The Whitsundays is part of the Cumberland Island Group—the largest offshore island chain along the entire Australian coastline—and includes more than 90 islands. The islands are actually peaks of drowned mountain ranges, separated by rising sea levels starting around 19,000 years ago, when the polar ice caps started melting after the last ice. The islands and their surrounding waters are internationally significant and protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the first such area declared in Australia (1981) and the largest ever established. The reefs contain an outstanding variety of corals. Whitsunday Island’s Whitehaven Beach is world-renowned for its bright, white, silica sand and crystal-clear water.
The Whitsundays are full of life
- calving ground for migrating humpback whales from May to September every year.
- stopover for many species of migratory waders and seabirds that feed and roost on the reef flat, island beaches and surrounding ocean.
- six national parks further protect the islands’ wildlife, plants and scenic values; they are:
- Learn more about the nature, culture and history of the Whitsundays.
Leave no trace
Please appreciate, respect and help care for the outstanding natural and cultural values of these parks. National parks, including heritage sites and artefacts, are protected areas under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Penalties apply for offences under the Act.
No open fires and ash-producing stoves
- Open fires and ash-produced stoves are not permitted on national park islands or intertidal lands adjacent to national park islands.
- Use gas or fuel stoves for cooking.
No domestic animals
Domestic animals are not permitted on:
- national park islands
- intertidal lands adjacent to national park islands.
Take rubbish back to the mainland
Bins are not provided to reduce scavenging by wildlife.
- Take all rubbish, including food scraps and fishing tackle, back to the mainland.
- Even small fragments of fishing line, wire or string can become entangled around birds’ legs with agonising and fatal results.
- Do not bury or burn anything.
Dump fish scraps at night
Food scraps and fish frames thrown from boats, or left lying on beaches and camping areas, can attract sharks, crocodiles, goannas and silver gulls.
- Goannas and gulls thieve food from people and can get aggressive—keep food secure.
- These become pests and the extra food helps to increase their populations
- Unnaturally increasing the gull or goanna population means higher predation on seabird young.
Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage 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, 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 bins.
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.
See the guidelines on caring for parks for more general information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.
Keep wildlife wild
All wildlife in national parks is protected and it is prohibited to feed or leave food available for wildlife. Penalties apply.
Allow native animals to find their own food
Natural food is better for their health and maintains a good balance in population.
- Do not leave food or scraps around your picnic or camp site.
- Keep your food and scraps safe from wildlife in strong containers and tie the lids down.
- Pack food away immediately after eating.
- Store tea towels and dish cloths in sealed containers as they also attact scavengers.
- Scatter or bury used dish water away fram picnic or camp sites, but not into waterways or the sea.
Avoid disturbing turtles and nesting sea and shorebirds
- Do not use strong lights, make loud noises or move suddenly.
- Observe any closures and activity restrictions—they apply in certain areas to protect vulnerable wildlife.
Read more: Take care of nesting birds.
Minimise damage to corals and marine animals
- Walk or stand in sand channels, not on corals.
- Be careful with your fins—careless kicking can damage coral.
- Never step on or stand on live corals—they are easily broken and you can be injured.
- Try not to stir up sand and sediment—murky waters stress plants and animals.
Many animals and plants shelter on the undersides of boulders and bommies.
- They will soon die if exposed.
- If you turn over any reef material always return it to its original position.
Check restrictions on activities
Spearfishing, anchoring, fishing and collecting may be restricted activities.
Fines apply for offences.
Each park in the Whitsundays has unique attributes and all are managed to conserve their natural condition and protect their cultural resources and values. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is responsible for the island national parks in the region, and jointly manages the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Accreditation of the Whitsundays Plan of Management 1998
On 18 September 2020 the Whitsundays Plan of Management 1998 (the Plan) was partially accredited by the State. For the details of the accreditation please refer to the Gazette Notice on page 74 of the Queensland Government Gazette published 18 September.
While the accreditation extends the provisions of the Plan to the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park adjoining the planning area, it will not affect how the public or commercial operators use the already jointly and complementary managed marine parks. For further information please email email@example.com or visit the Whitsundays Plan of Management GBRMPA website.
Open Monday–Sunday 9am to 5pm
Closed Christmas Day
For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
ph 1800 990 177
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol
Shingley Drive, Able Point Marina
Airlie Beach Qld 4802
ph (07) 4946 7003
Volunteer Marine Rescue Whitsunday
PO Box 298 Cannonvale Qld 4802
ph (07) 4948 0994
fax (07) 4946 5200
Monitors marine VHF channels 16, 22, 81 and 82 and HF channel 2524.
In an emergency phone (07) 4946 7207.
- Visitors to Great Barrier Reef reminded to be SharkSmart 14 October 2020 to 14 October 2021