Backpacking the Thornsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island in Queensland. A stunning 32km hike on one of Australia’s largest island national parks on the world heritage listed Hinchinbrook Island. We discovered this wilderness trek by chance, while looking for backpacking adventures in Australia on this website which outlines the top 15 hiking trails in Australia.
The trail is named after local naturalists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne and as soon as you arrive in the area you can see how proud the locals are of the Island and once you have walked it, you will see why. When researching the Island we found it difficult to find up to date information in one place and so have created this blog and information pack.
The pack includes:
- A practical guide to walking the trail – this blog post
- A video log of our preparation and time on the island (see video below or link to YouTube by clicking here)
- A diary blog on our adventure – Click here to open
- Detailed 11 page trail notes which you can download and print – Click here for more info.
- For information on the Gear we take on our backpacks we have put together a guide for what we took on the Larapinta Trail. You can check this out by clicking here.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO HIKING THE TRAIL
TRAIL RATING: Queensland Parks & Wildlife have rated this hike as difficult.
The humidity, temperatures and rainfall will determine the difficulty of this hike. The trail is not graded and is rough and rocky in places, with many river crossings which can vary in height depending on tides and rainfall amounts. We averaged 3km/hour moving time on the first three days and 4km/hour on the final day. But you need to factor in morning tea and lunch stops as well as plenty of time to enjoy the many swimming holes and stunning views.
BEST TIME TO WALK: The cooler months are the best time to hike this trail from April to September
We set off on the 7th June and had perfect wether, not too hot for hiking, but warm enough to want to jump into the many amazing waterholes which this Island is famous for.
ISLAND TEMPERATURES: 31.4 degree highs to lows of 13.6 degrees
We had sunny day time temperatures between 23 and 24 degrees with evening temperatures falling to between 16-17 degrees when we walked it at the beginning of June 2017. For the latest Weather forecast head to the BOM website
NUMBER OF NIGHTS: A minimum of 3 nights is recommended. This was how long we spent on the Island, giving us 3.5 days of hiking which is just enough time to enjoy the sites. Our thoughts on extending your stay can be found at the end of this guide.
BEST WAY TO WALK: All the advice we found was to walk from North to South as you get the best views and it gives you the benefit of hiking into the prevailing South Easterly (during our winter months) which is cooling instead of the breeze hitting you in the back where you are carrying your pack. Plus your backpack will be a little lighter for the days hike which takes in the highest point of the trail. Depending on the time of year the tides are also more favourable to you walking in this direction.
CAMPING PERMITS: You can now book a camping permit online through Queensland National Park’s Website. This is the easiest way to book and make amendments to your stay [Ignore all the misinformation out there that says you cannot] Alternatively you can ring the Cardwell Rainforest & Reef Visitor Centre on 0740668601, who will take payment and provide you with your booking reference. They are open 9am-5pm everyday and also have an e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
TOP TIP: Book in advance as currently only 43 people are allowed on the island and if you want to experience this with less people on the island avoid the school holidays
There are 7 campsites along the trail and your permit covers the whole island, not individual sites. Details on these sites by QPAW are found here At the majority of campsites there are pit toilets and rat boxes to store your food.
START YOUR ADVENTURE: The best place to leave from is Lucinda (Dungeness) as you have the exhilarating and beautiful 75km, 1hr 30 minute ride onto the Island while you’re fresh and then the short 10 minute transfer back for a shower and fish and chips after your hike. You can fly or get the train into Townsville and then pick up a transfer. Lucinda is 115km North of Townsville. Checkout Absolute North Charters advice on transfers here as we drove to Lucinda and didn’t utilise any of these services.
TRANSFERS TO THE ISLAND: Book with John from Absolute North Charters, he has lived here all his life and is a fountain of knowledge on this Island. He is very passionate about Hinchinbrook and will guide you on current reliable water sources, provide tidal advice for the river crossings as well as give you the history and ecology of this amazing world heritage listed area. John departs from the Lucinda boat ramp (Dungeness) at 8am and picks you up from Georges point at 1pm. [This time does vary only slightly due to the tides especially at the beginning of the year, but you will be given all the final details when booking] If you tell John you are staying at Lucinda Fishing Lodge you get picked up right out side your front door.
Absolute North Charters have been running transfers from Lucinda from the start of 2015 and have over 15 years experience in the business. John’s philosophy and passion is to make it as easy as possible for hikers to enjoy this stunning island, while protecting its beauty and wilderness.
The website is where we found lots of information on the hike www.absolutenorthcharters.com.au
Phone: 0419712577 Email: email@example.com
WHERE TO STAY: The family owned and run, Lucinda Fishing Lodge is perfectly positioned right on the water for the start and end of your adventure, with a pick-up from your own jetty to the start of your hike. The views across the river and out to the Island are just stunning, with a brand new perfectly positioned BBQ area.
They have large double parking spaces for your trailer or caravan and the lodge are happy for you to keep your vehicle here while you walk the trail. The self-contained units are well set up and have a full size fridge/freezer which is perfect for storing your supplies and freezing any fresh meat you want to use on the first few days of your hike. The units have a laundry which if like us you’re are touring, is a great place to get everything clean and ready for the next adventure. Susie will make sure you are checked in and have everything you need while staying here. They offer a great little mini bar, full of nice treats and things you might have forgotten, like bug spray.
If you don’t fancy cooking the Channel Inn pub is straight across the road and serves great pub food and pizza in a really nice setting. On your return you must treat yourself to a huge portion of fish and chips from Lucinda Jetty store & Take -Away and defiantly go for the local Spanish Mackerel as its fresh off the boat.
