Hinchinbrook Island: Thorsborne Trail

If you are looking for one of the most scenic multi day hikes in Queensland, the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is the perfect place to start. I completed this hike in 2016 and have been asked many times since then about the logistics of this beautiful trek. There are a few aspects of the Thorsborne Trail which can be tricky and involved a lot of planning and preparation, so I thought I’d make a post covering how I accomplished this hike.

A bit about the trail:

The Thorsborne trail is located on the eastern side of Hinchinbrook Island. It is 32km long and covers a wide range of beautiful, yet fragile ecosystems. It is mountainous and rugged with expansive beaches and is full of wildlife. The trail can be hiked in either direction, however I hiked from North to South and this seems to be most popular route. Because of the delicate nature of the area, QLD Parks and Wildlife allow only 40 people on the trail at a time, and a permit must be carried. 

How to get there:

John’s boat…

Hinchinbrook Island is separated from the mainland by the narrow Hinchinbrook Channel, which is filled with wildlife. It is located off the coast of Lucinda and Cardwell, approximately 2 hours north of Townsville. To get across to the Island, you will need to go via boat. I utilised the help of the incredible John at Absolute North Charters and could not recommend him more highly. John is full of knowledge about the area, and ensured we were well equipped to take on the trail. 

When to go:

The best time of year for the Thorsborne Trail is April to September. This will ensure that there is plenty of fresh water on the trail, it’s not too hot, and you should avoid getting rained on. We left our run a little late in the season and went at the end of October. This meant it was quite hot and the risk of dehydration increased. Fresh water was harder to find and we needed more of it. I would definitely not recommend going any later than this. 

John picked us up from Lucinda (Dungeness) and took us around to the start of the track amongst the mangroves, a short walk from Ramsay Bay. The two hour ish long boat trip was absolutely beautiful and a highlight in itself!

On the Trail:

There are endless ways to hike the Thorsborne Trail, and personally I think the more time the better! For this trip, we did 4 days / 3 nights, which was very manageable.

Day One: 6.5km

We were picked up by John from Dungeness at 8am and were starting the trail at Ramsay Bay around 10am. From here, the trail works its way into the lush rainforest and 4km later pops out at Nina Bay. This is the perfect spot for lunch. There is also a creek about 200m before you get to the campsite area where you can collect drinking water.

From here, the track will take you for a bit of a rock hop and scramble to the appropriately named Boulder Bay, before emerging at Little Ramsay Bay. This stretch is about 2.5km and should have you arriving with plenty of daylight left to set up camp and relax by the beach. We camped by a beautiful little lagoon and fresh water can be found about 100m up stream from here.

Little Ramsay Lagoon

Day Two: 10.5km

We were very thankful for John’s expert information as we set off on day two. He had already warned us that there is a tidal creek crossing not far from Little Ramsay Bay. It is so important that you get the timing of this right as it can get very deep. Crocodiles are a real threat, as are stingers, so you want to be crossing this creek at the lowest water level possible. Once across this section and a little more rock hopping, you will arrive at the turn off for Banksia Bay. This is about 600m from the main track, but worth going down to for morning tea.

Rock scrambling

The next section of track seemed to take a very long time. The vegetation changed almost constantly as we hiked through areas affected by variations in fire, rainfall and drainage. There are a few creek crossings as you approach Zoe Bay and they were very welcomed as our water levels were running low. We ended up having lunch by one of these creeks. Eventually, we began to catch glimpses of beautiful blue water, and we stumbled out onto Zoe Bay. Another 400m walk along the beach then had us arriving at the camp sites. Most are quite secluded and private amongst the trees. It was beautiful!

In search of fresh water, we followed the track upstream and found the most impressive Zoe Falls. It is literally minutes from the campsite and is so refreshing after a long day of hiking. After a swim, we made our way back to the beach and tried some fishing in the inlet… to limited success. I think we (me) wrapped the only lure around a mangrove branch on about the second cast! But it’s definitely worth taking a hand line or telescopic rod for a bit of fun if you have the space. Make sure to check the fishing area restrictions and you are not allowed to fish in freshwater.

Zoe Bay

Day 3: 7.5km

This was probably my favourite day of hiking. We trekked up next to the creek again to the base of Zoe Falls before scrambling uphill. This was quite difficult with packs on, but nothing too strenuous. There is even a rope to help out in one of the trickier bits. We popped out at the top of Zoe Falls and this was by far the highlight of the trip. Here, you can sit in beautiful freshwater rock pools feeding into a waterfall, overlooking Zoe Bay below. Despite this being not far from the campsite, we stopped at the top of the falls for quite some time before continuing on for the day.

