Upolu Cay and Reef Site Management Arrangements
Location summary – Fringing reef around unvegetated sand cay
|Latitude/longitude||Lat: 16° 41’ S, Long: 145° 56’ E|
|Distance from mainland||40km north-east of Cairns|
||The waters around Upolu Cay are in a Marine National Park (Green) Zone. The waters of the surrounding reef are in a Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone. The cay is often covered by water at high tide. Restrictions apply to vessels over 35m – please refer to the Cairns Area Plan of Management for further information.|
|Management Area||Cairns/Cooktown Management Area|
|Traditional Owners||Upolu Cay and the surrounding area is culturally significant to Traditional Owners|
Zoning and location maps
- Marine Park Zoning Map MPZ6 Cairns
- Upolu Cay location map
Upolu Cay is a naturally formed, uninhabited coral cay surrounded by protected, shallow waters. Many years ago, Upolu Cay was nothing more than a sand bank, becoming more stable as sediment accumulated over time. It is constantly changing shape in response to weather conditions.1
The area is popular and provides visitors with an opportunity to experience a natural cay and surrounding reef without encountering any large permanent structures such as pontoons or jetties.
Upolu Cay is a Queensland National Park. Visit the Department of Environment and Resource Management for more information.
A number of seabirds commonly roost on Upolu Cay, such as black-naped terns, common noddies and crested terns. Visitors should keep at a reasonable distance and follow Responsible Reef Practices for bird watching.
Anchoring, mooring and group size limits
- Anchoring is not allowed within a 50 metre radius of a permitted (private) or public mooring
- One public mooring is installed to the north of the cay
- Thirteen private moorings are permitted. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) encourages permitted mooring owners to develop agreements to allow other operators to use their mooring when not in use.
- One designated reef anchorage is installed for use by vessels between 35 metres and 70 metres in length
- Upolu Cay is a moderate use location (maximum 60 people per vessel)
- View Responsible Reef Practices for Anchoring.
- Tourism operators are able to carry up to 100 people if they are operating to a mooring (otherwise a maximum of 60 people per vessel applies)
- The Upolu Cay Tourist Operators Code of Conduct [PDF 45KB] includes a list of guidelines designed to assist tour operators accessing the area
- Visit Onboard - The Tourism Operator's Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef.
- Upolu Reef is surrounded by a No Structures Sub-zone, which prohibits the construction of most structures and permanently-moored facilities.
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.