So you're thinking about hiking the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island? Then you've come to the right place. I'll go over everything you need to know about hiking the Thorborne Trail and everything you need to know about what to book, pack and prepare before hand.
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
How much does it cost to hike the thorsborne trail?
The camping permit's are $6.75 per person per night. So for the entire 3 nights it was $20.25 per person. Wildly cheap when you are camping in a place like this!
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 THE THORSBORNE TRAIL?
How many days will I need TO HIKE THE THORSBORNE TRAIL?
Next up you'll need to decide whether to hike over 3 nights, or 4 nights. We did 3 nights and found this to be a perfect amount of time.The hike distances each day aren't huge and can usually be covered in a few hours, so with a somewhat early start (8:30ish) most people will be at their next campsite by lunchtime or early afternoon.
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 FOR THE THORSBORNE TRAIL with QLD Parks
The Thorsborne Trail is understandably a popular little route, and as it's limited to 40 people hiking per day in total, permits sell out well in advance. Resultantly it's pretty crucial that you purchase your permits from the QLD Parks website as soon as you know what dates suit you. You don't need to specify which campgrounds you plan to stay at for your trip, just how many nights you'd like to book on the island in total, so it gives you freedom to stay somewhere longer if you like it!
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).
So first up you'll want to search for Thorsborne Trail in the location section (see photo above) as well as put in the date you'd like to start and the number of days you plan to have on the island.
Note: It is certainly physically possible to hike the Thorsborne Trail with only one night on the island, or to even run it in just one day, however most of the highlights of our trip were due to having a bit of extra time to explore side trails and having the time to swim in the many amazing natural fresh waterholes, so we suggest leaving yourself 3 nights to enjoy the trail.
Boat Transfer to Hinchinbrook Island (from Cardwell OR Lucinda)
Next up you'll need to book your ferry transfer to and from the island.
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
Note: These are the suggested items you are going to need to bring, and as an example we've listed our personal versions of each.
*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).
First up - be practical. Everything you carry in needs to be carried out - there are no bins on the island! So the smaller and lighter weight the containers and packages your food comes in the better.
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!
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
Day 1: Cardwell → Ramsay Bay → Little Ramsay Bay (6.5 km)
Our day begun in Cardwell. We'd stayed at the Meunga Caravan park the night before (at $8 a night per person with plenty of space, clean facilities and hot showers we highly recommend this spot!) so we just had a short drive to the Port Hinchinbrook public boat ramp. We got our packs out of the van at the neighbouring long term carpark, did a final check of our gear (yes we had 4 days worth of peanut butter sandwiches) and we were off!
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!
First up we cruised along Mulligans Bay towards Ninas Peak (that high point close to the water in the photo above). At the end of Mulligans Bay we cut in to the trees and walked through dense forest where we were surrounded by hundreds of butterflies!
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!
After Nina Peak we hiked onwards to Nina Bay, and then Boulder Bay - aptly named due to the large amount of boulders you need to hop over.
For those who want to take the hike a little slower and stay for more days there is a campground located at Nina Bay.
From Boulder Bay we headed onwards to Little Ramsay Bay, the beach that night #1's camp ground was located on.
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.
Day 2: Little Ramsay Bay → Zoe Bay (10.5 km)
Day 2 we rose nice and early to watch the sunrise, no need for alarms, the birds and light outside will let you know that it's morning time.
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.
Roughly 1 km past the Sth Zoe Bay campground is Zoe Falls, and it makes the days hike totally worth it. At the base of the falls is a huge crystal clear blue pool that you can swim in (no crocs here!). It is divine, and just what was needed after a couple of hours hike.
The trail continues up to the top of the falls where there is an infinity pool overlooking the falls and beaches below. If you get there early in the day you can have it completely to yourself. It was pretty special!
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)
Once we reached our campground at Mulligans falls we again set up our tent, hung up our packs, jumped into our swimmers and headed for the falls. Another huge pool awaited us along with another beautiful waterfall.
Day 4: Mulligans Falls → George Point
Across the creek Seany spotted a coconut tree, and after not finding any large enough on our prior few days walking he was very happy to find and drink a couple.
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.
G'day I'm Bec
I'm an Aussie who loves travelling, hiking, trail running and pretty much any activity you can do outdoors.
This blog may contain several affiliate links to products and services that I use and love. By clicking on these links, I might get a teeny tiny contribution towards my travel fund, at no extra cost to you!
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