View from the top of Zoe Falls

The next section takes you to the highest point on the trail, and the impressive Lucinda Sugar Terminal and Palm Island Group will come into view. The ocean remained visible for most of this part as the trail followed high above the coast. This section is quite exposed to the sun, so when we reached the turn off for Sunken Reef Bay (1 hour return), we all made the decision to bypass this and eat lunch in the shade. This section has limited water available, so make sure you fill up at Zoe Falls.

After crossing Diamantina Creek, another 1 km of hiking brought us out at Mulligan Falls. This was absolutely spectacular and we all jumped in for a swim. There are lots of curious freshwater fish in the pools, but they won’t bite much! 

Mulligan Falls

Day 4: 7.5km

The final day of hiking has multiple swampy creek crossings before popping out on the beach at Mulligan Bay. There is no freshwater beyond this point, so it’s worth filling everything up at Mulligan Falls. The remainder of the trail is along the beach, which makes for a very easy stroll. There is another tidal creek crossing (Mulligan Creek), which again needs to be timed correctly to avoid being potential croc lunch. The crossing was quite high for us as we approached, so we stopped in the shade for lunch. 

We had arranged to meet with John at George Point a bit later in the day, so had plenty of time. George Point is a stones throw from Lucinda, so the boat trip back with John did not take long at all. There are a few little restaurants at Dungeness to have a well-earned feed and a drink at before driving back home.

What to Take:

Packing for a multi day hike can be a little daunting! Especially when the hike is on a remote island… You’ll want to make sure you have the essentials, yet are keeping packs as light as possible. There are so many different brands you can use, I’m not even going to begin scratching the surface there! The most important thing is that your gear is good quality, light weight and works for you.

  • A light weight tent
  • Self inflating camping mat
  • Very light weight sleeping bag and cotton liner
  • Jet boil
  • Small camping chair – there is very limited seating. You’ll thank me later!
  • PLB or EPIRB – there is limited/no mobile reception
  • Head torch
  • Camping utensils and saucepans
  • 10L water bladder to use at camp
  • 2L water storage whilst hiking
  • Waterproof booties / sandals for the creek crossings
  • Hiking boots
  • First aid kit
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen/hat/sunnies
  • One set of quick dry clothes to hike in, one set to sleep in
  • Lightweight jacket, doubled as a pillow
  • Rain jacket
  • Tide chart
  • Biodegradable toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Rubbish bags
  • Hand reel / telescopic fishing rod
  • Camera
  • Water purifying tablets (we didn’t take any, but personal preference)

Food:

This is totally personal preference, but you want to make it as simple and easy as possible, whilst still providing nutritional value! Here is what I found worked best:

  • Breakfast –

Quick oats with milk powder and sultanas. Prior to leaving, I separated this into ziplock bags for each person and once on the trail just added boiling water. Minimal mess! The oats can still be a little crunchy, but very delicious!

  • Lunch – 

We took wraps rather than bread so it didn’t matter if they got squished. Then a couple of tins of tuna per person.

  • Dinner – 

The options are endless really, but again I went for ease and prepared zip lock bags before leaving. In them, a packet of two minute noodles, French onion soup, dehydrated vegies and beef jerky. Pour in boiling water and let sit for a few minutes… a very tasty dinner! 

  • Snacks – 

I made up little trail mix bags with lollies, nuts and m&m’s. Because of the coloured layer, m&m‘s won’t melt! A big jar of peanut butter also went down a treat on a wrap, and we had a few tins each of tinned spaghetti as well. Then also a stash of muesli bars, fruit and crackers.

  • Alcohol – 

On this trip we didn’t take any alcohol, but on other trips I have done I usually make sure there is no more than 500ml per person per night. This extra weight can add up quickly, but sometimes it’s just worth it! Obviously make sure it’s something you won’t mind drinking at room temp. North QLD unfortunately doesn’t have the cooling benefits of glacier fed lakes…

At the end of the day, food is a very personal preference! Just try to make sure it’s something that you will enjoy eating, has minimal packaging (there are no rubbish facilities, so you’ll have to pack it out), and is lightweight. What I did was a very simple way of doing it, but effective! And make sure you pack more than you think you’ll need in case of an emergency! (Or a feast on the last day…)

**Make sure you use the food boxes provided at the campsites. Little creatures would love a nibble on your food and will chew through your pack to do so!

Overall:

All in all, the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is a very rewarding multiday hike. It is filled with wildlife, secluded beaches, and is not too far from a major centre (Townsville). There a few important things to remember such as your camping permit, boat transfers and tidal creek crossings, but overall it is a wonderful experience. I hope this post was able to help you plan your trip!

Feel free to check out the video I made.

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