mouth of South Zoe Creek.

The spectacular Zoe Falls are a few minutes along the track from the camping area and are well worth a visit.

South Zoe Bay camping area to Diamantina Creek and Sunken Reef Bay camping area

Distance: 6.5km
Time suggested: allow 4hrs walking time
Grade: difficult
Camping area: Sunken Reef Bay
Water: creek at the northern end of Sunken Reef Bay, and Diamantina Creek

From the South Zoe Bay camping area, follow the trail as it runs parallel with South Zoe Creek, crossing it about 100m downstream from Zoe Falls. Climb a steep slope onto the granite slabs above the falls and catch your breath while taking in spectacular views over Zoe Bay and beyond.

Following South Zoe Creek, rock hop across narrow rocky tributaries and follow a distinct spur to the granite rock pavement of a saddle. At 260m above the sea, this is the highest point on the trail and on a clear day the picturesque views include the Palm Island Group and Magnetic Island to the south.

Tall heath communities, typical of much of the mountainous parts of Hinchinbrook Island, dominate this section of the trail. Among the many striking sights are vulnerable blue banksias, resplendent with blue-grey flowers, gnarled cones and spectacular rusty-red new foliage. Look for the pink flowers of native lasiandras and, along the creeks, coral ferns and insectivorous sundews.

After crossing the saddle, walk across the steep, forested slopes of the Sweetwater Creek catchment before climbing into coastal she oaks and grasstrees. The grasstrees’ tall flower-spikes produce white flowers that are rich in nectar, and a popular food for birds and insects.

The next bit of the trail is downhill into the Diamantina Creek catchment. There’s a sidetrack to Sunken Reef Bay (see details below) before you arrive at Diamantina Creek.

Sunken Reef Bay track and camping area
Thirty minutes’ walk along a sidetrack takes you to Sunken Reef Bay camping area. There’s sometimes water in the small creek at the northern end of the beach otherwise you’ll have to walk to Diamantina Creek to get water before you head down the track to the bay. Between October and March you’ll share the beach with nesting beach stone-curlews and occasional green turtles.

Diamantina Creek to Mulligan Falls camping area

Distance: 1km
Time suggested: allow 30mins walking time
Grade: difficult
Camping area: Mulligan Falls
Water: Mulligan Falls
Food boxes: Mulligan Falls camping area

Take care rock-hopping across Diamantina Creek, especially if it is swollen from rain, and climb a short but sharp slope. On a clear day you’ll have good views across the southern part of the island to Lucinda and the Palm Island Group.

From the hilltop it’s all downhill to the base of Mulligan Falls and the camping area. Remember to stay well clear of the restricted access area (PDF, 340.6KB) around the falls.

Colourful noisy pittas are a common visitor in the camping area. Listen for their distinct 'walk-to-work' call as they search the forest floor for snails and insects.

Mulligan Falls camping area to George Point camping area

Distance: 7.5km
Time suggested: allow 2.5hrs walking time
Grade: difficult
Camping area: George Point
Toilets: George Point camping area
Food boxes: George Point camping area

Fill your water bottles at the falls before heading through the rainforest towards the southern coastline of the island, crossing five creeks along the way. You’ll soon pop out onto the beach, about 300m south of Diamantina Creek. The southern pick-up point is at George Point campingand day-use area, a further 5km along the beach. You’ll need to cross Mulligan Creek about halfway along, preferably at low tide. The water is shallowest where the creek fans out onto the beach.

Getting there and getting around

The Thorsborne Trail is in Hinchinbrook Island National Park, 8km off the Queensland coast at Cardwell.

  • The trail extends along Hinchinbrook Island's east coast. There are seven camping areas located along the trail.
  • Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly.
  • Access to the island is by either private vessel launched from Cardwell or Lucinda, or by commercial ferry.

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.

