Please note: The Whitsundays Plan of Management has been amended. Some of the information below may have changed. Please refer to the Whitsundays Plan of Management for further information.

These site management arrangements focus on the waters within Bauer Bay situated at South Molle Island in the Whitsundays. Developing these site management arrangements follows an application from the resort management, situated adjacent to the Bay, to install moorings that the resort intends making available on a commercial bases to visitors to the resort and for use by vessels owned by the resort.

Natural values

Bauer Bay contains extensive fringing reef, mudflats, sandbars and seagrass beds, particularly in the eastern half of the Bay. Before travelling to Bauer Bay, be sure to familiarise yourself with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA’s) Responsible Reef Practices especially those relating to anchoring and boating.

South Molle Island forms part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park, which contains a variety of vegetation from grasslands to vine forests, and an extensive walking track system.

Cultural and heritage values


The islands and surrounding areas are culturally significant to the Ngaro Aboriginal Traditional Owner Group. The islands, reefs and surrounding waters are part of the cultural landscape and are still the focus for traditional access and use of available resources. Spiritual connections are often associated with the natural and cultural resources.

The Central Queensland Land Council Aboriginal Corporation is the representative body for Traditional Owners whose estates are located in the Whitsundays region.


The Whitsunday Islands were first recorded by Europeans when Captain James Cook sailed along the East Coast in HMS Endeavour. The Molle Group of Islands was first named when Captain Jeffreys was sent to explore and chart the Great Barrier Reef in 1815.

While initially used for grazing in 1927, South Molle was purchased by Henry Lamond, a pastoralist, writer and conservationist. During his years on South Molle Island, Lamond had his lease holdings gazetted by the government as a bird and animal sanctuary with himself appointed as ranger. In 1934, the government began a programme, which led within a decade, to the establishment of most of the Whitsunday Islands as national parks. Tourism came to South Molle in 1937 with the establishment of South Molle Island Resort located at Bauer Bay (Source: South Molle Island- Molle Island National Park, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service website, 2007).

Current use

Tourism vessel Bauer Bay is used by a range of interest groups including commercial tour operators, recreational visitors, bareboats1 and the resort. South Molle Island Resort is adjacent to the Bay. The resort maintains a jetty for passenger transport and uses the waters of the Bay for recreational activities including diving, snorkelling and motorised and non-motorised water sports.

Bauer Bay is also a popular overnight anchorage for the recreational and commercial sector and is a point of entry for an Island National Park walk, which starts behind the resort.

1 Bareboats are vessels more than six metres in length; and when hired out or otherwise made available under a commercial operation or business arrangement (including timeshare or similar arrangements), for a person’s recreational use and without a master or crew. A cruiser, houseboat or yacht are examples of bareboats.

Current management arrangements

Current management arrangements for Bauer Bay

  • Before you visit Bauer Bay pick up Marine Park Zoning Map 10, available from local Community Access Points such as bait and tackle shops, Visitor Information Centres, marine centres, Queensland Parks and Wildlife offices, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices or by contacting the GBRMPA on 1800 990 177
  • The waters adjacent to Bauer Bay are Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone under both State and Commonwealth Zoning Plans. Find out what you can do in each zone
  • The Yellow Zone allows for protection and conservation, while providing opportunities for reasonable use and enjoyment
  • A Public Appreciation Special Management Area covers the Yellow Zone throughout the Whitsundays. Spearfishing, aquaculture and the take of commercial harvest species (aquarium fish, coral and beachworm) are not allowed within the Public Appreciation Special Management Area
  • Bauer Bay is located adjacent to South Molle Island. The Island is part of the Molle Islands National Park. For more information go to the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sports and Racing website
  • A moorings area has been established on the eastern side of the Bay
  • The western boundary of the mooring area is positioned to provide adequate anchorage between it and the jetty. View the Site Management Arrangements Map for coordinates of the moorings area
  • Any future permitted (private) moorings are to be located in this designated moorings area Moorings may be permitted outside of these areas in special circumstances and will be assessed on a case by case basis
  • The tender access area is the recommended area for tenders to be anchored when accessing the island. It is located close to the start of the National Park walking track
  • The service vessel mooring area is designed for ancillary2 vessels that service the resort
  • The jetty access area ensures that vessel access to and from the jetty is not restricted and remains unimpeded by moorings and anchored vessel’s as this is the major point of entry to the resort

2Ancillary vessel means a small tender which: a) is not the primary vessel of the operation; b) is only operated to provide services to the participants of the Permittee’s operation; and c) is only operated within three nautical miles of the primary vessel.

View the Bauer Bay Site Management Arrangements Map

Whitsundays Plan of Management - Bauer Bay

The Whitsundays Plan of Management 2008 designates Bauer Bay as a Setting 1 or developed area. Setting 1 areas are generally located adjacent to areas of high tourism focus such as resorts. The Whitsundays Plan of Management allows the installation of moorings within Setting 1 areas. In Setting 1 areas, the maximum vessel size is 70 metres and the group size is unlimited.

If you are a tourism operator, your permit will tell you if you can operate in the Whitsundays Planning Area. Visit Onboard - The Tourism Operator’s Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef for information on bookings and other special requirements.

Developing the management arrangements

In 2003, the GBRMPA liaised with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) to develop draft Site Management Arrangements for Bauer Bay following an application from Koala Resort Management to install 14 moorings. The GBRMPA required the applicant to publicly advertise their application to ensure that such permission would not restrict reasonable use by the public. The application was advertised between August and September 2005 and included reference to the draft site management arrangements. A small number of submissions were received.

From the comments received, the GBRMPA, QPWS and MSQ adjusted the boundary of the moorings area and provided for a service vessel moorings area.

The final moorings area took into consideration the current ferry route (to and from jetty) and the area where anchored vessels receive protection from the island. Consideration was also given to the northern boundary of the mooring area, due to the water depth and exposure to the prevailing swell.

The application by Koala Resort Management to install moorings in Bauer Bay then underwent environmental impact assessment. The permit was granted on the 13 June 2006.

Further information

Recreational users can obtain a copy of ‘Your Guide to visiting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park in the Whitsundays,’ please contact the GBRMPA on (07) 4750 0700 or the QPWS Airlie Beach office on (07) 4946 7022.

If you would like more information or wish to provide comment, please contact the GBRMPA on (07) 4750 0700 or email