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Hinchinbrook is a place of rugged beauty with a diverse range of habitats and natural attractions. The area is popular with both locals and visitors for boating, recreational and commercial fishing and island camping.

The Hinchinbrook Planning Area extends offshore from Dunk Island to Halifax Bay. View the Hinchinbrook Maps Information sheet to understand the boundary and Locations within the Hinchinbrook Planning Area.

The Planning Area does not include the Hinchinbrook Channel or the intertidal waters (these are Queensland Government managed waters). The Hinchinbrook Island National Park Management Plan contains more information. The Palm Island Group is also not part of the Planning Area.

What is the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management?

The Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004 helps protect and conserve the outstanding values of this world-famous area while allowing for a range of experiences and uses in the Marine Park. The Hinchinbrook Plan of Management applies to everyone and complements zoning (and other management strategies) by addressing area-specific issues.

A range of management tools is used so visitors can enjoy their favourite marine activities while protecting the natural environment. Rules in the Plan relate to the protection of wildlife, vessel length,  group size, motorised water sports, anchoring and mooring and other vessels/aircraft restrictions.

What you need to know about the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management

It is important to be familiar with the different management tools used within the Marine Park as there are implications for non-compliance.

Click on 'General Access to the Hinchinbrook Planning Area' and the headings below to find out what rules apply.

Recreational use of the Hinchinbrook Planning Area is popular with both locals and visitors.  

As a recreational user, it is important to be familiar with where you can go and what you can do, take time to read about what you need to know about the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management and become familiar with rules specific to sites you are visiting.

A variety of tourism experiences are available in the region. Consider choosing a high standard tourism operation who makes it a priority to care for the Reef.

Due to the popularity and multiple use of the area, the Plan includes additional requirements for permit holders within the region. Group size limits apply to tourism operators at Locations. Permit Holders should refer to their permit, the Plan, the information sheets and other tourism requirements mentioned below.

If you are visiting with a superyacht, see Superyachts and check the information below, in particular General Access to the Hinchinbrook Planning Area.

  • Before heading out on the water, make sure you:
  • Have a copy of  Zoning Map 6 (Innisfail) and Map 7 (Townsville)
  • Are familiar with site-specific arrangements (vessel length, speed or group limit restrictions) for the places you are visiting
  • Check the  Responsible Reef Practices for activities such as boating and yachting, fishing and diving and snorkelling.

Generally, if your vessel is 35 metres or less, you can access most Locations and use the appropriate anchoring and mooring options mentioned below. In the Missionary Bay Location, vessels at least 20 metres in length must remain in the transit lane.

Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres may anchor at a Designated Anchorage with a booking or outside Locations and use their tender to access the Locations.

Vessels at least 70 metres in length must anchor at a Designated Anchorage with a booking or outside Locations in the Planning Area and use their tender to access the Locations.

Transit Lanes 

Transit lanes move boating activity away from shallow water habitats to reduce the risk of boat strikes on marine turtles, dugong, and habitat degradation.

For use by all vessel traffic (commercial and recreational (including personal watercraft)), transit lanes are marked by navigation aids in the northwest region of Hinchinbrook Island and the Missionary Bay Location.

The transit lanes are shown on the Hinchinbrook Maps Information sheet and Map 3 of Schedule 8 of the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004.

Vessels may travel up to 25 knots when using the transit lane. Other routes may be used if adverse weather makes travelling in transit lanes unsafe.

All vessels at least 20 metres in length must remain in the transit lane in the Missionary Bay Location.


The following limits apply to vessels entering Locations in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area.

Management setting

Max vessel length (*Applies to all vessels)

Max Group Size (*Tourism Operators only)

Intensive Use

35 metres

No limit

Moderate Use

35 metres


Low use

35 metres



Note: Endorsements for the above group size limits apply to some tourism operators.

The boundary of a ‘Location’ is generally 500 metres from the seaward edge of the reef. View the Hinchinbrook Maps Information sheet or the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004 Schedule 2 for Locations and Schedule 3 for their use levels.

Sensitive Locations

Some Locations have special or sensitive values and are defined as Sensitive Locations. These sites have extra management for a variety of reasons.

Aircraft must operate above 1500 feet over a Sensitive Location.

