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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.

Bundaberg, a city on the Burnett River in Central Queensland, offers access into northern areas of the Great Sandy Marine Park.

  • Head north from Bundaberg to get to the Kolan River, and, from there, onto Littabella Creek and Baffle Creek.
  • Explore the Woongarra Coast's fringing reefs from Bargara, a coastal town about 13km east of Bundaberg.
  • Head south to the Elliot River, or stay a while in Woodgate, or camp near the Burrum River.

Hervey Bay city is 40km east off the Bruce Highway, via Maryborough. It's a popular holiday destination with a variety of accommodation from camping to resort-style stays. Urangan boat harbour is Hervey Bay's major boat harbour and it offers:

  • a marina
  • eateries
  • departures for whale-watching trips, fishing charters and other water tours.

River Heads barge landing site is about 18km south of Urangan. This is where you can catch a vehicle and passenger barge over to Kingfisher Bay or Wanggoolba Creek barge landing site, both on the western side of K'gari (Fraser Island).

Great Sandy Strait, a magnificent stretch of calmer water between the mainland and K'gari (Fraser Island), is accessed from the coastal towns of Maaroom, Boonooroo, Poona and Tinnanbar.

Tin Can Bay, about 50km east of Gympie, is a coastal town from which you can boat into the marine park to explore Tin Can Inlet.

Rainbow Beach is about 70km east, off the Bruce Highway, via Gympie, and offers a good range of accommodation, 4WD hire outlets, food and fuel. Camp in the nearby Cooloola or Inskip recreation areas, but book ahead.

Inskip Peninsula, about 13km north of Rainbow Beach, where you can catch a passenger and vehicle barge to K'gari (Fraser Island), and, for boaties, get access to Tin Can Inlet—the southern end of Great Sandy Strait—and Kauri Creek estuary, both providing protected waters for boating.

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.

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.

Conservation and reasonable use of significant marine natural resources, is achieved through zoning, designated areas, entry and use provisions and permits.

Marine and coastal environments

Great Sandy Marine Park protects a range of marine and coastal environments, including:

  • rivers
  • creeks
  • estuaries
  • rocky shores
  • fringing reefs
  • mangroves
  • seagrass meadows
  • sandy beaches.

These habitats provide important seasonal food sources, nesting and roosting sites, and stopovers for migratory species including:

  • humpback whales
  • migratory wading birds
  • marine turtles.

Resident species also depend on these resources; they include:

  • dugong
  • dolphins
  • shorebirds
  • grey nurse sharks
  • huge variety of fish, molluscs and crustaceans.

K'gari (Fraser Island)

The marine park surrounds K'gari (Fraser Island) and includes several green zones—Marine National Park Zones. These are no-take zones and one to note is around Middle Rocks on the eastern side. K'gari (Fraser Island) has several layers of conservation. It's a World Heritage Area, a national park and a recreation area. The Traditional Owners are the Butchulla people. They call the island K'gari, and the wild dingoes on it are called wongari and are protected by law.

K'gari has an extensive sand and surf beach on its eastern side, which is interspersed by rocky headlands. Surf fishing is popular, especially in tailor season, but do not swim or surf in the ocean as there are rips (strong currents), sharks and no life guards. The calmer waters of Hervey Bay lap the western shore of K'gari (Fraser Island), which is characterised by many estuaries and beaches with soft, sometimes boggy, sand.

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay is relatively sheltered from surf and wind by K'gari (Fraser Island), resulting in shallow bays and sheltered channels, which blend into seagrass meadows, mudflats and mangroves. The bay hosts many whales, but particularly the humpback whales that stop over around July to November each year.

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

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 Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service's parks:

Book your camp site online.

If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for other options.

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 Conservation Park supports the most significant nesting population of the endangered loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta in the South Pacific Ocean.

  • Designated areas in the marine park protect a nesting population of about 300–400 female loggerheads.
  • Green and flatback turtles also nest here.
  • You can only see this annual event by booking in to a night-time, ranger-guided tour.
  • Tours take place from November to late-March.
  • Small groups of visitors are guided to the beach by rangers, researchers or trained volunteers.
  • You will see female turtles laying their eggs or, later in the season, watch the hatchlings emerge from the nests and race to the sea.

Keeping the turtles safe

The guided tours help to protect nesting turtles and hatchlings.

  • Marine turtles are easily disturbed by people who don't act properly around them.
  • Guided tours help people understand correct turtle-watching guidelines.
  • Read more about turtle watching in Mon Repos Conservation Park.

Whale watching

Whale watching in Hervey Bay is a must-do activity, if you're there between July and November.

Some operators offer immersive whale interactions, where you can get into the water with whales. The operators put their passengers on a boom net, or a duckboard—a submerged platform at the rear of the vessel—or swimmers can hold onto a mermaid line, which has floats.

