Settings in the Whitsunday Planning Area

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.
To help maintain a range of opportunities for visitors to the area, each reef, bay and coastal area within the Whitsunday Planning Area has been assigned a setting. Settings can also help protect areas of outstanding conservation, cultural or scientific value. There are five settings, ranging from low use (protected setting) to high use (developed setting). The main factor is the size of the group you are carrying, but there are also some requirements about vessel length.

The settings usually apply to the area within the 1500 metre line of the edge of a reef.

What are the setting limits?

Before accessing a place in the Whitsunday Planning Area check the setting map (see Download map) to ensure that the number of people in your group is within the nominated group size for that destination.

Group size limits refer to the total number of people on board your vessel or aircraft, including crew and excluding children under four years of age.

SettingDescriptionMaximum Vessel LengthMaximum Group Size
1. DevelopedAreas adjacent to resorts or urban centres
Heavy visitation
Permanent facilities (e.g. moorings)
Motorised water sports
70 metresNo limit
2. High useA natural setting
High visitation
A number of facilities
No motorised water sports
35 metres*No limit
3. ModerateA natural setting
Moderate visitation use
Few facilities
No motorised water sports
35 metres40 people
4. NaturalA natural setting
Low visitation use
Free from facilities, large vessels and aircraft
35 metres15 people
5. ProtectedA protected natural setting
Outstanding or unique conservation values and management concerns
20 metres15 people

* At Hardy Reef, vessels up to 70 metres may enter the high use setting area if operating to a mooring or pontoon.

Can I visit with a larger group size?

You may access a setting area with a larger group size if:

What if I operate a large vessel?

If you have a large vessel (over 35 metres up to and including 70 metres) you must remain outside setting areas, except setting 1 areas, unless:

What if I operate a cruise ship?

If you are visiting the Whitsundays with a cruise ship (more than 70 metres) you are able to access the General Use Zone or Shipping Areas that are outside setting areas. You may also anchor at, and transit to or from a cruise ship anchorage. To ensure that space is available at that anchorage, you must make a booking before visiting the anchorage.

Download Map

Whitsundays Settings map Settings, significant bird sites and cruise ship anchorages in the Whitsundays - 237.9 kb

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