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Introduction to Thorsborne Trail

Hinchinbrook Island is one of Australia's largest island National Parks. It also contains some of the most natural scenery to be found in Queensland and the island is managed as wilderness. The island offers only one track, the Thorsborne Trail which follows the east coast. The remainder of the island is wilderness and access is only allowed by special permit.

Mt Bowen from Zoe Bay

The track is named after the late Arthur Thorsborne, a prominent local conservationist. The 32 km trail can be walked in 3 to 5 days. There are some possible side trips to two bays off the main track and I recommend spending 4 or 5 days if you want a relaxing walk and permits are available.

The Thorsborne Trail is not a constructed track - it is a rough bushwalkers track which includes sections of rocky shoreline, rainforest with many tree-roots and even has some deep mud. While rough, it is generally easy to follow. Fuel stoves must be carried as this is a fuel stove only area - no camping fires are allowed. The weather is normally warm to hot To avoid the very wet or hot and humid weather, the trail is best undertaken in winter between April to October as it’s cooler and less humid. No special equipment is needed - campsites are sheltered and the weather is usually warm.

On Hinchinbrook Island native rats have found walkers food attractive and they will eat holes in tents and packs. Do not keep any food in a tent - at all major campsites steel boxes are provided for this purpose. Do not make the mistake of thinking tough pack material will protect your food - these rats normally eat holes in coconuts - you will see plenty of coconuts with neat circular holes bored into them. Saltwater crocodiles are present in creeks, rivers, lagoons and along the coast of the island . These crocodiles can be dangerous to humans so take care. In particular, obey any warning signs - part of the Zoe Bay campsite has been closed, take care at major stream crossings and do not swim in the ocean.


The island is located in north Queensland and is about 180 km south of Cairns.

Mulligan Falls


Cardwell is the closest town on the highway and boats can leave on any day for the island (bookings essential). The town has a variety of accommodation at several standards.

Access to Cardwell is easy as it is located on the main highway from Cairns to Brisbane and several bus services pass through the town every day. The southern end of the walk is the small fishing port of Lucinda which is located 19km off the highway and has backpacker accommodation.

Departure and pickup times for the boat services vary as they are effected by tides, bookings are essential as they do not run daily services. When you make bookings, the boat operators will confirm boat times. The northern and southern ends of the Thorsborne Trail are serviced by different charter boat operators and walkers are responsible for making their own transfer arrangements. Book permits and boat transfers under the same name - the operators do check that you have permits. You must meet the boats, as overdue walkers are regarded as lost and a search and rescue operation is then started. Bookings can be made with the Rainforest & Reef Information Centre, PO Box 210, Cardwell 4849 or by telephone (07) 4066 8601

Maps and Track Notes

The AUSLIG 1:50,000 Hillock Point is the best map to get. An alternative is the NATMAP 1:100,000 Cardwell. The track is not shown on either map. When you book a permit for the Thorsborne Trail, the rangers will send you a free leaflet showing the tracks location. This is very useful although the map is basic and is not suitable for detailed navigation.

Trail notes and a basic map are provided on the sketch map provided online from Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) or mailed out upon request. Detailed walking notes are available in Bushwalking In Australia.

Suggested Itinerary

1 Boat to Ramsay Bay, walk to Little Ramsay Bay, 7km
2 Over to Zoe Bay. 11km
3 Over Magic Saddle to Mulligan Falls, 8km
4 Along beach to George Point, 8km


These are needed and a limit of 40 walkers at any one time on the island applies. Permits cost $5.00 per person per night and the largest group size is six people. Permits are issued for a maximum of seven days. Being an island, access is readily controlled - the boat operators are very diligent and check permits so don't try to visit without one.

Hinchinbrook Island is popular and is often booked out during the main walking period (winter). To avoid disappointment, book several months ahead. While it might be possible to obtain cancellations, do not rely on this. Don't come and wait at Cardwell for a few days hoping you are lucky. Before walking the track, all walkers are encouraged to watch a video about walking on the island and how to look after its environment.

More information is available from Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM). Permits can be booked on the web from the Queensland Government website or by telephone 131304.

This is one place which you need to book ahead but it is worth the wait.

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Last updated : April 16th 2010