Anchoring and mooring
The Great Barrier Reef offers visitors stunning vistas – both above and below the water, but it contains some very fragile environments.
An act as simple as hoisting an anchor overboard may have a significant impact on the world below. It may be years before the damaged area recovers or, in some cases, the coral may never return to its former glory.
By taking a little extra care when anchoring and using moorings where available, you will help protect this delicate underwater ‘landscape’.
- Examine the area before anchoring to find the best location
- Anchor in sand or mud away from corals
- Anchor away from fragile or sensitive areas including bird and turtle nesting areas, Indigenous heritage sites and shipwrecks
- Anchor your boat a safe distance away from other boats
- Look out for the safety of people in the water when dropping your anchor
- Never wrap the anchor rope or chain around bommies or large coral heads
- If anchoring ashore, carefully place the anchor to minimise shore and coastal damage
- If anchoring overnight, anchor before nightfall and double check the swing room
- Carry enough chain and line for the depth you want to anchor in
- Use the correct anchor for your situation and environment
- Retrieve the anchor when the line is vertical
- If the anchor is caught on the reef, free it by hand wherever possible
- Do not force the anchor free by motoring forward
- Use only as much chain as you need to hold the vessel, without compromising safety
- Keep watch to make sure the anchor isn’t dragging
- Motor towards the anchor when hauling it in
- Do not attach your vessel to a damaged mooring
- When picking up a mooring:
- Motor into the wind toward the buoy
- Avoid running over the pick-up line
- Use a boat hook to retrieve the pick-up line
- Attach the line to a strong point or bollard on the vessel
- Use public moorings where available
- When using a public mooring, read and follow the advice given on an information disc attached to the pick-up line
- Vacate a public mooring as soon as you can to allow access for others
- When using a private mooring, ensure you have permission from the owner of the mooring.
Marine Parks Legal Requirements
- You can generally anchor in most places in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but you must not damage or remove coral
- You are required to comply with all designated ‘No Anchoring Areas’ (generally marked with pyramid-shaped buoys)
- There are specific management arrangements for anchoring in the Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday Planning Areas:
- You must take reasonable care not to damage coral in the Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday Planning Areas
- In general, you must not anchor within 50 metres of moorings and 200 metres of pontoons within the Cairns Planning Area
- In the Cairns Planning Area, vessels between 35 metres and 70 metres in length may anchor at a designated Reef Anchorage or cruise ship anchorage or outside a Location. Vessels greater than 70 metres can only anchor at a cruise ship anchorage or outside a Location
- In the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, vessels larger than 20 metres can not operate in the Missionary Bay Location
- In the Whitsunday Planning Area, vessels between 35 metres and 70 metres in length can only anchor 1500 metres away from reefs or the coastline unless at a Setting 1 area or a designated cruise ship anchorage. Vessels greater than 70 metres can only anchor at a cruise ship anchorage or 1500 metres away from reefs or the coastline provided the ship is in a General Use Zone or Shipping Area
- You must not remove, misuse or damage public moorings
- You must comply with the time limit specified on each public mooring buoy
- You must have a Marine Parks permit to install a mooring
- You must display your Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority mooring reference number on your mooring buoy in a permanent manner so that it is legible at all times. A Maritime Safety Queensland buoy mooring authority number will be accepted.
If you're heading out on the water, don't forget your free Zoning Map so you know where you can go and what you can do.
The Great Barrier Reef is a hive of activity. If you're lucky enough to see a humpback whale from May to September, make sure you keep a safe distance.
We're delighted to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park's World Heritage listing.
Visit our Great Barrier Reef and discover its amazing plants, animals and habitats. There are a range of tourism experiences on offer.
Everyone has a role to play in protecting our Great Barrier Reef. Find out what you can do to help protect this Great Australian icon.
If you see sick, dead or stranded marine animals please call RSPCA QLD 1300 ANIMAL
(1300 264 625)
A Vulnerability Assessment: of the issues that could have far-reaching consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.