With its lush rainforests, rugged, misty and heath-covered
mountains, sweeping sandy beaches, rocky headlands, paperbark and palm
wetlands, mangrove-fringed shores and extensive open forests and
woodlands, Hinchinbrook Island National Park is one of the
world’s most outstanding island parks.
Hinchinbrook, off the coast of north Queensland between Townsville and
Cairns, is basically two large islands joined by a long sand isthmus
which has developed so there is a narrow sandy beach facing south, then
a few substantial dunes and a vast, impenetrable mangrove swamp cut by
sinuous channels. From the air it is one of the true wonders of the
Australia's largest island National Park, Hinchinbrook is approximately
37.4km. long and 10km wide; there are 11 beautiful sandy beaches. You
can enjoy absolute seclusion on several of them including North
Shepherd, Macushla and South Shepherd. The National Park covers 39,300
hectares. The Island is separated from the mainland by the deep,
narrow, mangrove-fringed Hinchinbrook Channel, scoured from sand and
mud by strong tidal currents.
Rising to 1142 metres in the centre of the island are the jagged
battlements of Mt. Bowen, largest in the chain of rugged granite crags
forming the backbone of the island's southern half. To the north-west a
range of lesser peaks of older volcanic rocks, similar in chemistry but
finer grained than the granite, forms an undulating skyline descending
to the sandy beach of Hecate Point, 4 km across the channel from
Cardwell. The spectacular north face of Mt. Bowen drops 1121 m in
cliffs and forested scree slopes almost to sea level. From here a
narrow, 8 km long strip of sand, stretches north to connect with Capes
Sandwich and Richards.
Hinchinbrook Island is surrounded by marine park waters where fringing
reefs and seagrass beds are home to a variety of marine life including
dugong and green turtles. Estuarine crocodiles live in the surrounding
channel and estuarine waters.
For the energetic visitor, walking is fairly easy through the light
bush sections of the park and with very little luck the walker will
observe the abundant bird life for which the island is renowned. There
are Herons, Cockatoos, Pheasants, Scrub Hens, Sunbirds and Torres
Strait and Wompoo Pigeons. The island’s world-famous Thorsborne
Trail was named after local naturalists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne.
At the very northern end of Orchid Beach access is made to the lookout
on Cape Richards, the best vantage point for sunsets, dolphins and the
neighbouring islands. To the southern end of the beach a short walk
leads to Turtle Bay where most afternoons large sea turtles feed on
Where to stay: Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge is the only
accommodation on the island. The lodge blends into the spectacular
natural surroundings and provides civilised benefits and comforts to
give you the opportunity to enjoy the casual and relaxed atmosphere
with easy access to beautiful rainforests.
How to get there: Hinchinbrook Island is a short 4km ride across
Hinchinbrook Channel via ferry or private charter from Cardwell, which
is two hours south of Cairns. Boats leave at 9 AM and return at 5 PM,
daily in the high season (May-Oct), three times weekly in the low
season (Nov-Apr). Day cruises are also available.
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Coral Sea Kayaking, which is based at Mission Beach, operates 5 and
7 days kayaking tours to and around the island. Under the care and
attention of trained and experienced sea kayak guides, tours include
paddling the coast of Hinchinbrook Island and camping on the white
sandy beaches. 3 to 4 hours paddling each day allows plenty of time, to
explore Zoe Bay, swim in crystal clear fresh water pools, relax and
enjoy this pristine environment.
Evenings are spent camping under the stars, enjoying some local
tales from our experienced guides and a glass or two of wine over a
sumptuous dinner. The five day trip finishes after visiting scenic
Goold Island just north of Hinchinbrook with a paddle across the bay to
the coast. The 7 day trip explores further north to the Idyllic Family
Islands where guests can snorkel over fringing reef before ending the
trip in Mission Beach.
Reputedly one of the world's best backpacking adventures, to walk
the Thorsborne Trail is said to be the best way to experience the
tropical north Queensland island of Hinchinbrook. This 32km trail winds
its way along the eastern edge of the magnificent island in the shadow
of the rugged Mt. Bowen. It snakes its way through a tropical
wilderness, along spectacular ocean beaches and crosses numerous
crystal clear mountain streams. Camp sites are on beautiful beaches,
beside fresh water streams or near magnificent mountain waterfalls.
From Ramsay Bay in the north to George Point on the southern extremity
of the island, this walk is a must for those wanting to experience all
of the magnificent splendour and isolation this unique island has to
offer. Allow 3 days to complete the trail.