The Hinchinbrook Maps Information sheet (page four) provides more information and identifies the following Sensitive Locations:

  • Bowden (Budg-Joo) Island
  • Brook Islands
  • Coombe Island
  • East Coast of Hinchinbrook Island
  • Eva Island
  • Hudson (Coolah) Island
  • Macushla
  • Missionary Bay
  • Mulligan Bay
  • Picnic Beach Location
  • Mound (Purtaboi) Island
  • Ramsay Bay
  • Shepherd Bay
  • Smith Island
  • Wheeler (Toolgbar) Island
  • Zoe Bay

Requirements for tourism operators 

Additional rules, such as the maximum number of vessels that can be booked, can apply to tourism operations at Sensitive Locations.

Tourism operators should refer to their permit, the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004, and the relevant Information sheet.

Tourism operators with relevant permission and a special endorsement or authorisation from us may have greater access.

Coral reefs and seagrass beds are susceptible to anchor damage, so it’s important to use moorings where available, observe no-anchoring areas and ensure you use Responsible Reef Practices when anchoring and mooring.

Moorings and no-anchoring areas

If your vessel is 35 metres or less you can use a public mooring. Refer to the Mission Beach to Townsville map for locations of public moorings and no-anchoring area at Brook Islands (reef protection areas). For private moorings view the moorings register.

Designated anchorages

There are three designated (cruise ship) anchorages, for use by vessels at least 35 metres in length, with a booking.

  • These are located at:
  • Dunk Island (just outside of the Planning Area)
  • Cape Richards
  • Hecate Point

Ensure you use Responsible Reef Practices when anchoring and mooring.


To protect wildlife and balance access across all users, these activities are closely managed.

Private personal watercraft (i.e. jetski) are allowed to transit by the most direct reasonable route between two locations in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area.

Transiting does not include circling, weaving, diverting, surfing down or jumping over or across waves, swell or wash.

These activities are classed as motorised water sport along with parasailing, water skiing and the use of hovercraft. Speed limits apply around significant bird sites and in the Transit Lane.

Motorised water sports is allowed, using a vessel less than six metres in length, in intensive use Setting Locations, or outside of a Location .


The Hinchinbrook Planning Area has a diverse array of habitats that support animals such as dugong, marine turtles, dolphins, and a range of seabirds.


A number of sites are important bird nesting and roosting sites. The birds are especially dependent on the beaches, foreshores and vegetation of adjacent islands for breeding and roosting, many of which are on National Park Islands. Because roosting and nesting birds are vulnerable to disturbance, these sites are defined as significant bird sites and special rules apply.

At the significant bird sites:

  • Vessels must travel less than 6 knots during the restriction periods, within 100 metres of Mound (Purtaboi) Island, or 200 metres of the other significant bird sites.
  • Aircraft must operate above 1500 feet within 1000 metres of a significant bird site during the restriction period.

Take care not to disturb birds at nesting and roosting sites listed in the table below.

Sites with all year restriction Sites restricted from 1 Oct to 31 March
North Island (Brook Islands) Mound (Purtaboi) Island
Middle Island (Brook Islands) Woln-Garin Island
Tween Island (Brook Islands) Pee Rahm Ah (Battleship Rock) Island
  South Island (Brook Islands)
  Eva Island


In Queensland waters  — from the low water mark surrounding North, Middle, Tween and Mound (Purtaboi) Islands — access is restricted during the above periods.

View also the Responsible Reef Practices for bird watching.

Dugong and Seagrass

Seagrass beds sustain rich and diverse fauna and flora, including a large dugong population. Dugong depends on healthy seagrass meadows to survive.

To help protect the seagrass habitats and dugong population, management actions include:

  • Encouraging vessels to use the transit lanes
  • Encouraging a 10-knot speed limit over seagrass beds outside the transit lanes and when travelling near large sea animals (dugong, dolphins, marine turtles)
  • Species Conservation (dugong protection) Special Management Areas
  • Girrigun Traditional Owners have a Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement to sustainably manage their sea country.


The National Parks in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area include:

  • Family Islands National Park
  • Goold Island National Park
  • Brook Islands National Park
  • Hinchinbrook Island National Park

Bookings for campsites and hiking the iconic Thorsborne Trail can be made via the Queensland environment department’s online booking service.

Refer to the Queensland environment department website for more information on these islands and what you can do there.

  • Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004
  • Map -  Hinchinbrook Planning Area
  • Hinchinbrook Maps
  • General tourism operators
  • Aircraft operators (recreational and commercial pilots)
  • Cruise ship operators
  • Boutique cruise operators
  • Bareboat and hire operators
  • Passenger transport and support service operators
  • Guided tour operators (vessels less than six metres)
  • Motorised water sports
Recreational fisher out on the bay - Great Barrier Reef  – Australia - © QPWS - Photographer: Victor Huertas
Updated 11 Sep 2023
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