Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach

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.

Current Management Arrangements for the area

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 344 400 km² in size. It is the largest tropical coral reef system in the world, and in 1981 was recognised worldwide for it’s unique values and declared a World Heritage Area.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has an integrated management approach involving both the Australian and Queensland Governments, through agencies including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services and the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

Map of the Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach AreaDetailed description of the zoning boundaries

Access to the Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach area

The Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach area is visited by over 75 000 people each year, making it the most visited location in the Whitsundays area.

Use and access to the marine area is managed, primarily through tools such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan and the Whitsundays Plan of Management (WPOM).

The WPOM protects and conserves the specific significant values of the Whitsundays area by identifying and addressing issues and providing group and vessel size limits in certain areas.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s Whitsunday and Mackay Islands Visitor District Management Strategy provides management arrangements for National Park islands.

In addition, all tourism activities within the marine environment require a Marine Parks permit and access to the islands requires a QPWS permit (commercial activities permit).

Permitted Tourist Operations

A Marine Parks Permit is a legal document granted to a company or individual giving them permission to operate and carry out activities within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth jurisdiction) and the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (State jurisdiction).

A permit describes what activities are permitted, the conditions under which these can occur, where they can occur and for what length of time they can be undertaken. Find out more about Permits.

The Whitsundays Plan of Management (WPOM)

In order to manage use of the Marine Park and to help maintain a range of opportunities for visitors to the area, each reef, bay and coastal area within the management area has been assigned a ‘Setting’.

Settings prescribe:

  • Where particular activities can be conducted
  • The total number of people on a vessel accessing the area (passengers and crew)
  • The length of the vessel accessing the area.

Settings also limit access to certain significant areas, helping to protect areas of outstanding conservation, cultural or scientific value.

Under the WPOM the following conditions apply to Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach:

  • Retail and hire operations, and operations involving the selling of services, are not allowed
  • Motorised water sports and aerobatics are allowed outside the Setting areas only
  • The operation of high-speed vessels is allowed outside the Setting areas only
  • Aircraft operations are only allowed to carry out scenic flights above 1000 feet (above ground or water).

Cruise ships

Cruise ships must not enter the Whitsunday Planning Area outside the General Use Zone and Shipping Areas, except when anchored at (or transiting to or from) a Cruise Ship Anchorage.

The area adjacent to Tongue Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach is not within the General Use Zone.

Cruise ships must only operate their tenders in the Planning Area, if transferring passengers within three nautical miles of the cruise ship.

There are no cruise ship anchorages in this area.

Bookings to the Whitsunday Planning Area

Tourism operators with a Regional Tour Operation permit and 365 day access to the Marine Park can access the Whitsunday Planning Area without a booking.

General tourism operations with 50 days access must make a booking to use the Planning Area. Bookings can be made by contacting the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service office Airlie Beach:

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
Shute Harbour Road
Airlie Beach
Telephone (07) 4946 7022
Fax (07) 4946 7023

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