Posted Apr 07, 2017
By: David Lincoln
It was a fine sunny day at the end of the wet season in Cardwell and I was booked on the Two Island cruise with Hinchinbrook Island Cruises. Hinchinbrook Island is reputed to be the largest island national park in the world.
I met the boat, a 6 metre fibreglass runabout that had comfortable seating and shade for 12 people, at Hinchinbrook Harbour boat ramp. There were seven people on the trip today; myself, two families, and Andrew the boat’s skipper. When the passengers were onboard, Andrew casts off and navigates the boat slowly through the no-wash zone in Hinchinbrook Harbour, past the mangroves where resident crocodiles live and out into Hinchinbrook Channel. The boat was then brought up to a very comfortable cruising speed of 26 knots. Andrew demonstrated excellent knowledge of the area and, as we rounded Hecate Point on Hinchinbrook Island he pointed out to us several features of the island including some of the damage that cyclone Yasi had caused when it devastated the area in 2011. Andrew then showed us a map of the islands and channels and explained that we are going into a creek in South Shepherd Bay that leads to a pontoon and board-walk through mangroves.
When we arrive at the pontoon Andrew secures the boat, hands out insulated backpacks that contain cold drinks and our lunches and we walk across the sand dunes to Ramsay Bay. Today we have a high spring- tide and the track is partly underwater so we get our feet wet.
Ramsay Bay is a beautiful sandy beach with crystal clear blue water which invites a swim, but we resist the temptation because it is still stinger season and crocodiles are also known in the area. Instead we walk south along the beach towards the Thosborne Trail track. On the way our skipper, now tour guide, points out Mount Bowen, the highest mountain on the island, with its peak in one of several of the puffy white cumulus clouds that are floating in the sky. At the end of Ramsay Bay we rest on some rocks before walking down the Thosborne Trail to Black Sand Beach.
This section of the Thosborne trail is an easy walk that passes through forrest and then follows a small creek which we have to cross a couple of times on the way. Black Sand Beach, as it’s name suggests, has a mixture of black and white sand. The black sand is rutile, a mineral that was used in the manufacture of paints and was mined extensively on Australian beaches in the past.
There is plenty of time to take a walk around Black Sand Beach and watch mangrove jacks, mullet, and other fish swimming in the creek before sitting down in the shade of some paper- bark eucalypts to have lunch. Lunch consists of fresh, locally baked, bread rolls with salad and a choice of fillings plus fresh fruit and some tasty ‘munchies’.
After resting for a while we then take then walk back along the trail to Ramsay Bay, back along the beach to the track to the mangrove walk and the boat. Taking our places onboard we leave the pontoon and head out into South Shepherd Bay en route to Garden island.
Garden Island is a small island that can be easily seen from the Cardwell waterfront with the much larger Gould Island in the background. Garden Island is administered by the local council and can be accessed by boat for day trips and camping. There are several campsites, picnic tables, a bush toilet, and a very tempting beach, we don’t swim though because of the possibility of stingers and crocodiles.
After a short stay on Garden Island we board the boat again for the trip back to our departure point in Hinchinbrook Harbour. The trip home gives us excellent views of Cardwell and the hills behind it which have seven peaks and are affectionately known as the seven-sisters, Kirrama Range is visible in the background.
Our trip ends when we arrive back at the boat ramp that we departed from about 5 hours earlier and everybody on board agrees that it was a excellent trip and that Andrew is a very knowledgeable and excellent host. Hinchinbrook Island Cruises have two boats and offer Two-Island Cruises, transfers to and from the Thosborne Trail from Cardwell and Lucinda, Zoe Bay tour, and private charters including reef fishing.
They can also arrange for snorkelling and scuba trips from Mission Beach, plus road tours to Walkman Falls and Blencoe Falls.
Wallaman Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall in Australia and is a ‘must’ for anyone visiting the Ingham/Cardwell area and Blencoe Falls is a spectacular 2-day 4WD inland tour over the Kirrama Ranges for the more adventurous.