Explore Australia’s huge open spaces on trekking routes that penetrate every corner of the country to reveal surprisingly diverse snapshots of the island-continent’s landscape and nature
Story by Andrew Bain
When May to September
How long 32km
How tough Easy
What’s great about it
Tropical beaches, cooling swim-holes and the nerve-jangling (if unlikely) thrill of bumping into a crocodile.
The Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is as close as you may ever come to a tropical holiday in hiking boots. Snug against the north Queensland coast, the island is Australia’s largest national park, entirely devoid of human structures and with the highest mountains of any island in the country.
The Thorsborne Trail doesn’t venture onto the craggy peaks, but they’re always in sight as the trail journeys along the island’s east coast. It begins in the north on Ramsay Bay, climbing directly to the Thorsborne’s high point on 237-metre Nina Peak, overlooking the queue of east coast beaches and the vein-like mangrove channels that make up the island’s northern end.
The trail hops from beach to beach, and each one is a scene of tropical perfection – cream-coloured sands, palm trees, mountains rising to 1,100m in the background – though crocodile warning signs blunt the temptation to cool off in the ocean (note that croc sightings are extremely rare).
Fortunately, the trail also heads into the rainforest behind the beaches, where waterfalls pour into croc-free pools. Few hikers can resist their pull, which is the primary reason most people like to stretch the Thorsborne Trail across four days – an average of just eight kilometres a day – making it one of the easiest multi-day hikes in the country.
Permits are required to hike the trail, with a cap of only 43 people on the trail at a time. Bookings can be made at http://parks.nprsr.qld.gov.au/permits
What to take
You’ll need gear for a variety of conditions on most of these hikes, given the changeability of conditions underfoot and overhead. It’s easy to find gear for sale and rent in many bigger towns and cities, with outdoors stores typically clustered together along a block or two. Paddy Pallin, www.paddypallin.com.au, and Mountain Designs, www.mountaindesigns.com, sell quality gear.
The most more likely danger is heat or dehydration. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and a long-sleeved shirt, and carry at least two litres of water a day.
Check the website of the fire department in the state in which you’re hiking to keep a watch on bushfire threats and bans: you can’t use hiking stoves on days of total fire ban.
Expect to see snakes wherever you hike. Many of Australia’s snakes are famously venomous so be cautious around them, though they’ll almost certainly move from your path if you make noise or stamp your feet.
Good guidebooks to hiking trails in Australia include Lonely Planet’s ‘Walking in Australia’ and the Take a Walk series, www.takeawalk.com.au, by John and Lyn Daly.
There’s also detailed hiking information at the websites for each of the state national park services:
New South Wales, www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
South Australia, www.parks.sa.gov.au
Western Australia, http://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au
Northern Territory, www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au