  • Be aware: Operators are required to abide by specific safety rules as a condition of their permit in order to minimise these risks, as these activities carry an element of danger.
Keep your distance for safety and conservation

All boaties, including any recreational boating activity 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, such as the Ex-HMAS Tobruk area, but prior permission is required to enter the area. Enjoy the experience and leave only bubbles.

Things to know before you go

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

Essentials to bring

Make sure you have:

Be aware

  • You will need a permit before you camp.
  • Generators may not be permitted in some camping areas.
  • Please bring a fuel stove (and fuel) for cooking, as fires are not permitted in some camp sites around the marine park.

Opening hours

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Permits and fees

Marine park permits are important for the management of the Great Sandy Marine Park. Through the permit process the department can place conditions on certain activities, separate conflicting activities, limit the impacts on high-use and sensitive areas, collect data and encourage responsible behavior. The zoning plan states activities that can occur without specific permission and those that require a permit. Marine park permits are required for most commercial or high impact activities (PDF, 208K) including:

  • commercial tourism
  • collecting restricted marine plants or animals
  • works considered consistent with the object of the zone
  • constructing or installing a jetty, boat ramp or revetment wall
  • dredging, material extraction and disposal
  • aquaculture operations (not including the addition of feed)
  • non-accredited research and educational activities
  • vessel charter operations
  • operation of a hovercraft.

Before undertaking any activity in the marine park check the zoning plan to determine whether a marine park permit is required. Issuing a permit is not automatic, each application is considered on its merits. You must be issued with a permit before you can begin your activity.

If in any doubt about whether a permit is required, contact Queensland Parks for assistance.

Apply for a marine park permit or learn more about the assessment process.

Pets in Great Sandy Marine Park

Leave your pets at home or keep them aboard your boat.

Domestic animals are permitted:

  • on vessels in the marine park
  • in Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area and Tuan State Forest, but must be on a leash and in control.

Domestic animals are prohibited:

  • in the Mon Repos designated area from 15 October each year to 30 April the following year
  • at all times 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
  • in all other recreation areas, national parks and conservation parks.

Can I take a dog into shorebird roosting and feeding designated areas?

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.

Climate and weather

Great Sandy Marine Park has a subtropical climate.

  • The 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 always available online from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available in the major centres of:

  • Bundaberg
  • Hervey Bay
  • Maryborough
  • Tin Can Bay
  • Rainbow Beach.

Some of the smaller townships of the Great Sandy Strait have fuel and some supplies, but check first.

Staying safe

Plan your boating trips

Know the risks, know your equipment, know your responsibilities and know your boat.

In a case of an accident or emergency

On a marine radio transmit a Distress or Urgency call on VHF Ch16.

On a phone, phone Triple Zero (000).

  • Advise the location and nature of the emergency.
  • Stay on the phone until you are told to hang up.

Deploy emergency apparatus like flares, a V sheet or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

Be croc wise and report crocodile sightings

Estaurine (saltwater) crocodiles are a native animal and protected by law 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).

Be aware

  • The department has received credible reports of estuarine crocodile sightings in the Great Sandy Strait and western coastline of K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • If a crocodile is sighted, please report the crocodile sighting immediately.
  • For your safety, stay alert at all times.

Be croc wise!

  • Do not approach crocodiles.
  • Stay well away from crocodile slides—obvious areas where crocodiles slide into the water.
  • Never feed, provoke, harass or interfere with a crocodile.
  • 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 and food scraps near the water’s edge, in camp sites or around boat ramps.
  • Camp at least 50m from the water's edge.

Crocodiles are only one of the dangerous marine animals, including sharks, which may be found in this region. Be croc-wise and use commonsense to reduce the risk of contact with crocodiles.

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

It is your responsibility to be 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, in 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 and breaches promptly

Contact the department for:

  • breaches against the zoning plan
  • crocodile sightings
  • harrassment or unauthorised feeding of dolphins
  • unusual marine sightings

Contact the wildlife hotline on 1300 130 372 for:

  • dead or stranded marine turtles or marine mammals, note tag numbers if any.

Contact Maritime Safety Queensland for any pollution including:

  • oil spills
  • diesel spills
  • sewage spills.

Contact Fisheries Services, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) for:

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

Contact Queensland Police Service, Policelink for:

  • any unsafe boating practices and matters of concern.

Fish-friendly tips

  • Don't take plastic bags if possible—transfer bait and foodstuff to reusable containers.
  • Use biodegradable cleaners for hygiene.
  • Take cans rather than bottles.

Use good gear

Prepare well and check your gear before you go out on the boat.

  • Invest in high-quality, fishing gear as poor quality lines, nets and pots break easily and increase the chance of them being lost or abandoned.
  • Bring lockable ice boxes and food boxes to secure food from wildlife.
  • Take buckets or bins with secure, lockable lids to stow your rubbish, bait and catch.
  • Keep berley in a sealed, lockable container to avoid attracting wildlife.

Be pest-free!

Our precious marine park islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way.

Before you visit, please check that your boat, clothing, footwear and gear are free of soil, seeds, parts of plants, eggs, ants and insects (and their eggs), spiders, lizards, toads, rats and mice.

