Lady Musgrave Island Reef

Please note: The site management arrangements for Lady Musgrave Island Reef are currently under review and submissions closed on Wednesday 22 July 2015.


Lady Musgrave Island is the southern most cay in the Capricorn Cays National Park. The 13 hectare cay is covered by pisonias, coastal sheoaks and pandanus palms, and the surrounding reef is approximately 2930 ha, which includes a large lagoon. The lagoon and cay are the basis for the outstanding natural, visual and physical qualities of the area. The lagoon is one of the major attractions for visitors and other users as it not only supports a diverse array of activities and recreational opportunities, but provides a large, safe and sheltered anchorage from which to enjoy the values.

Natural Values – Corals

Generally the reef crest and slope, the western lagoon wall and many of the bommies scattered through the lagoon can be described as having moderate to high coral cover and diversity. The most popular locations for snorkelling activities are located on the western side of the reef, both inside and outside the lagoon. The lagoon floor and the intertidal areas adjacent to the cay generally have low coral cover.

Natural Values – Marine Turtles

Lady Musgrave Island supports a moderate sized green turtle rookery and a small but stable loggerhead turtle rookery. Between November and February, female turtles come ashore at night to nest. Hatchlings emerge 8-12 weeks later, using the lightest area of the night sky to make their way into the sea.

During the nesting and hatchling season (November to April) you can help protect turtles and turtle hatchlings by:

  • Avoiding overnight anchoring or mooring in the vicinity of turtle nesting beaches.
  • If you are anchored or moored in the vicinity of a nesting beach during these periods, please remain 1.5km away from the beach.
  • Minimising all externally visible light. Use only your masthead light and cover or minimise light from portholes and switch off deck lights. This will avoid disturbing nesting turtles and/or attracting turtle hatchlings.
  • If watching turtles nest, keep still and quiet – sudden movements will disturb the turtle. Never shine lights directly on turtles.
  • If watching turtle hatching, limit the use of lights and never shine lights directly onto hatchlings. Hatchlings may become confused by artificial light and may not make it to the ocean.

The turtles that use Lady Musgrave Island and Reef are an extremely important component of the turtle populations of the southern Great Barrier Reef.

Natural Values – Seabirds

Lady Musgrave Island has been identified as a significant breeding site and an important roosting and feeding site for several species of seabirds. Nesting occurs in the period from October to March with some species present until May. Bridled, black-naped and roseate terns; black noddies, silver gulls, sooty oystercatchers and wedge-tailed shearwaters are the main breeding seabirds present at Lady Musgrave Island. Migrant waders including ruddy turnstones, whimbrels, Mongolian plovers and bar-tailed godwits are among the many species feeding and roosting on the reef flat and island beaches. A variety of land-dwelling birds including silvereyes and buff-banded rails are permanent residents on the island.

Cultural and Heritage Values


The locality and the surrounding area is culturally significant to the Taribelang Bunda, Bailai, Gooreng Gooreng, and Gurang Aboriginal Traditional Owner groups. The waters and fringing reefs around the Capricorn Bunker 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 Gurang Land Council is the representative body for these Traditional Owner groups.  Their traditional estates range from the mouth of the Fitzroy River in the north and to the town of Childers in the south, including both inland and offshore areas.


An historic shipwreck is located on Lady Musgrave Reef. The wreck is thought to be the Jane Lockhart, a wooden schooner that sank in 1868.

Current Use

Lady Musgrave Island and Reef is in the top 15 most visited sites in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and approximately 20 tourism operators annually visit Lady Musgrave Island Reef.  Two tourism operations run daily trips to Lady Musgrave while other operations run extended liveaboard trips to the site. Lady Musgrave Island is also one of the most popular camp sites in the Great Barrier Reef. The most popular activities at Lady Musgrave Island and Reef are snorkelling, diving, fishing, and camping. The commercial fishing industry also uses the site as an anchorage.

Current Management Arrangements

  • The waters north of Lady Musgrave Island, as well as the lagoon wall between the island and the lagoon entrance are a Marine National Park (green) Zone. The remaining waters are Habitat Protection (dark blue) Zone under both State and Commonwealth Zoning Plans. Marine Park Zoning map 17 shows zoning at Lady Musgrave Island Reef.
  • Lady Musgrave Island is part of the Queensland Government’s Capricorn Cays National Park and camping as well as day visitation is allowed on the island. If you would like to camp on Lady Musgrave, bookings can be made through the Department of Environment and Resource Management website.
  • Tourism operations that wish to visit the island need to obtain a Commercial Activity Permit from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
  • A No Anchoring Area has been designated along the north-eastern wall of the lagoon. This area contains popular snorkel and dive sites, and ensures that vessels can navigate to the Cay Access Channel. Anchoring is available adjacent to the No Anchoring Area.
  • A Cay Access Channel and Vessel Loading Area have been designated to facilitate access to the island. The Vessel Loading Area is a “no standing” area where vessels cannot be anchored. However, you can anchor or beach your tender adjacent to this area.
  • Permitted moorings – A trigger limit of 18 will apply to the total number of permitted moorings. Of these 18 moorings, it is proposed to reserve 10 moorings to be used as ancillary moorings in conjunction with the two permitted regular day trip operations. When an application is received for further moorings, it will trigger a review of the site management arrangements. It is anticipated that the review could include public advertising of the application, and will involve discussions with users of the location including the Local Marine Advisory Committees and Traditional Owners.
  • Daily tourism operations – the maximum number of daily vessel operations and associated pontoons allowed is two. All other vessel-based tourism operations are permitted to visit Lady Musgrave reef up to two days in any period of seven days.
  • Aircraft operations – the maximum number of aircraft visits per day is 12. All 12 visits have been allocated amongst three separate permits.

Lady Musgrave Site Management Arrangements map

Important Note:

The following applies to tourism operators who do not have permission for daily access to this site:

  • Holding multiple permissions for the same operation in an attempt to gain increased access is not acceptable.
  • Generally an operation is determined by the primary vessel used.

Developing the Management Arrangements

In 2005, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service began looking at the management strategies in place at Lady Musgrave Island Reef. Some management strategies were put in place over many years to address issues as they arose, but were not compiled into one, readily accessible management strategy. From September to November 2005, comment was sought about the management strategies from users of the area. This was done in collaboration with the Burnett, Gladstone and Capricorn Coast Local Marine Advisory Committees. The main issues were the size of the No Anchoring Area and a potential increase in the number of daily operations allowed to visit Lady Musgrave Island Reef.

The size of the No Anchoring Area was raised by recreational users who visit the site using 5-7m boats, who expressed concern about their ability to access the island and prime snorkelling sites, due to their inability to carry a tender. This issue was resolved by reducing the southern boundary of the No Anchoring Area to allow additional anchoring and snorkelling areas close to the cay. The option of allowing additional daily operations was not considered appropriate because of concern about the site’s carrying capacity, and ensuring that tourism for the southern Great Barrier Reef would not be negatively affected through overuse. These issues were resolved through discussions with relevant stakeholders.

Further Information

For further information or to provide comments on the arrangements, please either call the GBRMPA on (07) 4750 0700 or email