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.

The Whitsundays region from Bowen to Airlie Beach is known for its spectacular island scenery, fringing and offshore reefs and sheltered bays and beaches. The reefs and islands support a diverse range of animal and plant life including dolphins, the threatened humpback whale, and dugongs. The area also contains important Aboriginal cultural sites and historic sites of European settlement days. For all these reasons, the region is a very important tourism destinations and attracts an increasing number of visitors.

Special management strategies have been put in place in the area around the Whitsunday islands to protect natural, cultural and socio-economic values and to provide a range of visitor experiences. The waters and beaches of the area are jointly managed as effectively one Marine Park, also taking into account management of the adjacent island National Parks.

When operating in the Whitsundays region there are some key arrangements you should check.

Check Plan of Management requirements

The Whitsundays has a Plan of Management designed to preserve a range of opportunities and experiences. Through this Plan the natural and cultural values of the overall area are protected, the number of tourism operations is managed, along with the maximum group size to each setting area. There are specific management arrangements for some sensitive locations and some activities.

It is important that you understand in detail the particular management arrangements for the Whitsundays Planning Area.

Check zoning requirements

Zoning is one of the primary management tools for the Marine Park and it is important that you understand the zoning for the area you intend to visit. You are responsible for knowing all the zoning provisions for the location you wish to visit.

Look up the colour of the reef, island or bay you wish to visit on the zoning maps, then check the Activities Guide for what you can and can't do in the zone.More detailed information about zoning is available on theGreat Barrier Reef Marine ParkandQueensland Parks and Wildlife Service(QPWS) websites.

Check Special Management Areas

There are Special Management Areas (SMA) throughout the Marine Park. They apply specific management arrangements to an area to improve conservation of the area or to manage use. They provide an overlay to zoning and are generally marked on the zoning maps.

When you operate in the Whitsundays region, you must be aware of the:

  • Whitsundays Public Appreciation Special Management Area which includes all of the Conservation Park (yellow) Zone within the Whitsundays
    • Hayman Island (20-014) and Hook Island (20-028)
    • Saba Bay, Hook Island (20-208a)
    • Double Cone Reef (20-024)
    • Molle Islands (20-033, 20-034, 20-042)
    • Whitsunday Island (20-041) and Hamilton Island (20-057)
    • Shute Island (20-048)
    • Long Island (20-060)
    • Lindeman Island (20-090), Pentecost Island (20-085), Cole Island (20-086), except that part of the zone adjacent to Shaw Island (20-102).

You cannot spearfish in this Special Management Area.

Check designated Shipping Areas

If you conduct a cruise ship operation, check the designated Shipping Areas. They are an overlay to zoning and allow the navigation of ships through zones where they would otherwise not be permitted. You can locate the Shipping Area boundaries on the zoning map. The Whitsunday Planning Area is a compulsory pilotage area for cruise ships.

Check your permit

You must have a permit to operate in the Marine Park. Read your permit carefully for additional conditions about operating in the region.

Check Island National Parks

There are many island National Parks in the Whitsundays region. There may be booking and permit requirements to visit these islands above high water mark, please contact your nearest QPWS office.

Check Responsible Reef Practices

For each of the activities you undertake, consider how you and your clients can adopt responsible reef practices and further help protect the Reef.

Where can I get more information?

The GBRMPA, QPWS and a range of other regional contacts can help you with any questions you may have.

Download Guide

Activities Guide An introduction to zoning in the Great Barrier Reef - 99.4 kb

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