This hike is absolutely stunning and is packed with a huge amount of beauty over it's 32km. Think crystal clear pools, epic views, waterfalls and wildlife - you won't be disappointed.
Read on for our guide on everything you need to know about booking, hiking and enjoying the Thorsborne Trail!
Before You Go
What to Pack
Need To Know
- Rats (Keeping your food safe)
- Tide times (tidal river crossings)
How much does it cost?
The boat transfer per person is between $155 - $170 return depending on the operator. Ours were $165 each and we were super happy with the operator we chose! (See below for info on our ferry choice). Keep in mind these are longish trips, so although it may seem like a lot of money, you re on the boat for quite a while!
Which direction should I walk?
Firstly you'll need to decide which direction you'd like to hike, either starting at the Northern or Southern end of the trail. The most common route is North to South, so this post will describe the track that way.
In terms of difficulty it wouldn't really make a difference either way as both directions start and end at sea level. However if you choose to travel North to South, then you will get to camp at Zoe Falls and Mulligans Falls on the last 2 nights of your hike (which is nice so you can swim and cool off!).
The trail is very clearly and frequently marked from both directions. Nth to Sth is marked with orange arrow markers, where as Sth to Nth is marked with yellow arrows.
Download a map from QLD Parks here
Download the Hinchinbrook Island Discovery guide here
How many days will I need?
That being said, some people have suggested doing 4 nights and spending two nights at South Zoe Bay so that you can spend an entire day hanging out at the waterfall. Its up to you!
Booking your permit with QLD Parks
You can book your permit here.
The QLD Parks campground reservation website can be a little fiddly to operate, after being in the state for a month and using if for multiple locations we finally got the hang of it.. (we think).
Next up you'll need to click the check availability link. Don't be alarmed if dates are booked out, this is pretty common so you may need to be flexible!
When searching for dates you'll need 3 (or whatever you desired length of stay is) consecutively that have availabilities for the number of people you're hiking with. Quite often there may be only 1 or 2 spots available on days so it can be difficult to link up multiple days in a row when you are travelling with more than 2 people if you don't book well in advance.
See on the image below the green dot indicates there are spaces available, where as the number underneath indicates the number of spaces available.
Boat Transfer to Hinchinbrook Island (from Cardwell OR Lucinda)
There are 2 companies, one leaves from Cardwell; Hinchinbrook Island Cruises and the other from Lucinda, Absolute North Charters.
We went with Brad from Hinchinbrook Island cruises and could not have been happier with his service. Brad was super friendly, punctual and informative. He gave us history about the island and surrounding area on the trip over, as well as stopping to spot crocs on the trip back! When we pulled up at Ramsay Bay for the beginning of our hike he even supplied us all with insect repellant to use before leaving the boat, in preparation for the sandflies!
As a bonus for going from Cardwell there is a free long term carpark very close the wharf that makes it super easy to pull up, grab your bags out and get on the boat.
It was roughly 60 minutes from Cardwell to our starting point at the North of the island, and 90 minutes on the way back from the South of the island to Cardwell. If you are to get transport from Lucinda it's 10 minutes to the South of the island and 90 minutes to the North.
What To Pack
- Black Wolf Isopod 2 man. At 3.2kg it isn't the lightest hiking tent on the market, but it is super easy to put up and down and just roomy enough for both of us and our bags. It's a good all around tent and we've used it previously comfortably in a little snow.
- Sleeping Bag
- Sea to Summit Latitude - these were WAY too hot for this hike, but are great for alpine adventures. Being a tropical island, most sleeping bags with a comfort rating of 0°C should be plenty warm enough. We just slept with them open.
- Sea to Summit Ultralight hiking mats. Full disclaimer, although these fold up small and are fairly comfortable, they are very noisy and like to slide around in the tent. We'd read reviews saying this and thought it was people being over the top...After a few years of copping it we're now in the market for some new mats.
- Sea to Summit aeros pillow - packs up tiny! Although to be honest not sure it's any better than folded up clothes in your sleeping bag stuff sack.
- Matches / Lighter
- Utensils (Knife/Fork/Spoon/Spork - whatever your weapon(s) of choice is)
- Water container (for collecting water & drinking from - it's suggested to have the capacity for 4L per person)
- A water treatment method - whether its a UV light, tablets, a filter, or just extra fuel to boil water, it's always good to be prepared to treat your collected drinking water.
- Head torch
- Phone (Reception is unreliable, but at some high points on the trek it is there. Always good to have an option for an emergency or just as a camera)
- Power bank
- Charging cables (phone, camera, head torch, GPS watch etc)
- Emergency locator beacon
- First aid kit (see below)
- Goggles / snorkel mask (We didn't pack our own but were lucky that two legends John and Peter let us borrow theirs. Amazing to swim around in the pools at the bottom of both falls and look at the fish. A large snorkel mask might be overkill to hike with for multiple days, but you won't regret bringing a little pair of Zoggs.)
- Satellite phone*
*We didn't have one of these but they are super handy for when you get into a sticky situation, and especially important for people travelling alone. Garmin has a variety of options that start out around a couple hundred dollars, a small price to pay for peace of mind (for you and your family).
Here's what we took with us. This list is not exhaustive and doesn't even scratch the surface on backpacking food options, but it worked for us!
- Porridge! We do a premade mix of oats, nuts and seeds (eg. chia seeds, pepitas, walnuts, sultanas) so that we just need to boil with water in the morning.
