Frankland Islands

The Cairns Area Plan of Management made a commitment to undertake site planning at a number of sites in the Planning Area to determine the appropriate balance of private and public access opportunities. The majority of these site plans were developed between 1999 and 2001 and all are available on our website.

Site Plans compile current management aims and objectives and provide guidance to users and managers about the location. We welcome comments and suggestions from all interested stakeholder groups.


The Frankland Island Sector comprises five continental islands surrounded by fringing reefs, located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell-Mulgrave rivers and 45km south of Cairns. The islands include High, Normanby, Russell, Round and Mabel.

The Frankland Islands are a popular destination for local boat owners and recreational fishermen. Russell Island is one of the most popular island destinations for recreational camping in the Cairns/Cooktown area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with six campsites. A tourism operator conducts regular day-trips to Normanby Island.

Natural values

The fringing reefs around Normanby, Russell and Round Islands support a diverse assemblage of corals.

The Frankland Islands Sector is an important habitat and nesting site for a number of bird species, including the little tern (Sterna albifrons), the beach stone-curlew (Esacus neglectus), the pied imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolour) and the crested tern (Sterna bergii). Russell Island supports the spectacled flying fox and breeding pairs of sea eagles and ospreys.

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are often spotted around the islands.

Cultural and Heritage Values

  • Indigenous
  • Image of Birds

The locality and the surrounding area is culturally significant to Aboriginal Traditional Owner groups including the Gungandjii People, the Mundingalpai clan of the Yidinji People, and the Gurabana-Gunggandji. The waters and fringing reefs around the islands are part of the cultural landscape and are still the focus for traditional access and use of available resources. Spiritual connections are often associated with the natural and cultural resources.

The North Queensland Land Council Aboriginal Corporation is the representative body for Traditional Owners whose estates are located south of Cooktown and north of Townsville, including both inland and offshore areas.


In 1770 Captain Cook named the Frankland Islands in honour of two eighteenth-century sailors. A short-lived beche de mer station was established in 1856 and the islands were often used as a campsite during expeditions such as Dalrymple’s northeast coast expedition in 1873.

Current management arrangements

  • Pick up Marine Park Zoning map seven before you visit the Frankland Islands.
  • The waters adjacent to Normanby Island Reefs (including Mabel Island Reef) are Marine National Park (Green) Zone under both State and Commonwealth Zoning Plans. Find out what you can do in these zones
  • The waters adjacent to Round and Russell Island Reefs are Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone under both State and Commonwealth Zoning Plans. Find out what you can do in these zones
  • As a Commonwealth Island, Russell Island is within the Commonwealth Island Zone. This zone allows for low-impact activities such as sightseeing and photography, and does not allow for activities that involve the take of plants, animals or marine products. Camping is allowed with a permit from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Cairns Office.Phone (07) 4046 6600.
  • The Australian Maritime Safety Authority leases a small section on Russell Island for the operation of the light station.
  • Normanby, Mabel and Round Islands (together with High Island) form the Frankland Group National Park. For more information go the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sports and Racing website.
  • A No Structures Policy (NSP) is also in place over the Frankland Islands Sector. The objective of the NSP is to ensure that the area remains in a natural state, largely unaltered by human works and free from structures and permanently moored facilities (for example, glass bottom boat), except for approved vessel moorings, facility for research or management and navigation markers.Refer to permit information bulletin.

Cairns Area Plan of Management

The following apply to both recreational users and tourism operators:

  • Maximum group size of 15 persons per vessel or aircraft*
  • No anchoring of vessels or aircraft more than 35 metres in overall length
  • Anchoring is restricted within 50m of a mooring
  • No motorised water sports or hovercraft
  • Limit on tourism vessel bookings to one per day*
  • Three permitted private moorings (two at Normanby, one at Russell).

Note: These limits do not apply to:

  • A vessel or aircraft if it is in transit through the location by the most direct route
  • A permitted tourism operator who has a relevant permission or special endorsement or authorisation from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
  • A traditional inhabitant conducting non-commercial traditional activities.

For more information, please refer to the Cairns Area Plan of Management

Anchoring and Mooring
  • Anchoring is restricted within a 50m radius of a permitted private or public mooring.
  • Five public moorings have been installed, two near Normanby Island and three near Russell Island. Further information is available in the following publication: Public Moorings and anchoring – protecting coral in the northern Great Barrier Reef.
  • No increase in the number of permitted private moorings. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority encourages permitted private mooring owners to develop agreements to allow other operators to use their mooring when it is not in use. A Moorings Register has been developed and includes mooring owners and their contact details.
  • A small vessel access area adjacent to Russell Island is marked on the map to identify where boats are known to anchor when visiting the island. The area is predominantly bare sand patches and is relatively protected from the south-easterly winds.

Current Site Plan

Frankland Island Site Plan

Further Information

If you would like more information or wish to provide comment, please contact the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on (07) 4750 0700 or email, marked attention Manager, Planning.

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