Low Isles is located offshore from Port Douglas and is a popular destination for tourists and locals. To manage the pressures at this fragile site, management arrangements are in place through the Cairns Area Plan of Management. The area around Low Island and the lagoon area is referred to as the Low Island Locality and is managed as a Sensitive Location.

Sensitive Locations in the Cairns Area are identified as having special values (nature conservation, cultural and heritage, scientific or use values). A high level of protection is also afforded to Low Isles through the Zoning Plan with surrounding waters designated Marine National Park (Green) Zone. This zone is a 'no take' zone, which means that extractive activities such as fishing or collecting are not allowed. Please refer to the Zoning information for more detail and the Activity Guide for a simplified explanation of activities you can do in each zone.

The Low Island Locality has restrictions on group sizes, vessel sizes, activities and number of visiting vessels. Some vessels have exemptions regarding group sizes and access. The restrictions set out below apply to both recreational and commercial visitors to Low Island. However, recreational visitors are not required to make a booking.

Cairns Area Plan of Management - Low Island Locality

Low Island Locality Map

  • Maximum group size of 15 persons per vessel or aircraft
  • No anchoring of vessels or aircraft more than 35 metres in overall length
  • Anchoring is not restricted within 50 metres of moorings
  • Anchoring is not restricted within 200 metres of pontoon
  • No motorised water sports or hovercraft
  • No island access between sunset and sunrise
  • No waste discharge
  • Vessel or aircraft speed limit of six knots
  • Limits on vessel bookings to two per day

Note: These limits do not apply to:

  • A vessel or aircraft if it is in transit through the location by the most direct route
  • A permitted tourism operator who has a relevant permission or special endorsement or authorisation from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
  • A traditional inhabitant conducting non-commercial traditional activities.

For more information on management of locations in the Cairns Area please refer to the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

Anchoring restrictions and reef protection markers

To assist in the management of Low Isles and protection of fragile corals, public moorings and reef protection markers are in use. Some fragile reef areas are marked by white pyramid shaped buoys (joined by an imaginary line) with blue Marine Parks labels, these are reef protection markers. Reef protection markers must not be used to moor vessels. It is an offence to damage coral in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and anchoring is not allowed inshore of the line of reef protection markers. Care should be taken when anchoring near or around coral.

A new reef protection marker, closer to the beach and access channel, was installed in December 2004. Two locations were trialled and public comment supported the current location of the marker. For any queries regarding Low Isles please send an email to info@gbrmpa.gov.au phone the GBRMPA on (07) 4750 0700.

More specific information is available in the following publication:

Public moorings and anchoring - protecting coral in the northern Great Barrier Reef