- Coffee and/or tea (we have an aero press but chose to take instant coffee as it is such smaller and lighter, and totally does the job)
- Peanut butter sandwiches! we made these in advance for the 4 days and they lasted well! They are not the lightest though)
- Mi goreng noodles & long life tofu
- Mexican Rice & Mexican TVP - both only needed water and/or heating on pan
- Basmati Rice & Chickpea curry - both only needed water and/or heating on pan
- Mixed salted nuts
- Clif Bars
- Salt & Vinegar fava beans
- Dark Chocolate
- Sesame snaps
- Jatz crackers
- Mint/Chai/Camomile Tea
Alternatively there are lots dehydrated options for all meals available from a variety of providers.
Back Country meals are around $12 for a single serve or $18 for a double serve (and can quite often be bought on sale). They have breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert options - and they're pretty darn good! Only problem for us was finding vegan options. It's also important to note that their serving sizes are pretty small. Most people that we meet have a double serve to themselves quite easily, especially after a long day on the trails.
First Aid & Toiletries
- Snake bandage
- Space blanket
- Insect Repellant (containing DEET)
- Hand sanitiser (Thanks COVID)
- Bite cream
- Antiseptc cream (detail, tea tree etc)
- Electrolyte tablets
- Sun cream
- SPF lip balm
- Aqua tabs - or some way to treat your water
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Toilet Paper
- Wet wipes - as we got to swim every day we didn't feel the need to have a refresh with these bad boys
Day 1: Cardwell → Ramsay Bay → Little Ramsay Bay (6.5 km)
Brad from Hinchinbrook Island Cruises met us and a few others who were headed to the island with him also at the car park at 6:45am and we headed to the boat. From there it was probably 60 minutes, we stopped a couple of times for Brad to point out some landmarks and give us some history of the island which was awesome. We also saw a huge tuna jumping at a bait ball on the ride over which was very impressive.
Once we arrived at Ramsay Bay Brad got us all to put on some insect repellant as the sandflies can apparently be pretty bad here. We jumped out of the boat, got our obligatory photos at the start of the hike next to the national park sign and we were off!
We followed the path (and the very obvious and frequent orange arrow markers) until we got to a clearing that had a path climbing off to the right, next to a fairly obvious large space to leave our bags. This side path was to Nina Peak, something we definitely didn't want to miss.
The Nina Peak side trip was short but steep, it was only roughly a km return but packed a punch in vertical gain, definitely worth leaving your pack at the bottom!
For those who want to take the hike a little slower and stay for more days there is a campground located at Nina Bay.
Once we arrived at the campground we picked our spot, pitched our tent and hung our bags up on the pack racks. These pack racks are installed for everyone to use so that your bags are off the ground. The island is inhabited with native bush rats that will chew through your bag or tent (or anything!) if there is food inside, so save yourself the hassle (and cost) of having your equipment nibbled at and hang your gear up.
Next up we needed to refill our water stores.
Little Ramsay Bay has a large lagoon next to the campground and although it may look inviting, do not be tempted to swim there as it is home to a saltwater crocodile. There is a clear warning sign letting you know to steer clear of the area.
You will however need to hike up the creek feeding into the lagoon to refill your water stores.
It was nice to rinse ourselves up here also, there is something about fresh water that always feels good on the skin!
Day 2: Little Ramsay Bay → Zoe Bay (10.5 km)
After a breakfast of nut & seed porridge (as always) and coffee we packed up our stuff and headed off around 8:30. We wanted to get moving somewhat early so that we'd reach the South Zoe camping area nice and early so we could head up to the falls and get the afternoon there.
Only a short way into the days trip there is a side trip to Banksia Bay. It's only 600m return and worth it if you'd like to check out the yellow native orchids that grow in the area.
Banksia Bay is also a campground for those that skipped Little Ramsay. There is not another hikers campground until South Zoe after this one. Although there are other campgrounds on the island they can be used by sea kayakers or boaters only.
To be completely honest, this was the least enjoyable day of hiking. Although it was only just over 10km, there were multiple creek crossings (always best crossed at low tide due to crocs), long stretches of swampy mangrove areas (think shin deep in mud in croc country) and thorny vines that were pretty good at getting caught on your hat, shirt and pack. Hence we were happy to get to the campground at the end of Zoe Bay. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible, but of the 4 days, this day felt the most like a slog! It took us around 3 hours.
The Falls and these pools are a huge deciding factor for why some people decide to take an extra night at Sth Zoe campground on the hike, and then spend a whole day relaxing here. As we were at the Falls by midday we were totally satisfied with our afternoon in the sun, but can understand why people choose to break the trip up!
Day 3: Zoe Bay → Mulligans Falls (7.5 km)
Again we rose bright and early to watch the sunrise whilst enjoying breakfast. We packed our gear up and headed off earlyish again to get to Mulligans Falls for the afternoon.
The trail climbs past Zoe Falls, and the infinity pool up the top - so if you didn't get to visit these the day before now is your time to stop and enjoy the view!
It then carries along through high grass either side for a few km before reaching the highest point on the trail. The trail then begins to descend to Mulligans Falls and on a clear day there are some pretty awesome views along the descent!
Day 4: Mulligans Falls → George Point
Out last day on the trail begun with a cold swim in the pool along with some warm porridge and hot coffee.
Our pick up time with Brad at George Point was 12:30 and as there was only 7.5km to walk we didn't need to leave too early.
We packed up our tent and gear for the final time and headed to Mulligan Bay. Once you hit the beach the rest of the kilometres for the day are along the sand, making for a very easy final day.
There is a tidal creek that again, due to crocodiles, (and just the desire to not get wet hoofs) should be crossed at as low a tide as is possible.
We carried on to George Point and waited for Brad to pick us up. Stoked on an epic few days hiking on an incredible and for the most part, untouched landscape.