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About Great Sandy Marine Park

Getting there and getting around

Looking south over Garry's Anchorage in the Great Sandy Strait. Photo: Queensland Government.

Looking south over Garry's Anchorage in the Great Sandy Strait. Photo: Queensland Government.

When exploring Great Sandy Marine Park from north to south, access the northern waters of the marine park from Bundaberg. Travel north to the Kolan River, then onto Littabella Creek and Baffle Creek. East of Bundaberg is Bargara and the Woongarra Coast with its fringing reefs. Head south to Elliot River, Woodgate and the Burrum River.

Hervey Bay (40 km off the Bruce Highway, via Maryborough) is a popular holiday destination and a growing coastal town. The Urangan boat harbour is a centre for whale watching, fishing charters and other water-based tours. You can get to Fraser Island via the barges at Urangan boat harbour and River Heads.

You can gain access to the Great Sandy Strait from the coastal towns of Maaroom, Boonooroo, Poona and Tinnanbar. Kauri Creek estuary and Tin Can Bay Inlet provide protected waters for boating. From Rainbow Beach you can reach Inskip Point, a managed recreation area, with camping along the eastern shore of Tin Can Inlet. From Inskip Point, barges cross to Fraser Island. Sandy beaches stretch from Rainbow Beach south to Double Island Point.

Wheelchair accessibility

Some of the barge landings, boat ramps and commercially operated tours are wheelchair accessible. Contact the local tourism information centres for more information.

Park features

Kayaking, Great Sandy Strait. Photo: Queensland Government.

Kayaking, Great Sandy Strait. Photo: Queensland Government.

Great Sandy Marine Park protects a range of marine and coastal environments, including rocky shores, fringing reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows and sandy beaches. Hervey Bay's waters are protected by Fraser Island. The island has extensive surf beaches, separated by rocky headlands. The protection provided by Fraser Island led to the formation of shallow bays and sheltered channels, which blend into seagrass meadows, mudflats and mangroves. The marine park protects rivers, creeks and estuaries.

These habitats provide important seasonal resources and stopovers for migratory species including humpback whales, migratory wading birds and marine turtles. Resident species dependent on these habitats include dugong, dolphins, shorebirds, grey nurse sharks, fish, molluscs and crustaceans.

Conservation and reasonable use of significant marine natural resources, is achieved through zoning, designated areas, entry and use provisions and permits. The marine park is used for a wide range of activities, from fishing and recreation to defence activities and scientific research. It covers tidal lands and marine waters that form a transition zone between tropical and temperate waters. The changing water temperature drives dynamic life cycles and influences how coral, fish, mangrove and seagrass species are distributed.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of Great Sandy Marine Park.

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Camping and accommodation

Looking northward to Waddy Point from Champagne Pools on Fraser Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Looking northward to Waddy Point from Champagne Pools on Fraser Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Camping

Camping is available in these nearby parks:

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, the townships of the Great Sandy Strait, Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach. For more information see the tourism information links below.

Things to do

A nesting loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Photo: Queensland Government.

A nesting loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Photo: Queensland Government.

Boating and fishing

Read more about boating safely and measures to take when boating to look after the park.

Fishing activities are allowed in the marine park, but some restrictions apply to encourage sustainable use. Read more about marine park zones and how to fish for the future.

Viewing wildlife

Turtle watching

Mon Repos Regional Park supports the most significant nesting population of the endangered loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta in the South Pacific Ocean. Designated areas protect a nesting population of about 300–400 female loggerheads annually. Green and flatback turtles also nest at Mon Repos. Nightly ranger-guided tours occur from November to late in March to protect nesting turtles and hatchlings from disturbance. Visitors can see turtles laying eggs and hatchling sea turtles emerge from their eggs and race to the sea depending on the time of the season. Turtles are easily disturbed from their nesting if people do not follow the correct turtle watching guidelines.

Whale watching

Whale watching is popular in Great Sandy Marine Park. Commercial tour operators offer whale watching cruises. For details, see the tourism information links below.

Some operators also offer immersive whale interactions where people can get into the water with whales. The whale watching operators put their passengers on a boom net, or a duckboard – a submerged platforms at the rear of a vessel, or a mermaid line – a line with floats that swimmers can hold onto. While this sort of activity does carry an element of risk, operators are required to abide by specific safety rules as a condition of their permit in order to minimise these risks.

