Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island National Park Tropical North Queensland

Thornborne trail between Little Ramsay Bay and Zoe Bay Photo credit: Tamara Vallance © Queensland Government

About the Thorsborne Trail

    Pied imperial-pigeon.

    Pied imperial-pigeon.

    Photo credit: Queensland Government

    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 the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and is separated from the mainland by the scenic Hinchinbrook Channel.

    Thorsborne Trail

    The 32km 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 booking size is six. For this reason, Thorsborne Trail camping permits can be difficult to secure during the peak walking season April-September.

    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 Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). Due to the remote and rugged nature of Hinchinbrook Island, only well prepared, experienced bush walkers should hike in mountain areas.

    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.

    Image of a dugong and calf just under the surface of the water.

    Dugong and calf.

    Photo credit: Queensland Government

    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.

    Looking after the park

    Take care of Hinchinbrook's pristine environment.

    Take care of Hinchinbrook's pristine environment.

    Photo credit: Queensland Government

    While on the trail, be constantly aware of the physical effects on the environment and help to limit any detrimental impacts.

    • Camp only in designated camping areas.
    • Be considerate of other campers by minimising noise.
    • Please stay on the trail. Cutting corners and creating new tracks causes erosion and visual scarring and may misdirect following hikers.
    • Wear low-impact, soft-soled shoes around camp sites.
    • Take rubbish off the island and pick up rubbish left by others.
    • At locations where toilet facilities are not provided, a trowel must be used to bury toilet waste and paper. Dig a hole, at least 15 cm deep, well away from camp sites, the trail, watercourses and drainage lines. Failure to do this leads to unsightliness, unpleasant odours, pollution of creeks and potentially dangerous hygiene problems. Sanitary pads, tampons and condoms should not be buried. Ensure these items are wrapped and carried off the island.
    • All plants and animals are protected. Do not remove plant material, living or dead.
    • Feeding wildlife (including fish) is not allowed as it can affect their health and alter the natural population balance.
    • In an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires and lessen environmental damage at camp sites, Hinchinbrook Island is a fuel stove only area. Open camp and cooking fires are not allowed.

    Be pest-free!

    Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way. Please Be pest-free! (PDF, 573.6KB) before your visit.

    Before you visit, please check that your boat, clothing, footwear and gear are free of soil, seeds, parts of plants, eggs, ants and insects (and their eggs), spiders, lizards, toads, rats and mice.

    Be sure to:

    • Unpack your camping gear and equipment and check it carefully as pests love to hide in stored camping gear.
    • Clean soil from footwear and gear as invisible killers such as viruses, bacteria and fungi are carried in soil.
    • Check for seeds in pockets, cuffs and hook and loop fastening strips, such as Velcro.

    While you are on the islands, remove soil, weeds, seeds and pests from your boat, gear and clothes before moving to a new site. Wrap seeds and plant material, and place them in your rubbish.

    Everyone in Queensland has a General Biosecurity Obligation to minimise the biosecurity risk posed by their activities. This includes the risk of introducing and spreading weeds and pests to island national parks.

    See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

    Water quality

    • Protect water quality by not wearing insect repellents or sunscreen and by not urinating when swimming.
    • Wash at least 50m from creeks and swimming holes.
    • Use gritty sand and a scourer instead of soap to clean dishes, and scatter washing up water so that it filters through the soil before returning to the stream.
    • Avoid allowing soaps, detergents, toothpaste and cosmetics to come into contact with water sources.

    See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

    Park management

    Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages Hinchinbrook Island National Park to preserve the area’s natural, cultural and scenic values. Over most of the island, only 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 plans.

    Bandjin and Girramay Traditional Owners working on Country with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

    Bandjin and Girramay Traditional Owners working on Country with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

    Photo credit: © Queensland Government

    The Traditional Owners, the Bandjin and Girramay people, work closely with QPWS to make decisions about the management of their ancestral country known as Munamudanamy. QPWS Rangers also work in partnership with the Girringun Rangers to manage the national and surrounding marine parks of Munamudanamy.

    If you would like to make a donation to contribute to the ongoing protection and management of Hinchinbrook Island National Park, please fill out our online donation form. Please note that your donation is not tax-deductible.

    The Hinchinbrook Island National Park management plan (PDF, 2.6MB) guides the management of the park.

    Hinchinbrook Island National Park lies within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Management of the World Heritage Area is coordinated through a partnership between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, the Traditional Owners and the wider community.

    GBRMPA has implemented the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management in partnership with local communities through the Hinchinbrook Local Advisory Committee. This plan ensures best practices within the marine park enabling sustainable use and preservation for future generations. This plan covers activities within the marine park, including vessel size limits, area access, use of various water sports, aircrafts, commercial use and tourism activities.

    Tourism information links

    Rainforest and Reef Information Centre
    142 Victoria Street
    Cardwell QLD 4849
    Phone: (07) 4066 8601

    Hinchinbrook Visitor Information Centre
    Cnr Bruce Highway and Cooper Street, Ingham QLD 4850
    ph (07) 4776 4790

    Townsville Bulletin Square Visitor Information Centre
    Flinders Street
    Townsville City QLD 4810
    ph (07) 4721 3660 or 1800 801 902

    For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.