Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island National Park Tropical North Queensland

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


    It is essential to be well-prepared when hiking the Thorsborne Trail.

    It is essential to be well-prepared when hiking the Thorsborne Trail.

    Photo credit: Queensland Government

    Refer regularly to the Thorsborne Trail trail guide.

    Refer regularly to the Thorsborne Trail trail guide.

    Photo credit: Tamara Vallance, Queensland Government

    Thorsborne Trail track notes

    Hiking the Thorsborne Trail is considerably challenging during the summer months between October and March. Conditions are extremely hot and humid at this time of year which increases the risk of heat related injuries. Water sources often dry up in the lead up to the wet season.

    When the wet season starts, high rainfall results in rapidly rising creeks making crossing dangerous. Extreme weather events are also more likely during the wet season. QPWS strongly recommends careful consideration of choosing to undertake the Thorsborne Trail hike during the during the summer months.

    Find more information about safety during extreme weather.

    It is imperative that hiking details are left with a responsible contact person. This will assist in the event of an emergency situation or when hikers are overdue. The contact person must know:

    1. how hikers are accessing the island e.g. private vessel or water taxi
    2. the planned route
    3. when hikers are due to return
    4. the agreed time period after which the contact person will need to contact emergency services.
    5. call Triple Zero (000) for all emergencies or if hikers do not return within agreed time period.

    If no longer hiking the trail, ensure to cancel bookings by contacting us. Information on cancellations assists in emergencies such as cyclones and wildfires.

    A minimum of three nights and four days is required to walk the trail between Ramsay Bay and George Point. Walking quickly does not allow enough time to see the area, to swim or to really enjoy the walk. The trail can be walked north from George Point or south from Ramsay Bay. The trail is marked by orange trail markers from north to south, and yellow trail markers from south to north. The north to south direction is described here.

    Ramsay Bay to Nina Bay (Grade: difficult)

    Distance: 4km
    Time: allow about 2.5hr hiking time

    • Camping area: Nina Bay
    • Water: 100–200m upstream of creeks at either end of Nina Bay and the lagoon at Blacksand Beach
    • Toilets: Nina Bay

    From the boardwalk, walk south to the headland at the southern end of Ramsay Bay (map ref. 1 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). The trail head is marked with an orange marker, located to the right of a large granite rock. The trail follows a ridge before descending to the middle of Blacksand Beach (map ref. 2 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). Seasonal water is generally available between January and August from the creek behind the small lagoon.

    The trail continues along the beach beneath three broad-leaved tea-trees Melaleuca leucadendra. It then passes through tall open forest of mainly Gympie messmate Eucalyptus cloeziana and on to the saddle below Nina Peak (map ref. 3 (PDF, 1.3MB) ).

    Descending along a seasonal watercourse, the trail then enters a mangrove forest where stands of red-flowered black mangrove Lumnitzera littorea and spotted mangrove Rhizophora stylosa occur. It is best to cross the creek at low or half tide. The trail then follows the edge of the mangroves before emerging near the northern end of Nina Bay (map ref. 4 (PDF, 1.3MB) ).

    Nina Bay to Little Ramsay Bay (Grade: difficult)

    Distance: 2.5km
    Time: allow about 2hr hiking time

    • Camping area: Little Ramsay Bay—southern side of lagoon
    • Water: Little Ramsay Bay—creek upstream from the lagoon area
    • Toilets: Little Ramsay Bay—southern side of lagoon area

    At the southern end of Nina Bay (map ref. 4 (PDF, 1.3MB) ), the trail crosses a rocky section and heads towards the base of a small cliff. The trail climbs the cliff and follows the headland to Boulder Bay (map ref 5 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). At very high tides a detour through dense vegetation around the top of Nina headland may be necessary. Green turtles Chelonia mydas are often seen in the sea along this section. The trail then rock hops around Boulder Bay to the base of the headland at the southern end. At the southern end of Boulder Bay, orange markers indicate the trail, which travels south-east over the low ridge to the northern end of Little Ramsay Bay (map ref. 6 (PDF, 1.3MB) ).