If you are recreationally boating in the proximity of whales you must abide by the National Standard for approach distances for whales and dolphins.

Other things to do

Several areas within the marine park are popular for diving and snorkelling. Enjoy the experience and leave only bubbles.

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Things to know before you go

Great Sandy Marine Park incorporates five zones and eight designated areas. Different activities are allowed in different areas or zones.

Essentials to bring

Make sure you have:

  • Great Sandy Marine Park visitor guide (PDF, 6.4M) (download and print)
  • first-aid kit
  • GPS, map and/or compass
  • torch or headlamp
  • sufficient fuel
  • drinking water
  • raincoat and suitable footwear
  • insect repellent
  • sun protection
  • a permit when camping; bring a fuel stove and fuel, as fires and generators are not permitted at some campsites around the marine park.

Opening hours

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Permits and fees

Through a permit system, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service encourages responsible behaviour by marine park users, gathers information, separates and limits conflicting uses, and where necessary, applies limits on activities in the marine park.

Permits are required for some activities in and near Great Sandy Marine Park, including:

  • camping in adjacent national parks
  • conducting commercial tourist programs (e.g. adventure activities such as parasailing, jetski and hovercraft tours, and eco-tours such as coral viewing, sailing and kayaking).
  • commercial whale watching programs
  • aquaculture and mariculture operations
  • harvest fisheries
  • collecting (other than limited collecting)
  • extractive or manipulative research
  • extraction and mining activities
  • dredging and works for structures
  • depositing materials or discharging waste.

Permits may also be required for other activities. Contact the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPSR) for more information.

On the spot fines or court proceedings may apply for conducting activities without the necessary permit.

Pets in Great Sandy Marine Park

  • Domestic animals are allowed on vessels in the marine park, but are prohibited in all national parks and regional parks.
  • Dog owners must not take a dog into the shorebird roosting and feeding designated area unless the dog is controlled or restrained in a way that prevents the dog from causing excessive disturbance to shorebirds in the area.
  • Domestic animals are prohibited in the Mon Repos designated area from 15 October each year to 30 April the following year.
  • Dogs are permitted within Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area and Tuan State Forest camping areas. They must be on a leash and under control at all times.
  • Dogs are not permitted in the Cooloola Recreation Area to the low water mark, even if traversing in a vehicle, except in a dog-friendly beach zone south of the village of Teewah to the 1st cutting on the Noosa North Shore.
  • Leave your pets at home or keep them aboard your boat.

Climate and weather

The Great Sandy Marine Park has a subtropical climate. Average coastal temperatures range from 22–28°C in December and 14–21°C in July. For more information see the tourism information links below. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available in Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, some of the townships of the Great Sandy Strait, Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach. For more information see the tourism information links below.

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Staying safe

Plan your boating and trips

  • Check tide times and weather forecasts, available from the Bureau of Meteorology.
  • Check Maritime Safety Queensland’s Weather Service.
  • Know the risks, know your equipment, know your responsibilities and know your boat.
  • Log your boat trip with your local volunteer rescue station.
  • Seek local advice about strong currents and tidal influences.

Also see: Marine stinger warning notice (PDF, 133K).

In a case of an accident or emergency

  • On a marine radio transmit a Distress or Urgency call on VHF Ch16.
  • Call 000 if you have a phone. If you have difficulty connecting to 000 on your mobile phone, try 112.
  • Advise the location and nature of the emergency. Stay on the phone until you are told to hang up.
  • Deploy other emergency apparatus including EPIRB, flares and V sheet.

Be croc wise and report crocodile sightings

NPSR has received credible reports of estuarine (saltwater) crocodile sightings in the Great Sandy Strait and western coastline of Fraser Island.

Crocodiles are a native animal and protected in Queensland. The accepted habitat range of the estuarine crocodile in Queensland extends from Torres Strait south to the Boyne River, just south of Gladstone. However there have been records of estuarine crocodiles as far south as the Logan River Brisbane (circa 1902).

If a crocodile is sighted, contact the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) immediately.

