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About Hinchinbrook Island

Exciting news!
More park information is available in our trial Hinchinbrook Island National Park page.

Getting there and getting around

The Hinchinbrook Channel. Photo: Queensland Government.

The Hinchinbrook Channel. Photo: Queensland Government.

Hinchinbrook Island is 8km off the Queensland coast at Cardwell and extends south to the town of Lucinda (near Ingham). Cardwell is about 171km north of Townsville and 203km south of Cairns.

Access to Hinchinbrook Island is by either private vessel, launched from Cardwell or Lucinda (Dungeness), or by the commercial ferries which transport people to both ends of the Thorsborne Trail. Services may vary according to weather, tidal conditions and time of year.

Commercial ferry transport to the northern end of the Thorsborne Trail

Absolute North Charters

www.absolutenorthcharters.com.au
Phone: 0419 712 577
Email: 

Hinchinbrook Island Cruises

www.hinchinbrookislandcruises.com.au
Phone: 0499 335 383
Email: 

Commercial ferry transport to the southern end of the Thorsborne Trail

Hinchinbrook Island Cruises

www.hinchinbrookislandcruises.com.au
Phone: 0499 335 383
Email: 

Absolute North Charters

www.absolutenorthcharters.com.au
Phone: 0419 712 577
Email: 

The Aboriginal cultural site Muhr Amalee, on the west side of Missionary Bay, is a restricted access area (PDF, 212K).

The fragile ecosystems of the mountain areas are extremely rugged and dangerous and access to these areas requires permission. See the Thorsborne Trail for more information.

To protect nesting beach stone-curlews, camping at Agnes Beach is permitted only between April and September.

Wheelchair accessibility

Hinchinbrook Island has no wheelchair-accessible facilities.

Park features

Dugong cow and calf. Photo: Queensland Government.

Dugong cow and calf. Photo: Queensland Government.

Hinchinbrook Island is renowned for its sandy beaches. Photo: Queensland Government.

Hinchinbrook Island is renowned for its sandy beaches. Photo: Queensland Government.

Protected since 1932, Hinchinbrook Island is one of Australia's largest island national parks (39,900ha). It is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and is separated from the mainland by the scenic Hinchinbrook Channel.

Surrounded by marine park waters, the fringing reefs and seagrass beds are home to some vulnerable species, including dugong and green turtles.

Hinchinbrook Island is renowned for its range of habitats including misty, heath-covered mountains sandy beaches, paperbark and palm wetlands, and extensive woodlands. Patches of lush rainforest and eucalypt forest descend to a mangrove-fringed channel in the west, with sweeping bays and rocky headlands along the east coast. The island’s mangrove forests are some of the richest and most varied in Australia and are an important breeding ground for many marine animals.

For thousands of years the Bandjin Aboriginal people lived on Hinchinbrook Island. Middens and fish traps are reminders of their special culture.

The island’s Thorsborne Trail is recognised world-wide and was named after local naturalists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

The Thorsborne Trail offers walk-in, remote bush camping along the east cost of the island.

Camping permits for educational, military and commercial groups must be obtained through Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). To request a permit .

Some of the camping areas are suitable for sea kayakers. See camping information for details.

Other accommodation

There is a range of accommodation in and around Cardwell and Lucinda. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Things to do

Green turtles are seen on and around Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Green turtles are seen on and around Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Walking

There are four walking tracks on the island, offering short easy walks to the difficult, four day Thorsborne Trail.

The Haven track (Grade: moderate)
Distance:
1km return
Time: allow about 15–30mins walking time
Details: The circuit track starts from the Haven campground (Scraggy Point) and passes through mixed vine forest along the banks of a small creek.

Macushla to Cape Richards track (Grade: moderate)
Distance:
4.9km one way
Time: allow about 1.5–2hrs walking time
Details: This track links Macushla to the resort at Cape Richards, via the base of Kirville Hills and North Shepherd Bay. Look for the nesting mounds of orange-footed scrub fowls and listen to the different rainforest pigeons high in the trees. At low tide watch tiny crabs scurrying along the beach at North Shepherd Bay. Beach stone-curlews can be seen near the foreshore. Entrances to the walking track are located at each end of the beach at North Shepherd Bay.

