Hinchinbrook’s rugged ranges, National Parks, waterfalls and wildlife form a unique and significant part of the Wet Tropics region. The most southern of the Wet Tropics Local Landscapes, Hinchinbrook begins the transition to the dry tropical environments further south.
The mighty Herbert River, which begins life higher on the Tablelands, spreads into a massive flood plain delta, with the main trunk ending its journey near Lucinda on the coastal floodplain. From Lucinda, the view to the north encompasses the stunning Hinchinbrook Island, whose mountains tower over the Hinchinbrook Channel – one of the region’s famous fishing locations.
From above, the fertile plain of the massive Herbert River delta is transformed into a patchwork mosaic of sugar cane farms of varying shades of green. Australia’s largest sugar mill is located near Ingham, supporting the vast cane-growing area, while nearby Lucinda has the world’s longest offshore sugar loading facility.
Wallaman Falls, Australia’s highest permanent single drop waterfall, cascades a spectacular 305m over the escarpments of the Seaview Range in the Girringun National Park. Mt Fox, a relic of Australia’s ancient volcanic history, rises above the surrounding eucalypt woodlands in Girringun National Park. National Parks on these ranges provide vital linkages for wildlife movement from the coast to the Tablelands.
This zone of transition brings a diversity to the vegetation types not seen in the wetter landscapes to the north or the drier western areas. Within the World Heritage Area, towering eucalypt forests and drier tropical grassy woodlands are protected, while the characteristic Wet Tropics’ rainforests are restricted to more sheltered locations such as along waterways and in the folds of the mountains.
An equally stunning diversity of wildlife takes advantage of the range of habitats. Estuarine Crocodiles can be spotted cruising the coastal waterways, while Southern Cassowaries forage among the rainforests for fallen fruit and the critically endangered Bare-rumped Sheathtail Bat searches for insects amongst the coastal woodlands. The spectacular Apollo Jewel Butterfly and the endangered Mahogany Glider find refuge along the foothills of the ranges to the west and in pockets of coastal woodland habitat.
The Tyto Wetlands near Ingham have been transformed to allow easy access by locals and visitors, where it is possible to sight some of the numerous bird species which come here to breed, roost and feed. If you are lucky, the endangered Eastern Grass Owl (Tyto capensis), after which the wetlands have been named, may be spotted flying out at dusk from its daytime hiding place in the grass.
The coastal edge of the delta protects complex coastal lowland wetlands and fragile fore-dunes, which play an important role in recharging groundwater and maintaining water quality, as well as providing significant habitat for migratory birds and marine life.
The dynamic nature of coastal environments, with their tides, waves, floods, storms and cyclones, require constant adaption by all residents. Enclosed by steep ranges and experiencing high water flows during the wet season, towns and farms on the coastal plain regularly become inundated as the river bursts its banks.
Communities and Culture
Hinchinbrook is the home to a proud and progressive cane farming community. With the largest Productivity Services within the Wet Tropics, and many innovative projects about better ways of farming, the landscape’s farmers are regional leaders in terms of sustainable agricultural practices. Proactive farmer groups are trialing new ways to improve their soil health and their overall productivity.
Often referred to as ‘Little Italy’, over half of Ingham’s population has some Italian heritage. Settled in 1864, Ingham is the heart of the local sugar cane industry, where many Italian migrants came to work. An annual Australian Italian Festival is an authentic cultural event held in recognition of the strong Italian culture of the area.
Within the Hinchinbrook area Nywaigi Traditional Owners own and manage Mungalla, a working cattle station which promotes cultural and ecotourism values. Almost half of Mungalla station is made up of a series of wetlands and it is here that you can see a spectacular diversity of birdlife. Click on the Local Cultural Connections link for more information on the Traditional Owner groups and history for this Local Landscape.