For your own safety ‘Be croc wise’:

  • Do not approach crocodiles and stay well away from crocodile slides.
  • Never feed, provoke, harass or interfere with a crocodile.
  • Keep a good lookout at all times.
  • Take care when launching or retrieving your boat.
  • Avoid entering the water. When fishing stand at least a few metres back from the water's edge.
  • Never clean fish or discard fish or food scraps near the water's edge, campsites or boat ramps.
  • Camp at least 50 m from the water's edge.

Crocodiles are only one of a number of dangerous marine animals, including sharks, potentially found in this region. Following commonsense croc wise rules will reduce the risk of contact with crocodiles.

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Looking after the park

Boat strike on loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) north of Urangan Boat Harbour. Photo: Queensland Government.

Boat strike on loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) north of Urangan Boat Harbour. Photo: Queensland Government.

Know your zone

Make sure you are familiar with the entry and use provisions for the marine park zone and designated areas you are entering. For example, Barolin Rock on the Woongarra coast is a marine national park zone (green zone). This means it is a ‘no take zone’ right up to the shore. Point Vernon at Hervey Bay is a conservation park zone (yellow zone), where fishers are limited to one line or rod per person and one hook or lure per line.

Report incidents promptly

Report the folowing incidents to NPSR:

  • breaches against the zoning plan.

Report the following incidents to the RSPCA:

  • dead or stranded marine turtles or marine mammals
  • tag numbers.

Report the following incidents to EHP:

  • crocodile sightings
  • harrassment or unauthorised feeding of dolphins
  • unusual marine sightings.

Report pollution incidents to Maritime Safety Queensland:

  • Marine pollution incidents including oil, diesel, and sewage spills.

Report these incidents to the Fisheries Services, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF):

  • illegal fishing activities in Queensland
  • marine wildlife trapped in shark nets.

Report unsafe boating practices and matters of concern:

Organise your gear

Prepare and check your gear. Ensure you use a lockable ice box or food box so as to secure food from wildlife. Organise a bucket or bin with lockable lids to stow rubbish. Transfer bait and foodstuff to reusable containers. Use biodegradable cleaners for hygiene. Invest in high quality fishing gear, as cheap line, nets and pots break easily and may increase the chance of them being lost or abandoned. Bring cans rather than bottles.

Stow it...don't throw it!

Littering in the marine park is an offence. Keep Great Sandy Marine Park beautiful. If you ship it in, ship it out. Marine wildlife will ingest fragments of rope, plastic bags and fishing line. These are not digested and can cause a slow painful death.

Depositing any other material without permission in the marine park is also an offence.

Go well around, let them rest

Noise, speed and movement easily disturb shorebirds. Each time shorebirds fly needlessly they waste hard-earned energy reserves, reducing their ability to survive. Always go slow and go around flocks of birds.

Fish for the future

Fishing activities are allowed in the marine park, but some restrictions apply to encourage sustainable use.

  • Recreational fishing is allowed in all zones except marine national park zones (green zones).
  • All fishing equipment must be stowed and secured prior to entering a buffer zone or green zone. This does not apply to equipment used for trolling of pelagic species within buffer zones.
  • Trolling from a vessel under power is the only form of fishing allowed in the buffer zone (olive-green zone).
  • One line or rod per person and one hook or lure per line are allowed in conservation park zones (yellow zones).

The natural resources of Great Sandy Marine Park are coming under increasing pressure from human impacts. To help conserve fish stocks:

  • Take only what you need and leave the rest for another day. Learn more about how best to release fish.
  • Check your fishing gear regularly so that any trapped, non-target species can be disentangled and released alive.
  • If it is safe to do so, retrieve debris when you find it.
  • When gathering bait, always replace seagrass in an upright position and return sediments so hollows and mounds are not produced. This helps targeted bait species recover.

Limited spearfishing (using snorkel only) is permitted in general use, habitat protection and conservation park zones. Spearfishing on underwater breathing apparatus or using a power head is prohibited. On-the-spot fines apply.

Other limits may apply. For further details refer to:

Also see: Fisheries Services's to read more about:

  • spear fishing
  • fishing regulations
  • bag and size limits.

Go slow for those below!

