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 Australian coastline.
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 marine grasses.
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.
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.