Hinchinbrook Island | Thorsborne Trail – Complete Hiking Guide 2020

Hinchinbrook Island - Thorsborne Trail

The trail is on the east coast of Hinchinbrook Island National Park in Far North Queensland. The Thorsborne Trail is named in homage to the pioneering explorers and conversationalists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne.

The iconic trail is a great combination of breath-taking vistas, waterfalls, challenging sections such as tidal crosses and untamed wilderness with unique flora and fauna. 

The trail is well marked by yellow markers (S to N) or orange markers (N to S) but according to the local charter boat captain, about 90% of hikers travel from north to south along the 32km trail.

​You can purchase this app which is a great guide for the trail for $5 that is extremely helpful and is used by Queensland parks and wildlife services for real time updates of information about the park. 

In this blog post we will cover;

Who: Stephanie Ryan, Karen Taylor, Bec Dickinson

When: Dry season (May – September) Permit from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

Where: Access the island by charters from Lucinda or Cardwell

How: Knowing the hazards and following responsible hiking practices.

Hinchinbrook is a remote island, far away from civilisation that has rapidly changing weather and approximately 24 hours away from rescue, so knowledge of potential hazards is critical. Wet weather equals slippery rocks. Humid and hot weather equally dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Drink lots of water, plan to walk early in the day, swim to cool off in Zoe Falls and Mulligan Falls. 

In wet weather, be careful of creek crossings. Insects can be avoided by using 40% deet spray and covering all exposed skin. Keep your eyes peeled for snakes. Hinchinbrook Island and its surrounding water is the home to many saltwater crocodiles, sharks and dangerous jellyfish. Do not swim at the beaches and keep your distance from the banks of Zoe Creek.

We crucially left the details of our hike with a responsible contact person who in the unfortunate situation of an emergency knew:

– The boat company that took us to the island

– Our planned hiking route

– The date and time we were due to return, and the amount of time that would pass without contact when the emergency services would be informed.

We also downloaded an offline map and Lucinda tidal information.

Day one: Ramsay Bay to Little Ramsay Bay (Grade: moderate)

Distance: 6.5 km (not including Nina Peak)

Time: 3 hours

We were dropped off at the North end of Hinchinbrook Island by Absolute North Charter at Ramsay Bay at about 10:00am. The drop off location on the island is at the end of a mangrove boardwalk and the trail starts on the right hand side of a large granite rock and is marked by orange markers. The trail continues to follow the line of the ridge and descends onto a beach called Blacksand Beach. The trial then goes through the Eucalyptus bush of mainly Gympie messmate (type of eucalyptus) along the saddle of Nina Peak, here you will see a trail that goes off to the right. We dumped our packs and quickly walked up Nina Peak. It is a short, not too steep incline with two flat rock lookouts until you make it to the peak. We were rewarded with stunning views back towards Ramsay Bay with Mount Bowen.

We walked back down to the packs and continued on the trail. We had to take off our boots to walk through an ankle deep tidal creek and after that, the trail continued through the mangroves. Then you hit the northern end of Nina Bay. We decided to stop here for our lunch break at about 12:00. We bought tuna, beans and sweet corn in packets that was light and easy with crackers. We started walking again along Nina Bay to Little Ramsay Bay at 1pm, it was a light, easy hike but very hot. At some points there is little to no breeze and in the unshaded/uncovered sections it was a bit steamy with the pack. The trail pops out at Little Ramsay Bay where you walk along the beach for 200 m and the campsite is situated next to a lagoon.

At the campsite, there are hooks to hang your packs to stop native rats chewing through your bags to your food supplies and a toilet. The Wawawilla Creek is a good water source to replenish your supplies.  If you are looking toward the ocean on the left behind the lagoon, take a track to the north end of the lagoon, head west on the right hand side of the lagoon and take the right Y intersection to take the right track. We used chlorinated tablets to sterilise the creek water. We simply added the tablet, waited 5 minutes, made sure the lid was on tight, inverted the water bottle and left it for 30 minutes. We were not fans of the taste of the treated water but on the positive side there was no vomiting or diarrhoea.

We got to the campsite at 2 pm so there was ample time to relax and get more water, then cooked up a delicious Massaman curry and rice. We checked to see what time low tide was the following morning in order to time the tidal creek crossing and slept like babies with the sound of the waves crashing as we fell asleep. It was warm and dry enough that we didn’t need the waterproof layer of our tents and sleeping bag liners were more than enough.

Day two: Little Ramsay Bay to Zoe Bay (Grade: Moderate)

Distance: 10.5 km

Time: 3.5 hours

We were up at the crack of dawn, packed down our tents and made a coffee. Headed on our way by 6 am to beat the heat and to cross the tidal creek crossing at low tide. We had to do a bit of boulder hopping around the two headlands and looked for turtles on the rocky outcrop to no avail. At the opposite end of the beach we headed up over the saddle. Where we found a large landslide. 

At this point the trail is clearly detailed around the landslide. We went through different vegetation types starting with bush scrub, then subtropical and then mangrove flats which thankfully were dry and not swampy. We completed this section in half the allocated time probably due to how dry this section was. The least interesting section of this Thorsborne Trail was where the flat rainforest went on and on, with lots of dry creek beds to hop across which made this a very easy walk. To our relief, we finally arrived at the northern end of Zoe Bay, where we stopped to take in the view. We walked along the beach for about 400 m to a mosquito infested campsite next to South Zoe river mouth.

From the Zoe Bay campsite, the waterfall is about a 15 minute walk up the trail which was very easy (we did it in thongs). We boulder hopped up the South Zoe Creek bed to the base of Zoe Falls. We had a refreshing swim over to the falls, where there is a lovely little ledge that you can sit under the falls. To find the infinity pool at the top of the falls, we came back to the trail and followed it up to the top of the falls. This part is a steeper climb up the side of the falls where there is a rope to help you pull yourself up. Once you are at the top, there are some large granite slabs that have created a little infinity pool with amazing views of the ocean and Zoe Bay.

Day three: Zoe Bay to Mulligan Falls (Grade: moderate)

Distance: 7.5 km

Time: 2 hours

We woke up at Zoe Falls, collected water for our morning coffee and packed up for day three of the hike. Repeated the scramble up to the infinity pool and the river crossings that we had read doesn’t exist in the dry season. This day was very hot and the trial is not shaded. There are some steep little hills until we dropped our packs to walk up to the highest point on the trail which was 300 m above sea level. When you look south you can see the Palm Island Group and Magnetic Island in the distance out over the ocean as well as the boat ramp at Lucinda. Then we dropped down into a valley and saw the turn off for Sunken Reef Bay. 

There was a small climb to Diamantina Creek. The creek bed was dry so we simply boulder hopped across but in previous years hikers in our group had waded through waist deep water here. Then after the creek there was a steep climb and then you zig zag down rock steps as you drop back down into the rainforest and come to Mulligan Falls campground. The most picturesque of all three camping spots. Beautiful falls for swimming.

Day four: Mulligan Falls to George Point (Grade: Easy)

Distance: 7.5 km

Time: 1.5 hours

Leaving the picturesque Mulligan Falls along the trail to George Point, you follow the coast across 5 creek beds. As previously stated, it was extremely dry when we did the trail so all the creek beds were dry and easy to cross. The last 5 km of the trail is a walk along the beach.

About 2 km down the beach, Mulligan Creek crosses the beach and we were advised to cross here at low tide and then carried on the George Point. We had arranged to be picked up here to go back to Lucinda for a well-deserved beer in the local pub that looks out onto Hinchinbrook Island.

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