    Little Ramsay Bay to Zoe Bay (Grade: difficult)

    Distance: 10.5km
    Time: allow about 6hr hiking time

    • Camping area: Banksia Bay and southern end of Zoe Bay
    • Water: Banksia Creek—100m upstream from the beach, and Zoe Creek—600m upstream from the camp sites
    • Toilets: Zoe Bay—southern end

    From Little Ramsay Bay (map ref. 6 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) the trail proceeds south, crossing a tidal creek and continuing to rocks at the end of the beach. The next beach is then accessed by rock hopping around the small headland. At the end of this beach, the trail leads to the upper edge of rocks above a larger sandy beach. From the southern end of this beach the trail heads south-easterly through a small gully to the top of a ridge.

    At this point, a side path leads to Banksia Bay (map ref. 7 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) (600m return) and a small camping area. This bay has spectacular fringing reefs and golden orchids Dendrobium discolor can be seen growing on the beachside rocks.

    The main trail continues south, descending to the Banksia Creek crossing (map ref. 8 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) and onwards south-east to the saddle between Banksia and Zoe bays. At the top of the saddle the trail then descends a rocky creek into the Zoe Bay catchment.

    Turning south-south-west, the trail travels to North Zoe Creek (map ref. 9 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) through a succession of vegetation types, from dry open forest to rainforest and mangrove swamps. The variation in rain, fire and drainage are the driving forces behind the distribution of these vegetation types.

    The trail then passes through several palm swamps in tall rainforest between North Zoe Creek (map ref. 9 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) and Fan Palm Creek (map ref. 10 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). The trail may be less visible in these areas. Look carefully for the trail markers.

    The most reliable water sources in this section are found where the trail crosses Fan Palm Creek (map ref. 10 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) and Cypress Pine Creek (map ref. 11 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). The rainforest here is ideal for bird watching and the deep 'wallock-a-woo' call of the brightly coloured but elusive wompoo fruit-dove Ptilinopus magnificus can sometimes be heard from within the canopy.

    Look out for the hooked tendrils of the yellow lawyer cane Calamus moti and hairy mary C. australis. These climbing palms use hook-studded branches to support growth towards the canopy. Although not poisonous, these tendrils can take a firm hold of hikers' skin, packs and clothing.

    Be prepared to get your feet wet as there are several creek crossings and swampy sections. The trail enters the beach at Zoe Bay (map ref. 12 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) with the mouth of South Zoe Creek about 400 m to the south.

    The spectacular Zoe Falls (map ref. 13 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) are a few minutes along the track from the camping area and are well worth a visit. There is no camping at Zoe Falls—please camp in the camping area.

    At low tide look for armies of small, blue soldier crabs Mictyris platycheles on the sand flats near the mouth of South Zoe Creek. From the southern end of the beach the trail leads through magnificent rainforest featuring the orange trunks of alligatorbark Calophyllum sil and the tall, buttressed blue quandong Elaeocarpus grandis. The bright blue fruits of the quandong often litter the forest floor. Large eucalypts emerge above the rainforest canopy, suggesting that this has not always been a rainforest, but that over the last few decades, the absence of fire has caused the rainforest to invade open eucalypt forest.

    Zoe Bay to Diamantina Creek (Grade: difficult)

    Distance: 6.5km
    Time: allow about 4hr hiking time

    • Camping area: Sunken Reef Bay—behind the fore dune
    • Water: Sunken Reef Bay—creek at northern end of beach and Diamantina Creek

    From the Zoe Bay camping area, the trail runs parallel with South Zoe Creek (map ref. 14 (PDF, 1.3MB) ), crossing it about 100m downstream from Zoe Falls. It then continues up a steep slope onto the granite slabs above the falls where there are spectacular views of Zoe Bay. Please remain on the trail at all times and do not camp at Zoe Falls.

