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Nature, culture and history

Natural environment

Champagne Rock Pools, Fraser Island. © Tourism and Events Queensland.

Champagne Rock Pools, Fraser Island. © Tourism and Events Queensland.

The Great Sandy Marine Park contains a vast array of marine habitats and coastal landscapes. Adjacent to the northern boundary of the marine park lies the pristine estuary of Baffle Creek. South of Baffle Creek there are remote beaches which stretch to Littabella Creek and beyond to the Kolan River. Moore Park's beaches are popular for low-key activities such as swimming and walking.

South of the Burnett River, along the Woongarra coastline to the Elliot River, the coast changes abruptly. A million years ago, a volcanic eruption threw tonnes of volcanic rock into the sea. Sandy shores were transformed into basalt boulder shores, fringing coral communities prospered and receding tides now reveal interesting rock pools.

The sandy beaches that stretch south of the Woongarra Coast are easily accessible from the coastal towns of Woodgate, Burrum Heads or Toogoom. The headland at Point Vernon, with its folded sedimentary rock strata, interrupts the beaches. Mature fringing coral reef communities line the coast from Gatakers Bay south to Torquay and the edges of Woody, Little Woody and Round Islands.

World Heritage listed K’gari (Fraser Island), the world's largest sand island is renowned for its remarkable natural beauty. Its influence over the marine park cannot be understated. The island protects Hervey Bay's extensive waters and gave rise to the Great Sandy Strait. The strait's inter-tidal sand banks, mud flats, salt marshes and calm waters are ideal for the development of extensive seagrass beds and mangrove forests.


map of the various benthic (sea floor) habitats (PDF, 926K) that occur in the marine park has been prepared to support the review of the zoning plan and day to day management of the marine park. A fact sheet describing the benthic mapping project (PDF, 1.4M) is also available.

Read more about the main habitat types in the Great Sandy Marine Park:

Threats to habitats in the marine park include:

  • deterioration in water quality from catchment based run off and storm events
  • degradation and/or removal to facilitate foreshore development and coastal infrastructure
  • physical damage from uncontrolled access to sites from vehicles, feral animals and human use / interaction
  • alterations to flooding and tidal regimes
  • impacts as a result of climate change such as rising sea levels and increasing sea surface temperatures
  • dredging, reclamation, beach nourishment and development of erosion control structures.


Read more about some species of interest in the Great Sandy Marine Park:

Threats to the wildlife of the marine park include:

  • vessel strike of slow moving species such as turtles and dugong
  • recreational and commercial fishing impacts – e.g. by-catch, entanglement in fishing gear
  • disturbance to species at critical life stages by humans
  • habitat loss and degradation
  • increasing vessel traffic and use of the marine park
  • poor water quality and pollution associated with catchment runoff
  • population viability as a result of biological characteristics ie low reproductive rates

Culture and history

Middle Bluff lighthouse established 1866. Photo: Queensland Government.

Middle Bluff lighthouse established 1866. Photo: Queensland Government.

A continuing culture

Aboriginal use of the region extends back at least 5500 years and continues today. Traditionally, clans came together for the plentiful food provided by the sea, including turtle eggs during the nesting season. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation includes shell middens, stone artefact scatters and stonewalled fish traps on some island and mainland areas.

The Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng, Taribelang Bunda people, the Butchulla peoples and Kabi Kabi First Nation have a connection with the waters now identified as the Great Sandy Marine Park. Today these Traditional Owners continue to practice their native title rights and interests and have a significant interest in protecting the cultural landscape.

The Traditional Owners of the waters have inherited custodial responsibilities for their traditional areas. Part of these custodial responsibilities is to have access to country to pass on traditional knowledge to future generations. The legacy of having lived as part of the country over millennium has resulted in significant aboriginal cultural resources continuing to exist over and within the landscape. These cultural resources include the cultural landscapes themselves, story lines, creation stories, sacred animals, stone-walled fish traps, shell middens, trade routes and traditional foods. The Zoning Plan for the Marine Park protects five fish trap areas along the mainland shore and one adjacent to Big Woody Island by prohibiting anchoring and other activities that may damage the fish traps.

South Sea Islander heritage

Dry rubble walls and wharfs were constructed by South Sea Islander labourers (circa 1890) with rocks cleared from land destined for sugar cane farming. These walls can still be seen within and around Mon Repos Conservation Park, which adjoins the marine park.

Non-indigenous heritage

There are a number of non-indigenous cultural heritage sites in the Great Sandy region. These include Woody Island's lighthouses and the lighthouse on K’gari (Fraser Island). In the marine park there are old oyster leases, remnants of Pettigrew’s Cooloola Timber Tramway and McKenzie’s Jetty. There are also wrecks of aircraft and various shipwrecks such as the SS Maheno on the eastern beach of K’gari (Fraser Island). Many of these items are listed on the State Heritage Register or as historic shipwrecks under Commonwealth legislation. The ex-HMAS Tobruk was scuttled in the marine park in 2018 as a dive site and artificial reef.

Last updated
3 May 2019