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Onboard - Tourism Operator's Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns Planning Area

The Great Barrier Reef

The Cairns Planning Area extends from the Ribbon Reefs in the north to the Frankland Islands in the south (see Download map). It includes all reefs and islands offshore from Port Douglas and Cairns and covers about 6% of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

So that the area can remain a spectacular natural destination supporting a vibrant tourism industry, there are important management arrangements in place.

Can I operate in the Cairns Planning Area?

Your permit will tell you if you can operate in the Cairns Planning Area. If you are able to operate there:

If you are not permitted to operate in the Cairns Planning Area but wish to, there is a range of tourism opportunities available.

Are there special requirements?

Within the Cairns Planning Area, there are important provisions about group size and anchoring access at each Location (generally the area within the 500 metre line of the edge of a reef) or at a Locality (a specified area around an island, bay, reef or cay).

For areas of exceptional nature conservation, cultural and heritage, use or scientific values (Sensitive Locations) there are specific requirements about how frequently you may access the location and the activities you undertake.

Depending on your style of operation, you may need to be aware of some special rules for the activities of anchoring and mooring, motorised water sports and whale watching in the Cairns Planning Area.

Check site management arrangements

In addition, there are a number of areas within the Cairns Area Plan of Management that have detailed site planning arrangements to provide a balance between commercial and recreational access. You can view the Cairns Planning Area site management arrangements on GBRMPA website (see Related Links near top right of page).

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