    Continuing along South Zoe Creek, the trail occasionally crosses narrow rocky tributaries. It then follows a distinct spur to the granite rock pavement of a saddle. At 260m above the sea, this is the highest point on the trail. On a clear day the picturesque views include the Palm Island Group and Magnetic Island to the south.

    Tall heath communities, typical of much of the mountainous parts of Hinchinbrook Island, dominate this section of the trail. Among the many striking sights are the near threatened (rare) blue banksia Banksia plagiocarpa with its blue-grey flowers, gnarled cones and spectacular rusty-red new foliage as well as the pink flowers of the native lasiandra Melastoma malabathricum subsp. malabathricum. Along the creeks, coral fern Lycopodium cernuum and insectivorous plants like sundews Drosera adelae and D. spatulata line the moist banks.

    After crossing the saddle, the trail traverses steep forested slopes of the Sweetwater Creek catchment before climbing into coast she-oak Casuarina equisetifolia and grasstree Xanthorrhoea johnsonii shrubland. The grasstree's tall flower-spike produces white flowers which are rich in nectar a popular food for many native birds and insects.

    The trail then descends into the Diamantina Creek catchment, passing a sidetrack to Sunken Reef Bay (map ref. 15 (PDF, 1.3MB) ), before reaching the Diamantina Creek crossing.

    Sunken Reef Bay

    A very steep thirty minute walk along a sidetrack takes you to Sunken Reef Bay camping area. Water is available from a small creek at the northern end of the beach. During the dry season, water can be obtained from Diamantina Creek (map ref. 16 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). The camping area is on the beach and quite exposed. Between October and March be aware that beach stone-curlews Esacus neglectus and the occasional green turtle Chelonia mydas nest here. Remember, campfires are not permitted.

    Flotsam and jetsam are carried to this beach by the currents. QPWS staff regularly remove the rubbish component of the debris.

    Diamantina Creek to Mulligan Falls camp (Grade: difficult)

    Distance: 1km
    Time: allow about 30min hiking time

    • Camping area: Mulligan Falls
    • Water: Mulligan Falls

    Use caution when crossing Diamantina Creek (map ref. 16 (PDF, 1.3MB) ), particularly if the creek is swollen after heavy rain. Follow the markers diagonally across the creek before the trail continues up a short slope and descends a steep hillside to reach the base of Mulligan Falls (map ref. 17 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). Camping here is restricted to one night.

    The vegetation in this area is typical of lowland rainforest communities found on Hinchinbrook Island. On a clear day, this section affords good views of Lucinda and the Palm Island Group.

    Do not enter the restricted access area (PDF, 340.6KB) at the falls. Death and serious injuries have occurred when people have entered this area. Rock pavements, including those well back from the falls, are extremely slippery and dangerous.

    Collect fresh water before leaving Mulligan Falls as water sources are not reliable further along the trail.

    Mulligan Falls to George Point (Grade: difficult)

    Distance: 7.5km
    Time: allow about 2.5hr hiking time

    • Camping area: George Point—southern end of Mulligan Bay
    • Toilets: George Point

    From Mulligan Falls the trail follows the coast, travelling through rainforest and crossing five creeks. The last, Moth Creek, provides only seasonal fresh water and should not be relied upon. About 300m south of the Diamantina Creek inlet, a sign indicates the northern entrance to Mulligan Bay (map ref. 18 (PDF, 1.3MB) ). The colourful, noisy pitta Pitta versicolor is often seen in this area. Listen for their distinct 'walk-to-work' call as they search the forest floor for snails and insects.

    George Point (map ref. 20 (PDF, 1.3MB) ), the southern exit of the trail, is a further 5km walk along the beach. About 2km along, Mulligan Creek (map ref. 19 (PDF, 1.3MB) ) flows into the bay and it is advisable to cross this creek at low to half tide. Fresh water is not available here or at George Point, at the southern end of Mulligan Bay.