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About Thorsborne Trail

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Getting there and getting around

The Hinchinbrook Channel. Photo: Queensland Government.

The Hinchinbrook Channel. Photo: Queensland Government.

Access to the Thorsborne Trail is either by private vessel, launched from Cardwell or Lucinda (Dungeness), or by the commercial ferries which transport people to both ends of the trail. Services vary according to demand, tide levels and time of year.

Commercial ferry transport to the northern end of the Thorsborne Trail

Absolute North Charters

www.absolutenorthcharters.com.au
Phone: 0419 712 577
Email: info@absolutenorthcharters.com.au

Hinchinbrook Island Cruises

www.hinchinbrookislandcruises.com.au
Phone: 0499 335 383
Email: info@hinchinbrookislandcruises.com.au

Commercial ferry transport to the southern end of the Thorsborne Trail

Hinchinbrook Island Cruises

www.hinchinbrookislandcruises.com.au
Phone: 0499 335 383
Email: info@hinchinbrookislandcruises.com.au

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:

  1. how hikers are accessing the island e.g. private vessel or commercial ferry
  2. the planned route
  3. when hikers are due to return
  4. the agreed time period after which the contact person will need to contact emergency services.
  5. to phone Triple Zero (000) or 112 in an emergency or if hikers do not return within agreed time period.

If no longer hiking the trail, ensure to cancel bookings by contacting us. Information on cancellations assists in emergencies such as cyclones and wildfires.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks on the Thorsborne Trail.

Park features

Pied imperial-pigeon. Photo: Queensland Government.

Pied imperial-pigeon. Photo: Queensland Government.

Dugong mother and calf. Photo: Queensland Government.

Dugong mother and calf. Photo: Queensland Government.

Hinchinbrook Island is a rugged, outstanding feature of the north Queensland coast between Townsville and Cairns. Its cloud-covered mountains, reaching 1000 metres, support fragile heath vegetation. Patches of lush rainforest and extensive eucalypt forest descend to a mangrove-fringed channel in the west with sweeping bays and rocky headlands along the east coast.

Protected since 1932, Hinchinbrook is one of Australia's largest island national parks (39,900 hectares). The island is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and is separated from the mainland by the scenic Hinchinbrook Channel.

Thorsborne Trail

The 32 kilometre Thorsborne Trail, along Hinchinbrook Island's east coast, is named after the late Arthur Thorsborne. Arthur and his wife, Margaret, shared a lifelong interest in nature conservation that included monitoring pied (Torresian) imperial-pigeons Ducula bicolor, which migrate to nest on local islands in summer.

The trail is not a graded or hardened walking track and, in some areas, is rough and difficult to traverse. It is managed under the minimal impact bushwalking and no-trace camping ethics. To help minimise impact and to maintain the wilderness setting, permits are issued for a maximum of 40 people on the trail at any one time. The largest group size is six.

Mountain areas

Much of the mountain area is covered with fragile heath vegetation. 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 (QPWS). A topographical map and compass should be carried.

Island habitats

Hinchinbrook Island is renowned for its habitats. Its extensive mangrove forests are among the richest and most diverse in Australia. They are important breeding grounds for many marine animals. Other habitats include saltpans, eucalypt forest, rainforest, freshwater melaleuca swamps, heaths and sloping mountain rock pavements.

Fire plays a vital role in maintaining habitat diversity. Much of Australia's landscape has been shaped by fire and many Australian plants have adapted to living in fire-prone areas. Some eucalypts and banksias require fire to trigger germination of seeds. Fire was used extensively by Aboriginal people to promote plant growth and clearing for access.

Marine habitats

Marine park waters surround Hinchinbrook Island. Habitats, including fringing reefs, seagrasses and muddy seabeds, support a wealth of marine life. Seagrass beds are the basic food source for dugong Dugong dugon, which are seen occasionally in Missionary Bay. Adult green turtles Chelonia mydas frequent the Hinchinbrook area.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Seven camping areas are accessible from the Thorsborne Trail. Camping permits are required and fees apply. A maximum stay of two nights is permitted at each camping area, except for Mulligan Falls where the limit is one night. To help minimise impact and to maintain the wilderness setting, permits are issued for a maximum of 40 people on the trail at any one time. The largest group size is six.

