Back Thorsborne Trail Hinchinbrook Island National Park

Thorsborne Trail

Over four days traverse cloud-cloaked mountains, jungle-like rainforest, melaleuca swamps and pristine white beaches along the 32km Thorsborne Trail. This is a true wilderness walk for the experienced walker. 

Getting there and getting around

Access to the Thorsborne Trail is either by private vessel, launched from Cardwell or Lucinda (Dungeness), or by the water taxi services. Services vary according to demand, tide levels and time of year, and bookings are essential prior to obtaining camping permits.

To book transfers to the northern end of the Thorsborne Trail contact Rainforest and Reef Information Centre.

To book transfers to the southern end of the Trail contact Hinchinbrook Wilderness Safaris.

Hikers accessing the island by private vessel should obtain a copy of the Marine wonders of Hinchinbrook: a guide to using the Hinchinbrook transit lanes brochure produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

It is imperative that hiking details are left with a responsible contact person. This will assist in the event of an emergency situation or when hikers are overdue. The contact person must know:

  1. How hikers are accessing the island e.g. private vessel or water taxi
  2. The planned route
  3. When hikers are due to return
  4. The agreed time period after which the contact person will need to contact emergency services.
  5. To phone Triple Zero (000) or 112 in an emergency or if hikers do not return within agreed time period.

If no longer hiking the trail, ensure to cancel bookings by contacting us. Information on cancellations assists in emergencies such as cyclones and wildfires.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks on the Thorsborne Trail.

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Park Features

Hinchinbrook Island is a rugged, outstanding feature of the north Queensland coast between Townsville and Cairns. Its cloud-covered mountains, reaching 1000 metres, support fragile heath vegetation. Patches of lush rainforest and extensive eucalypt forest descend to a mangrove-fringed channel in the west with sweeping bays and rocky headlands along the east coast.

Protected since 1932, Hinchinbrook is one of Australia's largest island national parks (39,900 hectares). The island is within theGreat Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and is separated from the mainland by the scenic Hinchinbrook Channel.

Thorsborne Trail

The 32 kilometre Thorsborne Trail, along Hinchinbrook Island's east coast, is named after the late Arthur Thorsborne. Arthur and his wife, Margaret, shared a lifelong interest in nature conservation that included monitoring pied (Torresian) imperial-pigeons Ducula bicolor, which migrate to nest on local islands in summer.

The trail is not a graded or hardened walking track and, in some areas, is rough and difficult to traverse. It is managed under the minimal impact bushwalking and no-trace camping ethics. To help minimise impact and to maintain the wilderness setting, permits are issued for a maximum of 40 people on the trail at any one time. The largest group size is six.

Mountain areas

Much of the mountain area is covered with fragile heath vegetation. To protect the unspoiled nature of the mountains and in the interest of safety, hiking in these areas is restricted. Any group wishing to walk into the mountains will need to apply in writing to Rainforest and Reef Information Centre. A topographical map and compass should be carried.

Island habitats

Hinchinbrook Island is renowned for its habitats. Its extensive mangrove forests are among the richest and most diverse in Australia. They are important breeding grounds for many marine animals. Other habitats include saltpans, eucalypt forest, rainforest, freshwater melaleuca swamps, heaths and sloping mountain rock pavements.

Fire plays a vital role in maintaining habitat diversity. Much of Australia's landscape has been shaped by fire and many Australian plants have adapted to living in fire-prone areas. Some eucalypts and banksias require fire to trigger germination of seeds. Fire was used extensively by Aboriginal people to promote plant growth and clearing for access.

Marine habitats

Marine park waters surround Hinchinbrook Island. Habitats, including fringing reefs, seagrasses and muddy seabeds, support a wealth of marine life. Seagrass beds are the basic food source for dugong Dugong dugon, which are seen occasionally in Missionary Bay. Adult green turtles Chelonia mydas frequent the Hinchinbrook area.

Camping and Accommodation


Seven camping areas are accessible from the Thorsborne Trail. Camping permits are required and fees apply. A maximum stay of two nights is permitted at each camping area, except for Mulligan Falls where the limit is one night. To help minimise impact and to maintain the wilderness setting, permits are issued for a maximum of 40 people on the trail at any one time. The largest group size is six.

The trail is very popular and often fully booked during peak periods and school holidays. Purchasing a permit well in advance is advised to avoid disappointment. Please notify permit offices of any cancellations so other hikers can obtain places on the trail.

Other accommodation

There are several other camping areas on the island, not associated with the Thorsborne Trail. On the mainland there is a range of accommodation at Lucinda and Cardwell. 

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Things To Do


The Thorsborne Trail is not a graded or hardened walking track and in some areas is rough and difficult to traverse. It is recommended, prior to hiking the trail, that all hikers obtain a copy of the QPWS Thorsborne Trail trail guide. See the tourism information links for trail guide locations.

For detailed information, see Thorsborne Trail track notes.


Fishing is prohibited in all freshwater streams, lagoons and creeks of Hinchinbrook Island National Park. The island and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning maps and information before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

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