Visiting islands and cays

There are over 900 islands within the Great Barrier Reef, both continental islands and coral cays. Many are open to camping and offer some of the best settings in the world to pitch a tent and watch the natural world go by.

When you visit an island you are visiting someone's home: these picture perfect locations are refuges for abundant fauna and flora sensitive to human disturbance.

It's therefore critical if you pay a visit to any of these fragile sanctuaries that you 'tread lightly' and leave only footprints behind.

By following the responsible practices outlined below, you're helping to ensure the environment that attracted you remains exactly as it was before you arrived.

In general

  • Check with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) for special requirements before visiting islands
  • Book your campsite in advance with DERM, especially during peak times (for example public and school holiday periods)
  • Remove dirt, seeds, insects and vermin from camping and picnic gear before you visit
  • Access islands at high tide to minimise the potential damage to coral reef flats
  • Remove all seeds from clothing and shoes before going ashore and before leaving the island
  • Carry adequate communication equipment
  • Stay on marked trails, do not trample vegetation or break branches from trees and shrubs
  • If nearby wildlife seems agitated, stop your activities and move away
  • Be quiet - loud or sudden noises can disturb and stress wildlife, and annoy fellow visitors
  • Do not disturb nesting seabirds or turtles - avoid making loud noises, using strong lights or making sudden movements near their nests
  • Do not feed animals
  • Do not collect shells, seeds or other natural 'souvenirs' - take only photos and memories back with you
  • Do not disturb cultural sites (for example, shell middens and fish traps)
  • Take all rubbish (such as food scraps, cigarette butts, plastic and paper) back to the mainland and dispose of it properly
  • Collect any litter found on the island and take it with you.

When setting up camp

  • Camp in designated camping areas where available
  • Search for nests (such as those of seabirds or turtles) on the ground before you set up camp or start an activity - move elsewhere if you see any
  • Show respect for others when sharing sites. For example, before you pitch your tent, talk to your neighbours about where you want to set up.

When cooking and washing

  • Use well-sealed containers to store food to avoid attracting wild animals
  • Use gas or liquid spirit stoves for cooking rather than an open fire
  • Remain with a lit stove at all times - do not leave open flame unattended
  • Do not use harsh detergents, toothpaste or soap in creeks, streams or closed waterways (such as ponds and watering holes)
  • Wash dishes, clothes and yourself at least 50 metres away from watercourses
  • Use biodegradable cleaning products - sand, for example, can be used to scour and clean your dishes.

When nature calls

  • Always use toilets provided
  • If there are no toilets, bury all faecal waste and toilet paper in a hole at least 15 centimetres deep and at least 100 metres from campsites and watercourses.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must book with DERM to camp on island National Parks
  • You must obtain a permit from DERM to conduct commercial activities on island National Parks
  • You must obtain a permit from the GBRMPA to conduct a tourist program on Commonwealth islands
  • Island Management Plans outline regulations and restrictions on specific islands within the World Heritage Area
  • You must not light a campfire on, or remove wood from, island National Parks or cays
  • Generators and compressors are not allowed on island National Parks without the written permission of the EPA
  • Amplified sound is not permitted on island National Parks.