South Shepherd Bay track (Grade: moderate)
Distance:
5km return
Time: allow about 1hr walking time
Details: A 2.5km sidetrack, off the main Macushla to Cape Richards track, ends at South Shepherd Bay. The turn-off is signposted and is 1.3km from Macushla and 3.6km from Cape Richards. This walk takes you through the forests of Kirkville Hills and onto the often-isolated South Shepherd Bay beach. Walkers must return the way they came. Do not attempt to walk around the headlands.

Thorsborne Trail (Grade: difficult)
Distance:
32km one way
Time: allow 4 days
Details: Hike through a smorgasbord of changing landscapes and habitats including rainforest, open eucalypt forest, banksia forest, and mangrove and paperbark country. The trail is not a graded or hardened walking track and, in some areas, is rough and difficult to traverse. See the Thorsborne Trail for more information.

Picnic and day-use areas

Day-use areas are located at Macushla, The Haven, Zoe Bay and George Point.

Facilities at these locations include:

  • South Macushlapicnic tables, shelter shed, toilet and water tank (not suitable for drinking).
  • North Macushlatoilet.
  • The Havenpicnic tables, gas barbecue and toilet.
  • South Zoe Baypicnic tables and toilet.
  • George Pointpicnic tables and toilet.

Boating and fishing

Voluntary vessel transit lanes and boat speeds are in place around Hinchinbrook Island to help protect the island’s marine animals and their homes. Please use these vessel transit lanes and abide by the recommended vessel speeds. Visitors should obtain a copy of the Marine wonders of Hinchinbrook: guide to using the Hinchinbrook transit lanes brochure produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

Hinchinbrook Island and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning maps and information and the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management before entering or conducting any activities, including fishing, in the marine parks.

Fishing is not permitted in the freshwater areas of the national park or in Channel Nine in Missionary Bay. Fisheries regulations apply in other areas—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland.

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

Viewing wildlife

With more than 19 mammal, 32 reptile and about 150 bird species, visitors are guaranteed to encounter Hinchinbrook’s wildlife. See pied imperial-pigeons, beach stone-curlews and an array of other shore and forest birds. Enjoy the vibrant wildflower displays in spring.

The island is surrounded by diverse marine habitats such as mangroves, fringing reefs and seagrass beds. These habitats provide food and shelter for animals such as dolphins, dugongs, turtles and estuarine crocodiles.

At low tide a cacophony of ‘slurps’, ‘pops’ and ‘clicks’ emanates from the blue-grey mud in the mangrove forests. Snapping shrimps, crabs and mudskippers warn intruders or signal amorous intentions. Mangrove leaves use sunlight, water and nutrients from the mud and turn it into food. Fallen leaves, both fresh and decaying, provide many inhabitants with important nutrients—the first step in the perpetual cycling of nutrients moving between marine and coastal ecosystems.

See the description of the park’s natural environment for more details about Hinchinbrook Island’s diverse wildlife.

Other things to do

Sea kayak the ocean waters to experience Hinchinbrook Island from the sea.

Fishing charters, boats, house boats and other charter vessels are available. For information, see the tourism information links.

Things to know before you go

Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Photo: Queensland Government.

Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Photo: Queensland Government.

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, 574K) before your visit.

Essentials to bring

  • sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and clothing for protection against the sun
  • repellant and clothing for protection from biting insects
  • drinking water.

Fawn-footed melomys Melomys cervinipes and giant white-tailed rats Uromys caudimaculatus occur across the island. To avoid damage to packs and food, remove all food from packs at night. Keep cooking utensils and food covered and off the ground. Do not hang packs in trees as it damages the branches.

Opening hours

Hinchinbrook Island is open 24 hours a day. During periods of severe weather access to the island may not be possible. Sections of the island may also be closed during planned burns.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

The Thorsborne Trail offers walk-in, remote bush camping along the east cost of the island.

