Thorsborne on the sly

Queensland specific bushwalking discussion.
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Queensland specific bushwalking discussion. Please avoid publishing details of access to sensitive areas with no tracks.

Thorsborne on the sly

Postby Drew » Thu 08 Apr, 2021 3:18 pm

Bit of an odd and cheeky question here, but hopefully someone who knows a lot about the Thorsborne Trail/Hinchinbrook can assist.

My partner and I foolishly booked flights to Cairns (from Melb) to do the Thorsborne Trail, without first booking the hike. Turns out the hike books out 9 months in advance and there is no availability at all. However, there is availability at numerous campsites along the route that are not official Thorsborne hiker campsites. We're wondering if we can, for example, book to camp at Banksia Bay, South Zoe Bay, Mulligan Bay and walk the track regardless? A bit cheeky but the camping would still be spread out as intended by the authorities, and there wouldn't necessarily be more traffic on the track (as boat campers at those sites could go for day-walks on the track anyway). Or maybe someone checks bookings and it would all backfire spectacularly?!

We're hoping that there will be cancellations and we'll be able to book to do it conventionally, but wondering about booking the other sites in the meantime as a back up plan.

The possible follow up question might be about alternative multi-day walks in North QLD but I'll leave that for the time being...

Thanks!
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby Neo » Thu 08 Apr, 2021 9:29 pm

Hmm, if there were to be a spectacular backfire, you would then have to exit on foot, possibly requiring another overnight rest stop ;)
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby thefp » Fri 09 Apr, 2021 2:57 pm

The ferry operators are required to check you have a permit.

If you manage to get around this barrier then it would be worth considering that access to permits is currently above pre-covid levels to help as an economic stimulus for the local towns. This means the Queensland Government is already letting extra people walk the trail. The caps aren't there to stop people doing the trail, heck it's barely $7 a night, the caps are there because the island is ecologically fragile. Restricted numbers help protect the flora and fauna.

Next time maybe research and plan before getting on the plane
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby izzeho » Fri 09 Apr, 2021 4:38 pm

I don't think you'll have much luck with the ferry operators.

You could look at doing Bartle Frere over a couple of days, and there's no shortage of day hikes in and around Cairns for some fantastic views: Glacier Rock, Walsh's Pyramid, Crystal Cascade's up to Copperlode, Kahlpahlim Rock Trail, Behana Gorge...
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby Drew » Fri 09 Apr, 2021 6:19 pm

thefp wrote:The ferry operators are required to check you have a permit.

If you manage to get around this barrier then it would be worth considering that access to permits is currently above pre-covid levels to help as an economic stimulus for the local towns. This means the Queensland Government is already letting extra people walk the trail. The caps aren't there to stop people doing the trail, heck it's barely $7 a night, the caps are there because the island is ecologically fragile. Restricted numbers help protect the flora and fauna.

Next time maybe research and plan before getting on the plane


Thanks thefp. I take your point. We were foolish to book flights without doing our research, and it's certainly not our intention to overcrowd the track and/or cause damage to the fragile ecosystem.

However the clunky booking system raises questions. We are able to book campsites that are part of the Thorsborne Trail, yet we are not able to book for the trail itself.You could argue that a booking for those campsites constitutes a permit to be there. I gather that these bookings are meant for people who get to the island by boat, but I'm sure there's nothing to stop them from walking as much of the trail as they like once on the island. So if we were to do what I suggested in the OP (not saying we will, and questions of ferry operator checking permits aside), then we possibly wouldn't be increasing numbers or impact on the island at all. Parks have surely considered the "non-Thorsborne" campers when setting the cap on numbers.

As an aside, are you sure that the cap is higher than normal at the moment? I read that the cap was increased to 60 (or was it 70?) last year to deal with the Covid backlog but I think it's only 40 now.

Parks Vic are equally hopeless at running booking infrastructure - every year when I book to walk at Wilson's Prom I scratch my head, go around in circles a few times, then finally remember how it works.
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby Drew » Fri 09 Apr, 2021 6:21 pm

izzeho wrote:I don't think you'll have much luck with the ferry operators.

You could look at doing Bartle Frere over a couple of days, and there's no shortage of day hikes in and around Cairns for some fantastic views: Glacier Rock, Walsh's Pyramid, Crystal Cascade's up to Copperlode, Kahlpahlim Rock Trail, Behana Gorge...


Thanks izzeho. I might start a separate thread to pick brains about other ideas. Juwun Walk sounds interesting but the crocs could be a bit close for comfort for a southerner like me!
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby Equivocator » Fri 09 Apr, 2021 10:46 pm

Putting aside that the 'cheeky' thing to do is actually more a "rude to other hikers that have booked" thing to do; I believe that to access those sites your means of access has to be via boat or Kayak. Try to book, they wont let you select 'walk in' like they do other remote sites. Those sites aren't part of the trail, the trail has separate sites they ask you to camp at.
As others have said ferry operators are meant to check your permits too.

If you do buy a Stand Up Paddle board, paddle over and hike... will you be caught? Unlikely I guess. So you would 'get away with it' if you wanted too. If you paddled all the way to those sites, and then walked around a bit, you probably wouldn't even be doing anything wrong.
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby lseries92 » Sun 11 Apr, 2021 10:58 pm

I was speaking to one of the boat operators last year and they told me that the limit of 60 people is actually written into legislation (which was news to me, also - if true - bad news if people are expecting them to lift the cap further). Typically they have limited things to 40 people at the one time but - as others have said - they raised it last year to 60 due to help the locals recover from the impact of covid on the local economy.

I actually kayaked the east coast of the island 10 years ago with a group and while I did not book the permits myself, there is a portion reserved for non-walkers. There are some campsites that are only boat accessible and we used one of these on our trip. We also stayed at Ramsay Bay and Zoe Bay and obviously did walk bits of the track (although certainly not the whole lot).

If the OP is still interested in trying to secure permits, take a look at the front page of Absolute North Charters (no affiliation). They list a contact number for a travel agent that helps others with bookings including permits. Cancellations are not entirely uncommon and they may have some tips ...
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Re: Thorsborne on the sly

Postby Drew » Tue 13 Apr, 2021 8:35 am

If the OP is still interested in trying to secure permits, take a look at the front page of Absolute North Charters (no affiliation). They list a contact number for a travel agent that helps others with bookings including permits. Cancellations are not entirely uncommon and they may have some tips ...


Thanks lseries92, that sounds worth trying. We can be a little flexible with dates so it could work if they know of cancellations.
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