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A superyacht is a high-value, luxury sailing or motor vessel used for sport or pleasure — it is a great way to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef!

Before setting off on your adventure, please take the time to understand the rules that apply to your vessel. This will vary depending on the length of the vessel and if you are a recreational visitor or commercial operator.

Whitsundays-related information in this document is not current. For information relating to the Whitsundays refer to the Superyacht Guide to the Whitsundays.

Where can your vessel go?

The length of your vessel determines where it can go.

Overall length is 110 per cent of the vessel’s load-line certification. If the overall length cannot be determined this way, it’s the distance between: a vertical line passing through a point that is the foremost part of the stern; and a vertical line passing through a point that is the aftermost part of the stern.

If you are providing transport, accommodation or services for tourists, guests or other people who have paid for passage on— or the charter of — the vessel, then you are a commercial superyacht. Commercial superyachts need a permit to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  To learn more about operating as a commercial superyacht see the two guides above and permits for making a permit application.

You are encouraged to plan ahead and contact the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority early, especially if you require a Marine Parks permit to operate commercially as these can take up to 50 business days to process depending on the application’s complexity.

All other use of a superyacht is considered to be recreational and a permit is not required.

Recreational visitors do not require a permit to visit the Marine Park; however, before you visit, it is important to understand where you can go, the rules and Responsible Reef Practices.

You can access most of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; however, you need to be aware of key factors, including vessel length, group size, zoning, and activities.

The printable guides above, and this webpage, provide more information for recreational visitors.

Zoning

Marine park zoning manages and protects the Marine Park values people to enjoy. Each zone has different rules for activities and defines what activities can take place in each zone (e.g. no fishing in the Marine National Park Zone (green zone)). Use the zoning maps to check your activity matches the zoning for the area you visit.

Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsundays

In the popular areas, Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsundays, special management strategies apply to manage use. These rules apply to vessel length, group size and ancillary craft (jet skis and helicopters), and they will relate to you.

A 'Location' boundary is generally 500 metres from the reef edge in the Cairns and Hinchinbrook planning areas. In the Whitsunday setting, areas are within approximately 1500 metres of the reef edge, also refer to the Whitsunday's overview map.

Care for the environment

To help us care for Marine Park values, there are also Responsible Reef Practices for various activities (e.g. anchoring and mooring).

  • Some recreational activities may also have best practices and special rules:
  • Motorised water sports (including the use of jet skis)
  • Whale watching
  • Fishing

Important to know

If you intend to use helicopters or semi-submersibles, please contact us before your visit. Flight restrictions apply in some areas (such as significant bird sites), and all aircraft must comply with the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998.

If your recreational superyacht is registered outside of Australia, you need a control permit from the Australian Border Force. International recreational vessels must supply their control permit to us to obtain login details for bookings online to make anchorage bookings.

In Queensland coastal waters (outside of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park), other rules will also apply to the operation of your superyacht.

Throughout Marine Park

Be aware of Zoning, Special Management Areas, Historic Shipwreck Protected Zones and Site specific management areas.

Use moorings where available and be aware of no-anchoring areas.

Follow Responsible Reef Practices when conducting all activities within the Marine Park.

Cairns Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • All locations provided group size limits  are followed
  • Outside of a location

Be familiar with the rules of the Cairns Planning Area.

Hinchinbrook Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • All locations provided group size limits  are followed
  • Outside of a location
  • If your vessel is more than 20 metres in length, you must not operate in the Missionary Bay Location unless you are using the transit lane.

Be familiar with the rules in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, including those for significant bird sites.

Whitsunday Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • Setting 1 (intensive), 2 (high use), 3 (moderate use) and 4 (low use) areas provided your group size (including crew) is correct for that setting area
  • In setting 5 (protected) areas if the vessel is 20 metres or less provided your group size (including crew) is correct for that setting area
  • Outside of a setting area.

Refer to the Superyacht Guide to the Whitsundays for more information and the Guide to visiting the Whitsundays for recreational users if you are planning on undertaking other recreational activities in the Whitsundays.

Throughout Marine Park

Cairns Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • Reef  anchorages
  • Designated anchorages (with a booking)
  • Areas outside of a Location and use a tender to access the Location, provided your group size (including crew) and overall vessel length is correct for that location.
  • Contact us ahead of time if you require access to bad weather anchorages (northerly winds) for large vessels, as special requirements will apply.
  • Be familiar with the rules in the Cairns Planning Area.

Hinchinbrook Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • Designated anchorages (with a booking)
  • Areas outside of a Location and use a tender to access the Location, provided your group size (including crew) and overall vessel length is correct for that location.

Be familiar with the rules in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, including those for significant bird sites.

Whitsunday Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • Setting 1 (intensive) areas
  • Superyacht anchorages (with a booking)
  • Designated anchorages (with a booking)
  • Areas outside of a setting and use a tender to access Settings, given that your group size (including crew) and overall vessel length is correct for that setting.

Refer to the Superyacht Guide to the Whitsundays for more information and the Guide to visiting the Whitsundays for recreational users if you are planning on undertaking other recreational activities in the Whitsundays.

Throughout Marine Park

Cairns Planning Area

  • You can anchor at and access:
  • Designated anchorages (with a booking)
  • Areas outside of a Location and use a tender to access the Location, provided your group size (including crew) and overall vessel length is correct for that location.

Be familiar with the rules in the Cairns Planning Area.

Hinchinbrook Planning Area

  • You can access and anchor at:
  • Designated anchorages (with a booking)
  • Areas outside of a Location and use a tender to access the Location, provided your group size (including crew) and overall vessel length is correct for that location.

Be familiar with the rules in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, including those for significant bird sites.

Whitsunday Planning Area

  • You can anchor at and access:
  • Designated anchorages (with a booking)
  • Areas outside of a setting and use a tender to access Settings, given that your group size (including crew) and overall vessel length is correct for that setting.

Refer to the Superyacht Guide to the Whitsundays for more information and the Guide to visiting the Whitsundays for recreational users if you plan on undertaking other recreational activities.

Compulsory pilotage area for vessels at least 70 metres

To provide safer navigation through the Great Barrier Reef waters, all vessels at least 70 metres in overall length are required under Commonwealth law to carry a licensed pilot in designated compulsory pilotage areas.

  • The compulsory pilotage areas are:
  • the inner route of the Great Barrier Reef Region (from Cape York to Cairns),  bounded by the northern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Region, latitude 16°39.91'S, the Australian mainland and the outer eastern edge of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Hydrographer's Passage
  • the Whitsundays compulsory pilotage area.

Learn more about compulsory pilotage, the compulsory pilotage area and pilotage exemptions.

If you wish to enter one of Queensland’s ports contact the Regional Harbour Master for instructions. Further information on port procedures and contact details can be viewed at the Maritime Safety Queensland website.

Vessels with an overall length of 50 metres or greater are required to participate in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vessel Traffic Service (REEFVTS).

This service provides vessels with shipping traffic information, navigational assistance and maritime safety information to aid on-board decision making.

Contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Maritime Safety Queensland for more details.

Sailing Adventure High Standard Tourism Operator Snorkeling Diving Cairns Port Douglas Queensland
Created Tue, 2022-08-23 12:47
Updated 23 Aug 2022
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