Camping permits for educational, military and commercial groups must be obtained through QPWS. To request a permit .

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted on Hinchinbrook Island National Park or on tidal lands, including beaches, rocks, mangrove areas and dunes, within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.

Climate and weather

Hinchinbrook Island National Park has a mild subtropical climate. Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be very cool. The cooler months of the year, from April to September, are the best times to visit. Please carry suitable clothing to accommodate all temperature extremes.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

For more information, see the tourism information links.

Fuel and supplies

Hinchinbrook Island is remote and isolated. Visitors should be well prepared and self-sufficient before setting off from the mainland.

Fuel and supplies are available at Cardwell and Lucinda. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

Estaurine crocodiles can occur in waters in and around Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Estaurine crocodiles can occur in waters in and around Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Dangerous stinging jellyfish occur in the waters around Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Jamie Seymour.

Dangerous stinging jellyfish occur in the waters around Hinchinbrook Island. Photo: Jamie Seymour.

  • Leave your travel details with a responsible person. Let them know your plans and contact them on your return. Have a contingency plan in place if you fail to contact them by the agreed time. If you change your plans, inform them.
  • On hot days you can suffer heat exhaustion. When walking, stop often to rest and avoid the heat of the midday sun. Remember to drink plenty of water, wear a hat and apply sunscreen.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in the waters surrounding Hinchinbrook Island at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. If you do enter the water, a full-body lycra suit, or equivalent, may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Remember to be croc wise in croc country. Visit marine stingers for the latest safety and first aid information.
  • Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country
  • Avoid bites from sandflies and mosquitoes by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Creek beds and rock surfaces can be slippery. Take care when crossing these surfaces.
  • Carry at least one form of communication equipment. Satellite phones and personal locator beacons (PLBs) are the most effective. Mobile phone coverage is unreliable. If you do have access to a mobile network during an emergency dial Triple Zero (000). Otherwise, send help to the nearest bay or coastal location to alert a passing or anchored vessel. Emergency calls via marine radio, on VHF channel 16, should be made to the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association at Ingham for the southern end of the island (call sign VMR414), at Cardwell for the northern end of the island (call sign VMR423), or Townsville if the local stations are not responding (call sign VMR408).
  • Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in waters in and around Hinchinbrook Island National Park. Remember, your safety is our concern but your responsibility—always be crocwise in croc country.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

  • Flights within 1500 vertical feet above ground or sea level are not permitted over Hinchinbrook Island. See the aircraft operators information sheet (PDF) or the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management for more information.
  • Do not feed the animals, including fish—it can affect their health and alter the natural population balance.
  • Domestic animals are not permitted on Hinchinbrook Island National Park or on tidal lands, including beaches, rocks, mangrove areas and dunes, within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.
  • Lighting fires is prohibited. Please bring fuel stoves
  • Take rubbish with you when you leave.
  • When boating, go slowly over seagrass beds—dugongs feed here.
  • In areas where toilets are not provided, bury human waste at least 15cm deep and 100m from watercourses, tracks and camping areas.
  • Take all sanitary items, including disposable nappies with you, as they do not decompose.
  • Everything in the park is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.

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, 574K) 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.

Park management

Hinchinbrook Island is managed to protect its natural, cultural and scenic values. Photo: Queensland Government.

Hinchinbrook Island is managed to protect its natural, cultural and scenic values. Photo: Queensland Government.

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 policies.

The Hinchinbrook Island National Park management plan (PDF, 2.6M) guides the management of the park and, to help with the protection and integrity of the coastal areas, the Cardwell–Hinchinbrook Regional Coastal management plan has been developed.

To help with the protection and integrity of the coastal areas surrounding the park a Cardwell–Hinchinbrook regional coastal management plan has been developed.

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
www.greatgreenwaytourism.com
142 Victoria Street, Cardwell Qld 4849
Phone: (07) 4066 8601
Email:

Townsville Bulletin Square Visitor Information Centre
www.townsvillenorthqueensland.com.au
Flinders Street, Townsville City Qld 4810
ph (07) 4721 3660 or 1800 801 902
email

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
21 August 2017