When to visit

Opening hours

  • During periods of severe weather access to the island may not be possible. Sections of the island may also be closed during planned burns.
  • Changes and updates regarding all aspects of the trail are available as park alerts. We will ensure all booked hikers are notified of any closures. Please ensure relevant contact details are supplied when booking.
  • Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

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

A permit is required to hike this trail. A maximum of 40 permits are issued at any one time.

To book your permit, you only need to book the trail, not the individual camping areas.

  • Search for Hinchinbrook Island, Thorsbourne Trail in the online booking system.
  • Camping permits are required and fees apply. Display the tag with your booking number at your camp site.

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.

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

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

  • Be considerate of other campers on the trail by minimising noise. Wear low-impact, soft-soled shoes around camp sites.
  • At locations where toilet facilities are not provided, a trowel must be used to bury toilet waste and paper. Dig a hole, at least 15cm deep, well away from camp sites, the trail, watercourses and drainage lines. Failure to do this leads to unsightliness, unpleasant odours, pollution of creeks and potentially dangerous hygiene problems. Sanitary pads, tampons and condoms should not be buried. Ensure these items are wrapped and carried off the island.
  • Wash at least 50m from creeks and swimming holes. Use gritty sand and a scourer instead of soap to clean dishes, and scatter wash water so that it filters through the soil before returning to the stream. Avoid allowing soaps, detergents, toothpaste and cosmetics to come into contact with water sources.
  • Bring insect repellent and clothing to avoid insect bites; biodegradable toilet paper and hand trowel, lightweight sleeping bag and high quality, lightweight and waterproof tent.
  • Make sure you don't transport pests in your gear or clothing onto the island. Our national parks, including our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area islands, need your help to remain pest‑free.
  • Pack nourishing food that is compact and lightweight including nuts, dried fruit, pasta, rice, lentils, dehydrated foods, selected fresh vegetables, muesli, hard cheese, crackers, chocolate, pita bread and herbs and spices. For safety, allow 1‑2 days' extra food.
  • The fawn-footed melomys and giant white-tailed rat live on the island. To avoid damage to packs and food supplies, remove all food from packs at night. Keep cooking utensils and food covered and off the ground. Rat-proof food boxes or hanging poles are provided at most camping areas. Do not hang packs in trees.
  • 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 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 need to 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 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

  • The Thorsborne Trail is not a graded or hardened walking track and in some areas is rough and difficult to traverse.
  • Before you set out, obtain a copy of the Thorsborne Trail trail guide.
  • Hikers need to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Pack essential equipment and bushwalking gear including waterproof pack liner or bags, warm and waterproof clothing, sturdy, reliable footwear, and a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • It is imperative that hiking details are left with a responsible contact person. This will assist in the event of an emergency situation or when hikers are overdue. The contact person must know:
    • how hikers are accessing the island e.g. private vessel or water taxi
    • the planned route
    • when hikers are due to return
    • the agreed time period after which the contact person will need to contact emergency services
    • to phone Triple Zero (000) or 112 in an emergency or if hikers do not return within agreed time period.
  • Heavy rain can fall at any time of the year causing creek levels to rise and fall rapidly. Conditions may improve after a short wait. Crossing creeks requires extreme care, particularly at Zoe and Diamantina creeks.
  • Mulligan Falls and its surrounds is a restricted access area . Death and serious injuries have occurred when people have entered this area. Rock pavements, including those well back from the falls, are extremely slippery and dangerous.
  • Tides can range up to 4m. Be aware of tide levels when crossing creeks, particularly Mulligan Creek.
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit including space blanket.
  • Carry a compass and a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPRIB).
  • Avoid bites from sandflies and mosquitoes. Beware bites and stings.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Voluntary vessel transit lanes and boat speeds are in place around Hinchinbrook Island to help protect the island's marine animals and their homes. Please use these vessel transit lanes and abide by the recommended vessel speeds.
  • Fishing is not permitted in the freshwater areas of the national park or in Creek Nine in Missionary Bay.
  • Fisheries regulations apply. You can obtain information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures from Fisheries Queensland.
  • 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

Last updated: 22 March 2018
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