The trail is very popular and often fully booked during peak periods and school holidays. Purchasing a permit well in advance is advised to avoid disappointment. Please notify permit offices of any cancellations so other hikers can obtain places on the trail.

Other accommodation

There are several other camping areas on the island, not associated with the Thorsborne Trail. On the mainland there is a range of accommodation at Lucinda and Cardwell. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Things to do

One of the many creeks along the Thorsborne Trail. Photo: Queensland Government.

One of the many creeks along the Thorsborne Trail. Photo: Queensland Government.

Hiking

The Thorsborne Trail is not a graded or hardened walking track and in some areas is rough and difficult to traverse. It is recommended, prior to hiking the trail, that all hikers obtain a copy of the QPWS Thorsborne Trail trail guide. See the tourism information links for trail guide locations.

For detailed information, see Thorsborne Trail track notes.

Fishing

Fishing is prohibited in all freshwater streams, lagoons and creeks of Hinchinbrook Island National Park. The island and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning maps and information before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

Things to know before you go

Pack sturdy, reliable footwear. Photo: Tamara Vallance, NRPSRS.

Pack sturdy, reliable footwear. Photo: Tamara Vallance, NRPSRS.

Essentials to bring

Hikers need to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Pack essential equipment and bushwalking gear including:

  • adequate water-carrying containers, as each person will use around four litres of water a day
  • waterproof pack liner or bags
  • warm and waterproof clothing
  • sturdy, reliable footwear
  • hat, sunscreen and sunglasses
  • basic first-aid kit including space blanket
  • compass
  • Lucinda tide timetable
  • gas or liquid fuel stove with spare fuel
  • cooking utensils and equipment
  • torch or headlamp
  • high quality, lightweight and waterproof tent
  • insect repellent and clothing to avoid insect bites
  • biodegradable toilet paper and hand trowel
  • strong rubbish bag
  • personal locator beacon (PLB) or emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPRIB)
  • lightweight sleeping bag
  • 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.

Opening hours

The Thorsborne Trail is open 24 hours a day but it can be closed during periods of severe weather (wet and dry) and planned burns. Changes and updates regarding all aspects of the trail are available as park alerts on this site and the booking website. QPWS will ensure all booked hikers are notified of any closures. Please ensure relevant contact details are supplied when booking.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required for camping along the Thorsborne trail. Fees apply.

Camping permits for educational, military and commercial groups must be obtained through QPWS. To request a permit email Camping Support.

Pets

Domestic animals are prohibited on Hinchinbrook Island.

Climate and weather

Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be very cool. Please carry clothing that is suitable for all temperature extremes.

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.

April to September are the best months for hiking. This period avoids the times of year that are very wet or very dry.

For more information, see the tourism information links.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and basic supplies are available on the mainland at Cardwell and Lucinda. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

PLBs are available for a small donation. Photo: Tamara Vallance, Queensland Government

PLBs are available for a small donation. Photo: Tamara Vallance, Queensland Government

Place food in food boxes. Photo: Tamara Vallance, Queensland Government

Place food in food boxes. Photo: Tamara Vallance, Queensland Government

Estaurine crocodiles are present in creeks, rivers, lagoons and along the coast of Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Estaurine crocodiles are present in creeks, rivers, lagoons and along the coast of Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

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.

If no longer hiking the trail, ensure to cancel bookings by contacting us. Information on cancellations assists in emergencies such as cyclones and wildfires.

