The Hinchinbrook Area is a place of rugged beauty and inspiration. The area’s natural attractions include vast passage landscapes, cloud-covered mountaintops, luxuriant rainforests and small islands with dense tropical vegetation, sandy beaches and fringing reefs.

The area contains a diverse array of habitats, supporting animals such as dugong, turtles, dolphins, as well as a host of birds and the occasional migrating whale.

The area has become internationally renowned for offering a relatively untouched nature-based experience where the scenery is suburb. Uses of the area are many and include bush walking, camping, low-key commercial tourism, cultural activities, recreational fishing and boating and commercial fishing.

Many residents around the Hinchinbrook Planning Area favour marine-based recreation, with activities centred mainly on boating and fishing and some island based recreation, including hiking on the world famous and strictly managed Thorsborne Trail.

The distinctive natural surroundings, unique plants and wildlife, and the nature-based experiences offered by the Hinchinbrook region have led to international recognition of this portion of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The protection of these (and other) significant nature conservation values forms a key element of the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management.

The Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004 is designed to protect the outstanding natural values of the Hinchinbrook region and to provide for the long-term sustainable use of this world famous area.

The Hinchinbrook Planning Area, (the area to which the Plan applies), consists of waters within the Commonwealth’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and lies generally offshore from Cardwell in North Queensland, from the town of Mission Beach in the north to as far south as Ingham. The Hinchinbrook Planning Area does not include internal waters of the State of Queensland, including the Hinchinbrook Channel.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is currently finalising a complementary management plan that will cover waters within the State Marine Park such as the Hinchinbrook Channel and intertidal waters. This Plan should be read in conjunction with the Hinchinbrook Marine Management Plan, once finalised.
Hinchinbrook Plan of Management 2004 [1.87MB]

Hinchinbrook Planning Area Map

Tourism operators

Visit: Onboard - the tourism operator's handbook to the Great Barrier Reef

The protection of these (and other) significant nature conservation values forms a key element of the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management.

Seabirds of Hinchinbrook

Seabirds use extensive areas of the Hinchinbrook Planning Area and are especially dependent on the beaches, foreshores and vegetation of adjacent islands for breeding and roosting, many of which are on national park islands.

Seabirds are susceptible to disturbance from human activity, including noisy or intrusive activities and inappropriate visitor behaviour.

For these reasons it is imperative that activities adjacent to the significant bird sites are managed to have limited impact on the residential birds. There are currently eight significant bird sites that have been identified and have visitor restriction periods.

Dugong and seagrass

Serious concern has been expressed about the vulnerability of the dugong population in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Their dependence on seagrass means that they are associated with shallow, coastal habitats that bring them in contact with human activities.

The Hinchinbrook Area has the second largest remaining dugong population in the southern Great Barrier Reef, to safeguard this population a series of management actions have been implemented in the region, including:

  • establishment of two Dugong Protection Areas that place restrictions on mesh netting
  • a voluntary moratorium on traditional hunting of dugong
  • encouraging boaties to travel along a marked transit lane to minimise animal displacement
  • encouraging reduced boat speed limits outside the transit lanes when travelling over seagrass
  • the development of a free brochure explaining the magnificent natural values of the region, which includes a useful map explaining how to use the vessel transit lanes.

Seagrass beds

Significant seagrass beds occur in many parts of the Hinchinbrook Planning Area and sustain a rich and diverse fauna and flora. The Hinchinbrook Area supports some 12,700 hectares recorded between Dunk Island and Lucinda.

Seagrass beds are important nursery habitats for many species, such as prawns. Dugong depend on healthy seagrass meadows to survive. Seagrass can be impacted by a variety of vessel-related activities. An anchor chain dragging and sediment disturbance from large vessels travelling at speed over shallow seagrass beds are just two examples.

Information sheets

These information sheets provide a brief overview of the concepts and strategies contained in the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management. People are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the relevant aspects of the Plan that relate to their activities or style of tourism operation. This may be done by referring to the Plan or one of the specific information sheets available below.