Skip to main content

Home to some of the Great Barrier Reef’s most iconic destinations — including the ruggedly beautiful Hinchinbrook Island and the iconic Whitsundays — the Townsville/Whitsundays area extends from Mission Beach down to Midge Point (south of Proserpine).

Use of the area is diverse. Due to a high level of use and the range of values of the area, there are a number of layers of management in place.

To protect the values and balance multiple uses at a localised level, site specific management is required. It is important to consider the rules for these sites when planning your visit.

The sites listed below have either a Site Plan, Site Management Arrangement or a Special Management Area.

Before accessing the site information below refer to the following information for the Management Area.

Zoning

The Townsville/Whitsundays Management Area includes the following zoning maps:

Before you head out on the water make sure you have a copy of the relevant zoning map and understand the zoning rules. Either pick up a free zoning map for the area you are visiting from your local bait and tackle shop or download the Eye on the Reef app.

Anchorages and moorings

Commercial fishing

Commercial fishers should read Special Management Areas (in addition to Zoning) to ensure they are familiar with the:

  • Species Conservation (Dugong Protection) Special Management Areas
  • No Dories Detached Special Management Areas; and
  • One Dory Detached Special Management Areas.

For  commercial vessels greater than 50 metres refer to your permit, the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management, the Whitsundays Plan of Management and the Zoning Plan. 

Hinchinbrook Planning Area

In the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, rules apply to vessel length and group size, sensitive locations, speed limits around significant bird sites and where motorised water sports areas can occur.

The Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004 applies to all users. It provides for long-term sustainable use by managing certain activities, ensuring sensitive areas are protected and protecting the outstanding values of this world-famous area.

The Hinchinbrook Planning Area contains an array of habitats that support dugongs, turtles, dolphins and seabirds. Find out more about the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management.

  • Bedarra Island Location 1 and 2 are Intensive use setting Locations (no limit on group size)
  • Bedarra Island Location 3 (including Pee Rahm Ah Island) is a Low use setting Location (maximum 15 people including crew for tourism operations)
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can access and anchor
  • Vessels  greater than 35 metres can anchor outside a Location or at the nearby Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • Private moorings installed
  • Motorised water sports allowed in the Intensive use setting Locations
  • Pee Rahm Ah Island Significant Bird Site, from 1 Oct to 31 March (inclusive):
    • vessel speed limit of 6 knots within 200 metres
    • aircraft must operate above 1500 feet within 1000m
  • Public Appreciation Special Management Area(CP-17-4045 )

  • Dunk (Coonanglebah) Island Spit Location is an Intensive use setting Location (no limit on group size)
  • Dunk (Coonanglebah) Island Location is a Moderate use setting Location (maximum 30 people including crew for tourism operations)
  • Woln-Garin Island is a Low use setting Location (maximum 15 people including crew for tourism operations)
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can access and anchor - use public moorings if available
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres can anchor outside a Location or at the nearby Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • Private moorings installed
  • Motorised water sports allowed in the Intensive use setting Location
  • Woln-Garin Island Significant Bird Site, from 1 Oct to 31 March (inclusive):
  • maximum speed of 6 knots within 200 metres
  • aircraft must operate above 1500 feet within 1000m
  • Family Islands National Park
  • Public Appreciation Special Management Area( CP-17-4045/MNP-17-1073)

Whitsunday Planning Area

The Whitsundays is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most highly visited regions, with the greatest concentration of activity. In the Whitsunday Planning Area, rules apply for vessel length and group size, vessel speeds around significant bird sites and where motorised water sports can occur. Designated and Superyacht Anchorages are available with a booking.

The Whitsundays Plan of Management 1998 applies to all users. It is a key management tool that helps protect and conserve the Whitsunday Planning Area while allowing for a range of experiences and use. Find out more about the Whitsundays Plan of Management.

Refer to the Whitsundays Plan of Management page for resources such as guides and maps for the Whitsunday Planning Area. 

View the Whitsundays Overview Map, Whitsundays Recreational Guide and the Whitsundays Plan of Management.

Spearfishing is not allowed in all of the Conservation Park Zones (yellow zones) in the Public Appreciation Special Management Area. These areas are not listed below. See the Spearfishing factsheet.

  • Setting 1 (intensive) area (no group size limit )
  • Vessels less than 70 metres may access and anchor
  • Vessels at least 70 metres must anchor outside setting areas, or at Designated Anchorages  with a booking and use their tender to access
  • Private moorings installed
  • Molle Islands National Park
  • Site Plan and Map (2007)

  • Setting 3 (moderate use) area (maximum group size of 40 people )
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can access and anchor  - use public moorings if available
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres may anchor at the Superyacht Anchorage with a booking or the nearby setting 1 (intensive) areas
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor outside setting areas, or at a Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • No-anchoring area marked by reef protection markers
  • Users guide to Blue Pearl Bay (2005) showing slow speed area and dinghy channel

  • Setting 5 (protected) area (maximum group size of 15 people)
  • Vessels 20 metres or less can access and anchor
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can anchor in the adjacent setting 4 (low use) area and use their tender to access
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres may anchor at the Superyacht Anchorage with a booking or the nearby setting 1 (intensive) areas
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor outside setting areas, or at a Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • Access for tourism operations limited to current permits
  • Site Plan (2007)