  • For a small donation, personal locator beacons (PLBs) are available for hire from the Rainforest and Reef Information Centre.
  • The fawn-footed melomys Melomys cervinipes and giant white-tailed rat Uromys caudimaculatus occur across 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.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in the waters surrounding Hinchinbrook Island at any time, bur occur more frequently in the warmer months. Do not swim in tidal waters. See marine stingers for more information.
  • Avoid bites from sandflies and mosquitoes by using insect repellant and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Creek beds and rock surfaces can be slippery. Care is required when traversing these surfaces.
  • 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 are a restricted access area (PDF, 341K). 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.
  • Water is available in several creeks along the trail but becomes scarce during the dry season. Please carry 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 using.
  • Tides can range up to four metres. Be aware of tide levels when crossing creeks, particularly Mulligan Creek. Refer to the Lucinda tide timetable.
  • In an emergency, remain on the trail and dial Triple Zero (000) or 112 if there is a network available. Otherwise, send help to the nearest bay or coastal location to alert a passing or anchored vessel. Alternatively, send help to either end of the trail and alert the ferry operators when they arrive.
  • 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).

Be crocwise!

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

Looking after the park

Take care of Hinchinbrook's pristine environment. Photo: Queensland Government.

Take care of Hinchinbrook's pristine environment. Photo: Queensland Government.

While on the trail, be constantly aware of the physical effects on the environment and help to limit any detrimental impacts.

  • Camp only in designated camping areas.
  • Be considerate of other campers by minimising noise.
  • Please stay on the trail. Cutting corners and creating new tracks causes erosion and visual scarring and may misdirect following hikers.
  • Wear low-impact, soft-soled shoes around camp sites.
  • Take rubbish off the island and pick up rubbish left by others.
  • At locations where toilet facilities are not provided, a trowel must be used to bury toilet waste and paper. Dig a hole, at least 15 cm 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.
  • All plants and animals are protected. Do not remove plant material, living or dead.
  • Feeding wildlife (including fish) is not allowed as it can affect their health and alter the natural population balance.
  • In an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires and lessen environmental damage at camp sites, Hinchinbrook Island is a fuel stove only area. Open camp and cooking fires are not allowed.
  • Avoid the spread of weeds. Regularly check footwear and clothing for seeds. Remove, wrap and carry seeds off the island.

Water quality

  • Protect water quality by not wearing insect repellents or sunscreen and by not urinating when swimming.
  • Wash at least 50 m 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.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages Hinchinbrook Island National Park to preserve the area’s natural, cultural and scenic values. Over most of the island, only self-reliant, nature-based and ecologically sustainable recreation is permitted. The majority of the natural environment remains undisturbed and preserved under various acts, legislation and management policies.

The Hinchinbrook Island National Park management plan (PDF, 406K) guides the management of the park and, to help with the protection and integrity of the coastal areas, the Cardwell-Hinchinbrook Regional Coastal management plan has been developed.

Hinchinbrook Island National Park lies within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Management of the World Heritage Area is coordinated through a partnership between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, the Traditional Owners and the wider community.

GBRMPA has implemented the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management in partnership with local communities through the Hinchinbrook Local Advisory Committee. This plan ensures best practices within the marine park enabling sustainable use and preservation for future generations. This plan covers activities within the marine park, including vessel size limits, area access, use of various water sports, aircrafts, commercial use and tourism activities.

Tourism information links

Rainforest and Reef Information Centre
www.greatgreenwaytourism.com
142 Victoria Street, Cardwell QLD 4849
Phone: (07) 4066 8601
Email: info@greatgreenwaytourism.com

Tyto Wetlands Information Centre
www.tyto.com.au
Bruce Highway, Ingham QLD 4850
Phone: (07) 4776 4792
Email: ceo@hinchinbrook.qld.gov.au

Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre
www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au
51 The Esplanade, Cairns Qld 4870
Phone: (07) 4051 3588
Email: info@ttnq.org.au

Flinders Mall Information Centre (Townsville Enterprise Ltd)
www.townsvilleonline.com.au
Flinders Mall, Townsville Qld 4810
Phone: 07 4721 3660 or 1800 801 902
Email: tel@tel.com.au

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

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Last updated
5 February 2016