‘Go slow for those below’ is now a legal requirement in designated areas. Great Sandy Marine Park has a number of go slow areas aimed at protecting turtles and dugongs from boat strike in critical feeding and resting areas. When boating in these areas:

  • go slow in a non-planing or non-displacement mode
  • operate your vessel so as to avoid hitting turtles or dugong.

High boat speeds can cause serious injuries and kill marine wildlife. Boaties should go slow for those below, even outside go slow designated areas, especially when boating over seagrass beds, shallow coral reefs and in the channels as the tide falls.

Go with the flow

Take care when anchoring. Fragile seagrass and coral reef are easily damaged by anchors. ‘Drift fish’ over seagrass meadows, coral reefs and the Rooney Point gastropod colonies. Anchor on sand well away from fragile habitats such as seagrass meadows and coral reef. Anchors easily pull seagrass up and will crush and break fragile corals. Please use the correct anchor for the habitat you are fishing. When retrieving your anchor, motor up to it to prevent dragging.

Only in open water

Sewage discharge from vessels is prohibited in certain areas of the marine park, boaties must refer to Maritime Safety Queensland's Vessel-Based Sewage Discharge Restrictions.

Leave only bubbles

When diving and snorkelling:

  • Ensure you are properly weighted before entering the water, practice buoyancy control and test your gear and techniques over sand, well away from any coral.
  • Secure your gear, so it does not catch on coral.
  • Never stand, lean or hold onto corals and avoid hovering over corals when taking photographs.
  • Quietly observe marine wildlife and avoid interrupting their natural behaviour.
  • Do not handle marine wildlife, as they may bite or sting.
  • Never chase, grab or attempt to ride free-swimming marine life or block their path.
  • If planning to dive at Wolf Rock, refer to the designated area restrictions on the zoning map; read more about diving near grey nurse sharks.

Tread softly, leave only footprints, and take only photos

Leave shells on the shore. They are potential homes for hermit crabs. Always return creatures and rocks to their original position when exploring tide pools. The creatures that shelter under rocks are vulnerable to exposure.

Leave it in the marine park

It is an offence to collect coral from the marine park without permission.

Read about limited collecting.

Let wildlife find their own food

Never leave food, scraps or bait available or deliberately feed wildlife. It is best to secure food in lockable boxes. It is illegal to feed dolphins unless specifically indicated.

Looking after the marine park from home

Be stormwater-smart! Keep pollutants out of the marine park. What goes down the stormwater drain, sink and toilet or onto your garden eventually reaches the marine park. Nutrients that go down your drain and those washed into rivers and oceans by heavy rains promote algal growth on seagrass meadows and corals. Heavy algal growth blocks sunlight which seagrasses and corals need to survive.

Things to do:

  • Keep plastics and other rubbish out of drains and creeks.
  • Keep the local park and gardens clean.
  • Pick up after your dog.
  • Use biodegradable cleaners.
  • Use biodegradable herbicides in the garden.
  • Mulch your garden and use less fertiliser.

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Park management

Marine park zones and designated areas

The marine park is used for a wide range of activities, from fishing and recreation to defence activities and scientific research. The marine park covers tidal lands and marine waters that are a transition zone between tropical and temperate waters, where changing water temperature drives dynamic life cycles and influences the distribution of corals, fish, mangroves and seagrass species.

Great Sandy Marine Park contributes to the conservation and reasonable use of significant marine natural resources through the Marine Parks (Great Sandy) Zoning Plan 2017.

Read more about the management of the marine park:

Read more about permits that are required for some activities in and near Great Sandy Marine Park.

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Tourism information links

Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism
www.bundabergregion.org
271 Bourbong Street, Bundaberg QLD 4670
ph (07) 4153 8888 or 1300 722 099
email

Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre
www.ourfrasercoast.com.au

227 Maryborough–Hervey Bay Road, Urraween, QLD 4655

ph 1800 811 728
Open: Daily 9 am– 5 pm (except Christmas Day)

Gympie Tourist Information Centre
www.visitgympieregion.com.au
Bruce Highway, Lake Alford, Gympie, QLD 4570
Phone: 1800 444 222
Email:

More information about Fraser Island is available on www.visitfrasercoast.com.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

Contact us

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Last updated
6 June 2018