  • Setting 5 (protected) area (maximum group size of 15 people)
  • Vessels 20 metres or less can access and anchor
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can anchor in the adjacent setting 4 (low use) area and use their tender to access
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres can anchor at a nearby Superyacht Anchorage with a booking or outside settings areas, and use their tender to access
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor outside setting areas, or at a Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • Access for tourism operations is limited to current permits
  • Whitsunday Islands National Park
  • Site Plan (2007)

  • Double Bay East is a setting 5 (protected) area (maximum group size of 15 people)
  • Vessels 20 metres or less can access and anchor
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can anchor in the adjacent setting 4 (low use) area and use their tender to access
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres can anchor at a nearby Superyacht Anchorage with a booking or outside setting areas, and use their tender to access
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor outside setting areas, or at a Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • Site Plan (2007)

Preservation Zone (pink zone) - no entry to island or surrounding waters without a permit
Setting 5 (protected) area
Significant bird site (no access year round restriction) aircraft must remain above 1500 feet within 1000 metres of the island at all times
Site Plan (2007)

  • Setting 5 (protected) area (maximum group size of 15 people)
  • Vessels 20 metres or less can access and anchor
  • Vessels 35 metres or less can anchor in the adjacent setting 4 (low use) area and use their tender to access
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres can anchor at the Whitehaven Beach  Superyacht Anchorage with a booking or outside setting areas, and use their tender to access
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor outside setting areas, or at a Designated Anchorage with a booking and use their tender to access
  • No-anchoring area marked by reef protection markers
  • Access for tourism operations is limited to current permits
  • Whitsunday Islands National Park
  • Site Plan (2007)

  • Whitsunday Island – Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach Map
  • Settings (vessel length and group size limits) vary
  • Recreational vessels 20 metres or less can access and anchor all settings - use public mooring if available
  • Vessels 35 metres or less may access and anchor at setting 4 (low use) areas to setting 1 (intensive) areas - use public mooring if available
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres can anchor at the Superyacht Anchorages with a booking, setting 1 (intensive) areas, or outside setting areas, and use their tender to access
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor at Designated Anchorages with a booking or outside setting areas, and use their tender to access
  • Whitsunday Islands National Park

Tongue Bay 

  • Setting 3 (moderate use) area (maximum group size of 40 people)
  • Vessels 35 metres or less may access and anchor - use public mooring if available
  • Access the beach via the marked tender access channel showing the safest route. The reflective tape on the channel markers indicate 0.5m of water over the reef (a 0.7m tide at Shute Harbour)
  • Tenders should exercise caution when attempting access on a lower tide
  • Tourism operators must hold a Commercial Activity Permit (QPWS) to access Tongue Point Lookout
  • Whitsunday Islands National Park
  • Superyacht Anchorage - 1 superyacht may anchor with a booking

Hill Inlet 

  • Setting 5 (protected) area (maximum group size of 15 people)
  • Recreational vessels 20 metres or less can access and anchor
  • Access for tourism operations is limited permits with a specific endorsement and Commercial Activity Permit (QPWS).
  • QPWS improved access to Tongue Point in response to tourism industry concerns. As a consequence, and to minimise amenity and environmental impacts associated with vessel wash, vessel access to Betty’s Beach intertidal area is no longer allowed for tourism operations unless endorsed. Tourism operations may also only access Betty’s Beach via foot using the Tongue Point walking track with a Commercial Activity Permit (QPWS).
  • Whitsunday Islands National Park
  • Historic Site Plan  (2007)

Whitehaven Beach 

  • Setting 3 (moderate use) area (maximum group size of 40 people)
  • Vessels 35 metres or less may access and anchor
  • Vessels greater than 35 metres to less than 70 metres can anchor at the nearby Superyacht Anchorage with a booking, or outside setting areas, and use their tender to access
  • Vessels at least 70 metres can anchor at Designated Anchorages with a booking or outside setting areas, and use their tender to access
  • Private moorings installed
  • Site Plan (2018)

Outside of Planning Areas

  • Public Appreciation Special Management Area (Cape Upstart (CP-19-4064)  —western side only)

  1. Managing installation of future structures by:
    • defining a structure free area (at a northern access point to the lagoon);
    • spatially defining a small structure area in the vicinity of the underwater art. This area will allow for the installation of snorkel trail and rest stations and small underwater art to accompany the existing MOUA site.
    • placing a limit of 5 private moorings across the entire reef (first come, first served).
  2. Establishing a trigger limit on tourism numbers of 15,000 visits per year equivalent to ~288/week. If this level is reached in two consecutive years a review of the site plan will occur.
  3. Asking all users to be aware and considerate of other users and activities being conducted at the site and are reminding them, the Marine Park is multiple use area.
    • Museum of Underwater Art installed in north east of the reef — accessible to all Marine Park users.
    • Use public moorings — if available (see Map 1 of the Site Plan).
    • Two private moorings adjacent to the underwater art. If you wish to use a private mooring, you must seek permission from the permit holder.
    • The deeper water along the northern edge of the reef is known to be the site of historic munitions dumping after World War II – refer Unexploded Ordinance.

Aerial photograph of an island on the Great Barrier Reef – Australia - © Commonwealth of Australia – (Reef Authority) - Photographer: Johnny Gaskell
Created Sun, 2022-08-21 09:47
Updated 11 Nov 2022
Was this page helpful?
Your rating will help us improve the website.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.