Be sure to:

  • Unpack your camping gear and equipment and check it carefully as pests love to hide in stored camping gear.
  • Clean soil from footwear and gear as invisible killers such as viruses, bacteria and fungi are carried in soil.
  • Check for seeds in pockets, cuffs and hook and loop fastening strips, such as Velcro.

While you are on the islands or before setting off from home,

  • Remove soil, weeds, seeds and pests from your boat, gear and clothes before moving to a new site.
  • Wrap seeds and plant material, and place them in your rubbish bin.

Everyone in Queensland has a General Biosecurity Obligation to minimise the biosecurity risk posed by their activities. This includes the risk of introducing and spreading weeds and pests to island national parks.

  • Please see the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting the environment and heritage in parks.

Stow it, don't throw it!

Keep Great Sandy Marine Park beautiful.

  • Leave no litter; littering in the marine park is an offence.
  • Deposit no other material, without permission, in the marine park—it's also an offence.
  • If you ship it in, ship it out—rubbish and waste is your responsibility.
  • Don't let anything float away—marine wildlife will ingest fragments of rope, plastic bags and fishing line, causing a slow, painful death.

Always go slow and go around flocks of birds

Any close-by noise, speed and movement disturbs shorebirds. Many need to rest to revive from long migratory flights. Each time shorebirds fly needlessly, they waste energy reserves and reduce their ability to survive.

Fish with the future in mind

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).
  • Trolling from a vessel under power is the only form of fishing allowed in a 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).

Be aware.

  • All fishing equipment must be stowed and secured prior to entering a buffer zone or a green zone.
  • This does not apply to equipment used for trolling of pelagic species within buffer zones.

Relieve the pressure on fish stocks

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.
  • If it is safe to do so, please retrieve debris when you find it.

Help save seagrasses

When gathering bait:

  • always replace seagrass in an upright position
  • return sediments; don't leave hollows and mounds.

Help save bait species

  • Look after seagreass meadows, as this helps targeted bait species recover.
  • Check your fishing gear regularly and disentangle and release any trapped, non-target species before they die.

Spearfishing

  • Limited spearfishing, using snorkel only, is permitted in general use, habitat protection and conservation park zones.
  • Spearfishing, with 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 to read more about:

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

Go slow for those below!

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, so when boating here be aware.

  • It is now a legal requirement to ‘Go slow for those below’ in designated areas.
  • 'Go slow' means operating your vessel in a non-planing or non-displacement mode.

Fast boat speeds can cause serious injuries and kill marine wildlife. Boaties should go slow for those below, even outside of go slow designated areas, especially when boating:

  • over seagrass beds
  • over shallow coral reefs
  • in the channels as the tide falls.

Share the water

Any water craft can encounter whales and dolphins. For their and your safety, please know the rules for watching marine mammals.

Take care with anchors

Anchors can easily pull up seagrasses and will crush and break fragile corals.

  • Always take care when anchoring.
  • ‘Drift fish’ over seagrass meadows, coral reefs and the Rooney Point gastropod colonies.
  • Anchor on sand and well away from fragile habitats such as seagrass meadows and coral reefs.
  • Use the correct anchor for the habitat in which you are fishing.
  • Motor up to your anchor, when retrieving 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 and well away from any coral
  • secure your gear, so it does not catch on coral
  • never stand, lean, drag your feet over, or hold onto corals
  • avoid hovering over corals when taking photographs.

Quietly observe marine wildlife and avoid interrupting their natural behaviour.

  • Do not handle marine wildlife—some 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,

Look but don't touch

The creatures that shelter under rocks and in tide pools are vulnerable to exposure.

  • Never put your hands or fingers under crevices or rock ledges in tide pools.
  • 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.

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's an offence.
  • It is best to secure food in lockable boxes.
  • It is prohibited to feed dolphins unless specifically indicated.

Looking after the marine park from home

Be stormwater-smart!

What goes down the stormwater drain, sink, toilet or onto your garden eventually reaches the marine park. Nutrients and fertilisers, that are washed into rivers and oceans by heavy rains, promote heavy algal growth on seagrass meadows and corals blocking sunlight, which they need to survive.

  • Keep nutrients, chemicals and pollutants out of the marine park
  • Use biodegradable herbicides in the garden.
  • Use biodegradable cleaners.
  • Mulch your garden and use less fertiliser.

What else?

  • Keep plastics and other rubbish out of drains and creeks.
  • Keep your local park and gardens clean.
  • Pick up after your dog.

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.

Review of zoning plan

A review of the zoning plan for the Great Sandy Marine Park is currently underway, following consultation. Submissions on the discussion paper are being analysed to inform development of a draft revised zoning plan.

Find out more about the zoning plan review process.

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.

Tourism information links

Bundaberg Region Information Centre
www.bundabergregion.org
 36 Avenue 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 9am–5pm (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 K'gari (Fraser Island) is available on www.visitfrasercoast.com

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

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
23 October 2019