If you’re looking for active holidays to disconnect from everything and reconnect with nature, Hinchinbrook Island might just be the perfect Queensland holiday destination for you. Unless you have a boat, you will have only two options to explore Hinchinbrook Island in depth: hiking or kayaking. Which one is the best?
Considering that I hurt my ankle one week before our holidays, kayaking Hinchinbrook Island (and taking travel insurance… although I didn’t use it – we went with Cover-More for this domestic trip) was surely the best decision we made. I wouldn’t have been able to walk the 32-kilometre trail. But there are a few additional reasons why I think it’s better to kayak Hinchinbrook Island rather than hiking the Thorsborne trail.
By no means do I am saying you shouldn’t consider hiking Hinchinbrook Island: it’s an adventure that remains on my wish list. There’s no bad way to visit Hinchinbrook Island: it’s splendid.
Why kayaking Hinchinbrook Island was a great option
You can bring more gear on a kayak
I find packing for multi-day hiking trips is almost as challenging as the trip itself. You often wonder if extra comfort at the camp is worth the extra weight on your back. I love hiking, but I don’t love carrying a 20kg backpack.
In a double kayak, you can quite easily fit chairs, cooking gear, delicious ingredients, a nice tent and mattresses. There’s plenty of space – especially if you go with a group – and a few extra kilograms won’t matter too much when you’re paddling.
You can forget about your rubbish
Carrying rubbish from day one when you’re hiking for a few days can become a nuisance. When you kayak, you can leave it in its own compartment and forget about it until you finish your adventure.
You get non-stop views, diversified activities and still get to hike to the best spots
The views of Hinchinbrook Island from the kayak are never obstructed. All day long, you can admire the impressive cliffs from sea level.
But you don’t have to stay at sea level: kayaking Hinchinbrook Island can be a combo of hiking and kayaking. I liked that we could combine different activities. After the efforts on the kayaks to reach our camp, we always had the afternoon to relax and explore the area on foot.
We climbed the famous Nina’s Peak and walked to the top and bottom of Zoe Falls. Both are splendid, must-see sites and lookouts when visiting Hinchinbrook Island. It’s quite an effort, but it’s worth it!
You can fish along the way
When sea conditions are good, you can throw a line and try to fish dinner. Considering how successful we were, I wouldn’t count on catching a fish for dinner. But if it happens, it surely makes a nice addition to your meal, with almost no effort!
You can find a secluded spot for your tent
When kayaking Hinchinbrook Island, every time we landed on a beach for the night, we could choose our spot with a view and no one around. We would leave our tent open to admire the view as we fell asleep and when we woke up with the sunrise.
Hikers’ camps are well-defined so that they can accommodate higher numbers of visitors. By no means do I suggest it’s crowded: the number of visitors on Hinchinbrook Island is strictly limited by permits. Hikers’ camps just don’t always offer the intimate experience you get when kayaking. But they often have facilities – which is a big plus for some travellers.
Responsible travel tip: Remember these simple rules to reduce your negative impact on the environment and leave no trace when you camp, hike and paddle.
You get to see marine wildlife
To be honest, I expected to see more wildlife considering the time we spent on the water. Still, we spotted turtles, dugongs, some fish jumping out of the water and a few sea birds.
It’s a team effort
If you are on a double-kayak, your buddy can help you if you’re feeling unwell. When the weather is good, you can even have a rest without having to stop.
You can visit the Family Islands on the way
We went kayaking with a guided tour and it made our itinerary a lot easier. They dropped us in Lucinda so we could paddle to the south of Hinchinbrook Island and then all the way to Mission Beach. It gave us the opportunity to visit the Family Islands.
We first explored Goold Island, where we finally saw the peak of Mt Bowen without clouds for a short while. There’s a remarkable Aboriginal fish trap on the beach.
Then, we spent our last night of the kayaking expedition on Wheeler Island, one of the Family Islands.
However, you could also have the best of both worlds by choosing to hike Hinchinbrook Island and then join a trip to kayak around the Family Islands. I’d be very tempted by this combo!
In the end, hiking and kayaking Hinchinbrook Island are really two different kinds of holidays.
Hinchinbrook Island was so stunning that I would love to go there again. If the opportunity arises, I’d hike or sail Hinchinbrook Island – and even kayak again – with great pleasure. Hiking is the most challenging way to explore the Island and I’m always up for a challenge. Plus, my best memories on Hinchinbrook Island were on land and I’m sure there are more splendid viewpoints that we didn’t explore while kayaking.
Travellers short on time and budget will prefer hiking.
It’s expensive to join a kayaking tour around Hinchinbrook Island. And it’s hard to organise it yourself without local knowledge and all the necessary equipment. Our kayaking expedition lasted for seven days (you can paddle more every day but then you have less time to explore the island) whereas most people complete the Thorsborne Trail in four days only.
If you want to hike Mt Bowen (1.142m), think twice.
First, it’s very hard to organise a trip up there as you need the right permit and the trail isn’t well maintained. But even without knowing that, it was already a big no for me. Despite the very good weather we had during our kayaking trip around Hinchinbrook Island, we only saw the top of Mt Bowen for a few hours. It was always covered by clouds. I’m sure the view can be fantastic from up there, but the risk of being in the clouds is too high to be worth it if you ask me! If you do it, do it more for the journey than the views.
Choose your season carefully when hiking or kayaking Hinchinbrook Island
The Cassowary Coast is one of the wettest regions in Queensland and even in Australia. From June to October, there are only about three to five days of rain per month on average on Hinchinbrook Island. The risk of rain then doubles in May, November and December. From January to April, it rains almost half of the time. The amount of rain in summer on Hinchinbrook Island is impressive.
Did you choose to kayak or hike when you visited Hinchinbrook Island? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Hinchinbrook Island?
Hinchinbrook Island is between Cairns and Townsville.
Our Hinchinbrook Island kayaking tour left from Mission Beach. The easiest way to reach Mission Beach is to hire a car from Cairns. But it was very easy and a lot cheaper for us to take the bus.
If you are hiking Hinchinbrook Island, you will need to leave from Lucinda or Cardwell. If you’d like to avoid hiring a car, you may be able to get a bus transfer from Townsville airport and then a boat transfer to Hinchinbrook Island.