Hinchinbrook Island's Thorsborne Trail

Aaron Flanagan — 9 May 2019
Walking Hinchinbrook Island's 32km Thorsborne trail is a slingshot ride directly into the heart of a land that time forgot.

Stories abound about Australia’s ancient past, about how our Great Southern Land was cleaved, millennia ago, from the Gondwana supercontinent and left to drift south, giving Darwin’s Natural Selection the time needed to direct the evolution of unique flora and fauna. 

So universally understood is Earth’s ancient history that it’s possible to visualise these epoch-spanning events in fast motion, like a time-lapse cinema screening inside the head. Gondwanaland breaks up, the continents we know today drift across space to eventually settle into the geographic symmetry we recognise in the present age. As this happens, ancient biodiversity comes into existence, flourishes and then fades away. Ancient civilisations appear, thrive, then recede, to be replaced by new ones. 

During the chaos of this sped up time warp, elements of history manage to escape into other eras, bringing the ancient into the present. Hinchinbrook Island is one such a throwback. 

Over most of the island, self-reliant, nature-based and ecologically sustainable recreation is permitted. The majority of the natural environment remains undisturbed and preserved under various acts, legislation and management policies.

Hinchinbrook Island National Park lies within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Oversight responsibility is shared by government, the Hinchinbrook’s traditional owners, the Biyaygiri people, and the wider local community.

Due to Hinchinbrook’s World Heritage designation, pretty much all of the Thorsborne trail is as nature intended. There is very little trail building, with much of the 32km path following natural undulations and obstacles. 

There’s a requirement to carry everything in and out on your back — including all fresh water, food and rubbish. As such, it’s a difficult proposition. There’s creeks and rivers to negotiate and large boulders to scramble up and over, oftentimes in hot and humid conditions. 

This would be a challenge in its own right, but squeezed into 8 to 10 kilometres sections per day, over soft sand and through sometimes tangled rainforest growth, carrying a 15 to 20 kg pack, it can become an arduous proposition for the unprepared.

Whereas, for those who are prepared, it’s a multi-day trek like no other, a full-blown odyssey into a remarkable and pristine environment. The trail is a straight line walk rather than a loop, wending its way through rainforest, along mangrove-fringed coastlines dotted with unique estuarine flora (watch out for the fauna; saltwater crocodiles can be found in all water courses — both marine and fresh), over sandy beach coves and along narrow, winnowing paths. All the while, Mount Bowen looms, at 1,120m tall, to the east of the trail amid a sea of green in the centre of the island. 


General information

The Thorsborne Trail is open 24 hours a day but it can be closed during periods of severe weather (wet and dry) and planned burns. Changes and updates regarding all aspects of the trail are available as park alerts on the QPWS (Queensland Parks and Wildlife) website. The QPWS will ensure all booked hikers are notified of any closures. Please ensure relevant contact details are supplied when booking.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required for camping along the Thorsborne trail. Fees apply.

Climate and weather

Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be very cool. Please carry clothing that is suitable for all temperature extremes.

Heavy rain can fall at any time of the year, causing creek levels to rise and fall rapidly. Conditions may improve after a short wait. Crossing creeks requires extreme care, particularly at Zoe and Diamantina creeks.

April to September are the best months for hiking. This period avoids the times of year that are very wet or very dry.


Seven camping areas are accessible from the Thorsborne Trail. Camping permits are required and fees apply (see above). 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 possible is six.

Other information

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.

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.


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