Alternatively if you’re on a tighter budget you could stay at the caravan park in Lucinda and drive to the the jetty at Lucinda boat ramp (Dungeness) for your transfer.
SUPPLIES: Backpacking freeze-dried food supplies can be bought in Townsville at Anaconda as well as clothing and equipment. Plus there is a Kathmandu which has a great range of equipment and is where we purchased a lot of our kit. Fresh food can be bought either in Townsville or at Ingham where there is a Coles and Woolworth supermarket. Halifax has an amazing butchers which stock salami, bacon and cubed vacuum packed meats and there is also a basic spa. There are a couple of general stores in Lucinda, but they only stock limited supplies so we wouldn’t recommend relying on this for our trip. We did spot the store in the pub had a few pack packing lunch treats like salami and cheese if you forget anything.
MAPS & TRAIL NOTES: We would have loved more detailed trail notes and a topographical map, but currently there isn’t anything available. Although the trail in the main is well marked we did find areas where we struggled finding the route and talking to others found they had made other route mistakes too. What is availaible and is a must to take with you are the Thorsborne Trail track notes and map, which you can either download from the QPWS site or as we did pick up from the Tourist Information centre in Ingham [Which is well worth a look as its set in beautiful wetlands]. If you are walking North to South you follow orange arrows and South to North Yellow. Blue arrows mark the side trips, with the exception of Nina Peak.
We have created our own detailed trip notes which are available to Download here.
QPWS have been in touch with us and are launching very soon a glossy trail map. They are sending us a copy to have a look at at and we will update you on where to get a copy.
PROTECT THIS BEAUTIFUL ISLAND:
Rubbish: We were saddened on this trip to see people leaving rubbish in both the toilets and rat boxes. PLEASE takeout all your rubbish with you, we are all responsible as individuals to ensure we leave no trace in this wilderness environment.
Open fires: This is a world heritage listed island and a national park, that means no open fires and burning of native wood. Even if you see others have created fire rings on the campsites, don’t follow suit. Its an offence and if caught you will be fined. Make sure you have plenty of gas for cooking on and warm clothes as well as a cozy sleeping bag or a friend to hug.
Environmental protection: Don’t hang your packs from the trees as this causes damage, use the well positioned rat boxes at the campsites to store your food and rubbish overnight. If your camping in an area without a drop pit toilet bury your waste at least 15cm deep and 100m from any water source.
Biosecurity: Please check and remove any soil, pest and seeds from your equipment before heading onto the island to protect is natural flora and fauna.
If you are interested please checkout the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management which helps insure sustainable use and preservation for future generations.
ISLAND SAFETY: Things to watch out for on the island include:
• Tidal Rivers: Pick up a tide timetable for the tourist information and never cross swollen fast following rivers (drowning, crocodile risk and slippy rocks)
• Crocodiles: Read this safety brief be crocwise before you leave. Don’t swim in the ocean or tidal rivers, stick to the safe swimming holes.
• Sand flies and mosquitoes: These are by far the worst thing about the Island, pack plenty of DEET and apply it before your transfer, so you are protected as soon as you get off the boat and just keep putting it on. At night cover up early especially your feet that they love.
• Snakes: Pack a first-aid kit which includes bandages to treat a snake bite
• Water supplies: Ask for local knowledge on the current availability of water on the island and only rely on reliable water sources as conditions change. The water supply is most likely to be safe to drink, however we always treat everything before drinking it using our Camelbak All-clear water purifier.
• Native Rats: There are native rats on the island which can destroy your backpack and eat your supplies if you leave food overnight in them, so use the rat proof boxes which have been provided at the campsites. QPWS are moving towards pack hangers, to stop people using these as rubbish bin, we saw evidence of this at Nina Bay.
• Heat: Be prepared with plenty of drinking water, a sun hat and plan to walk in the cooler months.
• Booking cancellation: If for any reason you don’t hike the trail, please cancel your booking to assist in emergencies, such as cyclones and wildfires.
• Emergency contact: Please leave all your details on your Island transfer, planned route and timings with a responsible contact person.
• Pack an emergency locator beacon. We use a SPOT messenger beacon. There is very little mobile service on the Island and with Telstra only. We found good reception at the top of Nina peak, the top of the saddle after leaving Zoe Bay and once we reached Mulligan Bay. [Do not rely on mobile reception for this hike]
IF WE WERE TO DO THIS TREK AGAIN: We would definitely do it over 4 nights as there are so many places we would have liked to have spent longer at. Our suggested route and timings would be:
8am transfer with Absolute North Charters, arriving on the island and ready to hike at 9.30am. Ramsey Bay to Nina Bay with a side trip up Nina Peak.
Nina Bay to Banskia Bay
Banskia Bay to Zoe Bay. Have an afternoon dip in the lower pool of Zoe Falls. You may decide to have an additional night here to have walks on the beach and enjoy the pools of both the upper and lower falls.
Zoe Bay to Mulligan Falls. If you haven’t taken in the extra night at Zoe Bay, spend the morning in the upper pools of Zoe falls, before heading to Mulligan falls for another amazing waterfall dip. (You can only camp for one night at this site) We wouldn’t recommend the side trip to Sunken Bay, although beautiful we would recommend spending more time in the morning at Zoe falls and it saves you a 1.1km descend and accent.
Mulligan Bay to George Point. An easier ½ day with a 5km walk along the beach to be picked up at 1pm and a short crossing back to Lucinda.
Thank you to John from Absolute North Charters and Susie from Lucinda Fishing lodge for all their help and support undertaking this trip.
Sarah & Rich x
For Backpacking gear checkout our Partner Wild Earth where we get most of our gear from. Click on the banner below…