Hinchinbrook Island: Ramsay Bay – Little Ramsay Bay – Zoe Bay – Sunken Reef Bay/Mulligan Falls – George Point
Trek the 32 kilometre (19.8 miles) Thorsborne Trail along the eastern coast of Hinchinbrook Island – an untouched tropical paradise on the coast between Townsville and Cairns. Over four days you'll traverse cloud-cloaked mountains, jungle-like rainforest, melaleuca swamps and pristine white beaches. See a panorama of wildlife, from bright butterflies and birds to crocodiles, sea turtles, dugongs and dolphins. This is a true wilderness walk for the experienced walker – the path isn't graded or hardened so can be difficult to traverse in places. Walk in either direction, camp in any of the seven designated sites and remember to ‘leave no trace'. Only 40 people can walk the trail at any one time, so book your permit well in advance. Planning and following safety guidelines is vital. The best time to walk is during the cooler months from April to September. You can reach the island on a ferry or water taxi from Cardwell or Lucinda.
At a glance:
Immerse yourself in the untouched tropical paradise of Hinchinbrook Island – Australia’s largest island national park – on the 32km (19.8 miles) Thorsborne Trail.
Get ready for a solid hike – covering around 6.5km (4 miles) in four and a half hours. The trail starts a little south of the Ramsay Bay boardwalk and follows a mountain ridge down to Blacksand Beach. Try the creek behind the small lagoon for water between January and August. From here, the trail meanders beneath a lush canopy of tea-trees and through tall open forest to the saddle beneath Nina Peak. Trek downhill with a seasonal stream, then through a forest of red-flowered and spotted mangroves. Cross the creek at low or half-tide and continue to the northern edge of Nina Bay, where you can camp and gather fresh water. Clamber over the cliffs to Boulder Bay, a haven for green turtles. When tides are high, you may have to detour through dense vegetation on the top of the Nina headland. Rock-hop from Boulder Bay to Little Ramsay Bay, home to a campsite and good fresh water supply.
Today’s hike covers 10km (6.2 miles) of diverse vegetation in six hours. Start by crossing a tidal creek, walking the beach and climbing up and around a rocky headland. A short side track leads to picturesque Banksia Bay, where you can snorkel over vivid fringing reefs or settle for the afternoon in the campsite. The main trail continues on across Banksia Creek to Banksia and Zoe Bays, showcasing dry open forest, tall rainforest and mangrove swamps. Look out for orange alligator barks and quandong trees with their bright blue fruits. The tangled rainforest between North Zoe Creek and Fan Palm Creek can be tricky to traverse but is a great spot for birdwatching. Wade across creeks and swamps to Zoe Bay campsite, a short walk from spectacular Zoe Falls. Collect fresh water from South Zoe Creek, where crowds of tiny blue soldier crabs converge on the nearby sand flats at low tide. Beach and forest campsites are located at the end of the bay and care needs to be taken in storing food from wildlife.
Spectacular views, rocky passages and secluded bays mark this 7.5km (4.7 miles) section, which you can walk in four and a half hours. Trail South Zoe Creek before veering upwards to the trail’s best vantage points. From the highest spot – 260m (853 feet) above sea-level – you can see out to the Palm Islands and Magnetic Island. Look out for the wild, cartoon-coloured foliage as you weave through the heathlands. Native lasiandras flower in hot pink and crimson buds turn blue-grey on the rare blue banksias. Coral fern and sundews line the creeks, while birds and insects flock to the nectar-rich white flowers of the grasstrees. It’s a 30-minute detour to Sunken Reef Bay, a picturesque spot for sea kayaking. Camp here behind the foredunes or continue carefully across Diamantina Creek to the campsite beneath Mulligan Falls. Soak up the great views out to Lucinda and the Palm Islands, but steer clear of the dangerous area at the top of the falls.
Mulligan Falls is the last reliable freshwater source along the trail, so collect water here before heading off. The trail weaves through 2.5km (1.5 miles) of tropical rainforest, crossing five crystalline creeks. Check Moth Creek for seasonal fresh water and play ‘spot the Noisy-Pitta’. This colourful bird has a strident call that sounds like ‘walk to work’ – a productivity anthem as it forages on the forest floor for insects. South of Diamantina Creek, you’ll spill out of the rainforest and onto Mulligan Bay. From here, it’s a 5km (3.1 miles) calf-burning hike along the beach and across Mulligan Creek to George Point. You should cross the creek at low to half tide. Pre-booked boats will collect you from here, and the pick-up time will take into account the tidal flows of Mulligan Creek. There’s also a campsite here if you want to spend a few more nights or rest before a return hike to Ramsay Bay.