Thorsborne Trail

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One of the best hikes in the world

Thorsborne Trail



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  • between Cairns and Townsville in North Queensland
  • in Hinchinbrook Island National Park
  • part of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • 32km (20mi) 
  • 4 days, 3 nights recommended
  • April – October best months
  • reserve permits months in advance. A year in advance if possible. Ask about cancellations if you have no booking.
  • maximum 40 hikers on the trail at any one time
  • Mt. Bowen summit add-on for the hard core trekkers


Why We Like This Hike

  • isolated and spectacular
  • the only means of transport are the ferry, on foot and by sea kayak
  • mangroves, pristine beaches, tall eucalypt  forests, rocky headlands, lush rainforest
  • enjoy the ocean side of a virtually uninhabited paradise island
  • great swimming at both Zoe and Mulligan Falls
  • campsites and pit toilets
  • Goannas up to 2m long are common
Andrew Dolman

Andrew Dolman

  • much to do nearby in Queensland on the same trip
  • named in honour of environmental activists Arthur and Margaret Thorsborne
  • if you like fishing, bring gear for surf casting
  • possible to see green turtles, dolphins and other marine life
  • numerous creek crossings
Tom Thomsen

Tom Thomsen


  • heat emergency is a real risk. There are long sections with no protection from the hot sun.
  • many bring only a sheet for the tent. A sleeping bag might be too hot.
  • open fires not permitted
  • drinking water must be carried (rainwater and creeks are potential seasonal freshwater sources)
  • saltwater crocodiles inhabit the western side of Hinchinbrook Island. Happily there are few on the eastern Thorsborne side.
  • due to giant white-tailed rats and marauding fawn footed melomys, food storage lock-ups are available at the main campsites
  • SNAKES? … some. 😦


  • mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Biting flies can be bad. Sandflies worse. 😦 DEET doesn’t work with all these bugs.
  • bring long pants & long sleeved shirt. Or full insect netting.
  • no huts. Bring a waterproof, insect impervious tent.
  • leave the map, compass and GPS at home. No navigation is needed on the main route.
  • NO facilities on the island other than the Hinchinbrook Island Resort . Their restaurant is open to hikers.



Compare these companies for options on getting to and from Hinchinbrook island:


Ramsay Bay in the north to George Point in the south. 


Click for larger, complete version  of this map.

There are 7 designated campsites:

  1. Nina Bay – toilet & rat proof boxes
  2. Little Ramsay Bay – toilet & rat proof boxes
  3. Banksia Bay
  4. Zoe Bay – toilet & rat proof boxes
  5. Sunken Reef Bay
  6. Mulligan Falls – toilet & rat proof boxes
  7. George Point – toilet & rat proof boxes

Here’s a leisurely sample itinerary (4 nights in the tent).

… boat from Cardwell
Day 0 – Ramsay Bay to Nina Bay (4km)

Day 1 – Nina Bay to Little Ramsay Bay (2.5km)
Day 2 – Little Ramsay Bay to Zoe Bay (10.5km)
Day 3 – Zoe Bay to Mulligan Falls (7.5km)
Day 4 – Mulligan Falls to George Point (7.5km)
… boat to Lucinda

It is possible to do the Thorsborne in the opposite direction. Frank prefers doing it south to north: “better scenery at the end and a better trip out”.

Consider the Nina Peak climb side trip. No permit required.


Step 1 is to get a permit to hike.

As with so many other government run websites, the one you need to make a booking is a pain. 😦

Start here. Good luck. 😦 You need to create an account before seeing any information at all.)

Instead, it’s probably easier to telephone them to inquire about available dates for your group.

(13 74 68) is the local number for making a booking.

From Canada, for example, we need to dial:

011 61 7 13 74 68
011 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of Canada.
61 is the international code used to dial to Australia.
7 is the local area or city code used to dial to Brisbane.
13 74 68 is the local number.
Using a VOIP service that international call is fairly inexpensive. You’ll need to call when the Office is open in Australia.

If you are in Queensland, you could try going in person to one of the over-the-counter Camping Permit desks.

An additional permit is required for the Mt. Bowen summit trek add-on, in case you want to do both. It’s challenging. For tough guys with good navigation skills only.

Cardwell (pop. 1260) is the jumping off point,  a 2.5hr drive south of Cairns.


Southern Thorsborne trailhead access to Hinchinbrook Island is via Lucinda.

Ingham Travel provides public road transport between Townsville – Ingham – Lucinda and Cardwell.

Another company offering Island drop offs/pick ups from Lucinda is Hinchinbrook Wilderness Safaris.

Yet another is Absolute North Charters. If you are booking transport with Absolute North, you could inquire of them as to the latest specifics on making a hiking reservation.

Local Information

The Cardwell Rainforest and Reef Visitor Information Centre (Tel. 07 4066 8601) offers general tourist information, as well.

Best Trekking Guidebooks

We love Chapman’s guidebooks. They are available in Australia if you prefer to wait until you get there to pick one up.

Best Travel Guidebooks

Be sure to get the most recent edition.

Other Recommended Books

Best Maps

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports

Tom Thomsen


Click PLAY or watch an Australian Geographic promo on YouTube.

Note: This page is a stub. Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

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