What you need to know

Settings in the Whitsundays Planning Area

To help maintain a range of opportunities for visitors to the area, each reef, bay and coastal area within the Whitsundays Planning Area has been assigned a ‘setting’. Settings can also help protect areas of outstanding conservation, cultural or scientific value.

Setting limits apply to all users of the Planning Area. There are five settings, ranging from low use (protected setting) to high use (developed setting). The main factor is the group size that your vessel is carrying, but there are also some requirements regarding vessel length (refer to the table below). The settings usually apply to the area within the 1500 metre line of the reef edge (refer to the Whitsunday Planning Area Settings Map).

Site management arrangements have been developed for Setting 5 areas. View more information about site plans and site management arrangements.

Settings
Vessel length
Group size
1. Developed
Max. 70 metres
No limit
2. High use
Max. 35 metres
No limit
3. Moderate use
Max. 35 metres
Max. 40 people
4. Natural
Max. 35 metres
Max. 15 people
5. Protected
Max. 20 metres
Max. 15 people

*Setting limits do not apply to anchored cruise ships and their service vessels or to large vessels (>35 metres) anchored at cruise ship anchorages, or to vessels in transit. Other management tools are used to ensure environmental sustainability.

Motorised water sports

Activities such as motorised water sports can disturb other users in the vicinity. Within the Whitsunday Planning Area:

  • Motorised water sports can only be undertaken:
  • In Setting 1 (Developed) areas
  • Outside Setting Areas (generally 1500 metres from the reef edge or coastline)
  • Within the Designated Motorised Water Sports Area, located on the western side of North Molle Island
  • Personal watercraft may be used within the boundaries of all setting areas for transport by the most direct reasonable route between two places.

View a map of where motorised water sports can be undertaken in the Whitsundays.

Anchoring and mooring in the Whitsundays

Reef Protection Markers and No Anchoring Areas

There are some reef areas that are particularly vulnerable to anchor damage. You can help protect these vulnerable reefs by observing designated No Anchoring Areas (refer to table below). These areas are often marked by Reef Protection Markers, which are white, pyramid-shaped buoys with a blue Marine Parks label, positioned along an imaginary line.

When visiting a reef or bay that has a No Anchoring Area:

  • You may enter No Anchoring Areas when approaching or leaving moorings or beaches. You cannot anchor inside a No Anchoring Area or inshore of the line of buoys, however vessels may access and anchor on the beach when conditions allow.
  • You cannot attach your vessel or aircraft to a Reef Protection Marker.
No Anchoring Area locations in the Whitsundays
Marked No Anchoring Areas (shown by Reef Protection Markers)
Border Island
Daydream Island
Hayman Island
Hook Island
Langford Island
Unmarked No Anchoring Areas (no Reef Protection Markers present)
Bait Reef
Hook Island - Manta Ray Bay

Refer to the Whitsundays Plan of Management Settings Map and Schedule 5 of the Whitsundays Plan of Management.

Please ensure you anchor with care outside the line of Reef Protection Markers.

View Responsible Reef Practices for anchoring and mooring.

Public moorings

You can use public moorings at a number of sites to help protect fragile reefs. Public moorings are blue-coloured buoys with a colour-coded band that signifies the ‘class’ of the mooring.

There are five classes of mooring, and you must ensure that you use a class of mooring that is suitable for your vessel and the weather. The relevant vessel length and wind conditions are displayed on the colour-coded band and marked plastic tag attached to the pick-up line.

Mooring Class Colour Band Max Wind Strength Monohull Maximum Length Multihull Maximum Length
Tender (T) Brown 24 knots 6 metres 6 metres
Class A Yellow 24 knots 10 metres 9 metres
Class B Orange 34 knots 20 metres 18 metres
Class C Blue 34 knots 25 metres 22 metres
Class D Red 34 knots 35 metres 30 metres

 Public moorings have been installed at the following sites in the Whitsundays:

  • Bait Reef – the lagoon and Manta Ray drop-off
  • Black Island Reef
  • Border Island – Cateran Bay and North-West Point
  • Daydream Island – Sunlovers Bay
  • Dumbell Island
  • Esk Island
  • Hayman Island – Blue Pearl Bay
  • Henning Island
  • Hook Island – East and West Butterfly Bay, Maureen’s Cove, Luncheon Bay, Manta Ray Bay, Pinnacle Bay, False Nara Inlet, Caves Cove and North and South Stonehaven Bay
  • Langford Reef
  • Whitsunday Island – Tongue Bay.

Periodically, some of these moorings may be out of commission or occasionally unavailable when being maintained. If a mooring is damaged or missing, please report this to the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing or the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) on freecall 1800 990 177.

Private moorings

Privately owned moorings have been installed by regular users of an area, including commercial tourism operators. Private moorings are not generally available for public use. The moorings are private property and you must have the owner’s formal permission to use them.

View Responsible Reef Practices for mooring.

Tourism in the Whitsundays

Tourism is a significant use of the Whitsundays. During your visit, you may see a variety of tourism operations including day trip boats, bareboats and cruise ships. Cruise ship anchorages have been nominated to enable cruise ships to visit the Whitsunday Planning Area by providing an environmentally safe area for cruise ships to anchor. For further information on cruise ship anchorages, contact Tourism and Stewardship on  07 47500 700 or email cruise.bookings@gbrmpa.gov.au

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