Great Barrier Reef

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WorldAustraliaQueenslandGreat Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
19°31.103'S, 149°49.892'E Chart icon.png
lat=-19.51838 | lon=149.83154 | zoom=6 | y
Map of Great Barrier Reef Demis.png
Map of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981. CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland.

A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism.


See Queensland.


See Queensland.

Currents & Tides

Some tidal currents that run up and down the Great Barrier Reef but none are significant -- 1 knot or so is about the most that can be expected except in a few places where tidal ranges are high.

Some parts of the Great Barrier Reef region have large tidal ranges. Mackay in the central Great Barrier Reef has a very large tidal range -- about 6 metres, but this drops off to 2 metres or less at the southern end of the reef. Around Townsville it is under 3 metres but starts increasing again towards the Torres Strait, to about 3.5 metres or thereabouts.

See Great Barrier Reef Tides on the Bureau of Meteorology web site.


It's a bit less than 300 NM from Brisbane to the southern point of the main part of the reef (Hixson Cay), or about 190 NM to the Curtis Channel. Although Bundaberg and Maryborough at the western edge of Hervey Bay and Hervey Bay itself are useful stopping points (especially to visit Fraser Island), most sailors would take the route north from Brisbane around Fraser Island and into the Curtis Channel as a way of reaching the reef.

Once inside the reef, the most useful stopping points on the way north would be Gladstone, Rosslyn Bay and Mackay are the most useful stopping points on the route to the Whitsundays. Each of these can be reached in around a day's sailing.

Most cruisers would take time to explore the Whitsundays before travelling further north.

Once past the Whitsundays it's about a day or so's sailing, or a bit more, to the next stopping points Townsville and then Cairns.

Cairns is the logical re-provisioning, refuelling and refitting stop before continuing further to the Torres Strait and then Darwin.


See Queensland


Capricorn Channel

The reef is at its most interrupted from a point approximately north east of Keppel Bay to as far north as the Torres Strait Islands.

In the vicinity of Keppel Bay there are two main channels. The southernmost one is Curtis Channel/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef#Curtis_ChannelWorld icon.png Curtis Channel [[Great Barrier Reef#Curtis Channel|Curtis Channel]] 24°17.000'S, 152°59.000'E , which is about 20 NM wide. From this point north the reef is somewhat closer to the shore.

The next channel is known as the Capricorn Channe/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef#Capricorn_ChanneWorld icon.png Capricorn Channe [[Great Barrier Reef#Capricorn Channe|Capricorn Channe]] 22°41.000'S, 152°14.000'E . This is around 40 NM wide and is the main southern entrance to the main channel inside the reef (running north to the Torres Strait).

If you are entering inside the reef further north of these channels then you need to have a good set of charts and keep a constant watch because most of the channel entrances are quite narrow and there are shifting sandbanks and currents to be found in their vicinity.

Some of the more useful and well marked entrance points are, from south to north:

  • Hydrographers Passage at Hydrographers Passage/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef#Hydrographers_PassageWorld icon.png Hydrographers Passage [[Great Barrier Reef#Hydrographers Passage|Hydrographers Passage]] 19°54.700'S, 150°18.100'E . This is the main inbound channel to Mackay where there is a marina and a bulk sugar terminal.
  • Flinders Passage and Magnetic Passage in the vicinity of Townsville
  • Flora Pass, Grafton Passage and Trinity Opening in the vicinity of Cairns
  • Cruiser Pass and a few others in the vicinity of Cooktown

There are many others, however there are many places along the reef where the water surface may appear inviting but the depths are not.

Health & Security

The main health issues are the local fauna -- jellyfish, cone shells and stonefish.

Local Dangers

The deadly Cone Shell
Avispa marina.jpg
Box Jellyfish
Irukandji jellyfish.jpg
Irukandji Jelly Fish
Synanceia verrucosa Hennig.jpg
Drawing of a stonefish
  • The pretty but potentially cone shells found on the beach and shallow waters
  • The extremely dangerous box and Irukandji jelly fish prevelent from May to October
  • Stonefish that can be stepped upon in shallow waters

Conservation and Preservation

The reef contains the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is administered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority or GBRMPA, affectionately known as "Grumpa" to the locals. There are many different conservation zones within the park which are as follows:

  • Pink Pink or Preservation Zones, no entry is allowed without a special permit (normally only granted for research purposes).
  • Green or Marine National Park Zones, entry is allowed but no taking of fish or any other marine life is allowed. Anchoring is allowed but in high use areas use of a mooring may be necessary.
  • Orange or Scientific Research Zones, public access is not allowed.
  • Olive Green or Buffer Zones, trolling for pelagic fish is allowed but bottom fishing is not.
  • Yellow or Conservation Park Zones, anchoring and fishing is allowed under some restrictions.

All of these zones are detailed on the maps which can be downloaded from the GBRMPA web site.


See Queensland. Because the Great Barrier Reef covers almost the entire Queensland coast (as far north as the Torres Strait Islands and as far south as the northern end of Hervey Bay), all of Queensland's ports north of about Bundaberg are within the reef area.

See also:


Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.


List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)



See Queensland


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