Boat Tours and Charters

Most tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef on a boat tour or charter, boarding vessels that range from dinghies to large superyachts. Some come just for the day, while others choose to spend longer and explore more. If you operate or plan to operate a boat tour or charter operation, please follow the links to find out all you need to know to operate in the Marine Park.

What do I need to know?

When you operate a boat tour or charter operation in the Marine Park, you need to know about

  • Marine Parks permits, how you apply, how much they cost and your responsibilities as a permittee. Please read your permit to understand your conditions of operation.
  • Management arrangements for where you go, especially zoning requirements.
  • Special management arrangements for the Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday planning areas, including the types of permits that are available, your access to sensitive sites, the size of the group you may carry, and anchoring and mooring provisions.
  • Arrangements for nominating the vessel you wish to operate.
  • The Environmental Management Charge, how much your clients must pay, who is exempt from paying and your responsibilities to collect, record and remit the charge.
  • How you can operate to high standards in the Marine Park and help keep the Great Barrier Reef great.

What access will I get?

Every permit is different and you should carefully read your permit to exactly confirm your access to the Marine Park.

However, you will generally be granted ‘roving access’ to the Marine Park unless you specifically request regular access to nominated locations. Roving access means you are able to visit almost all areas of the Marine Park. Within the Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday Planning Areas, there is a limit on the number of days you may operate. Outside planning areas, you may only visit a location (generally a reef, island or bay) for two days in any seven-day period. To help conserve and protect some important locations, there are some exclusions on most boat tour and charter permits.

Are there special rules for some vessels?

If you operate a large vessel (between 35 and 70 metres) or a cruise ship there are some special management arrangements, especially in the popular tourism areas.

Are there special rules for some activities?

For some of the activities that you are likely to conduct on your tour or charter, there are some special management arrangements. Please take the time to learn about these for

What if I use a mooring?

If you are planning to undertake boat tours that include the use of a permitted private mooring, there are some important mooring requirements that you should understand.