Cook Island Aquatic Reserve


Cook Island Aquatic Reserve is located approximately 600 m offshore from Fingal Head and 4 km south-east of Tweed Heads in northern NSW.

The aquatic reserve includes approximately 80 hectares of the NSW marine estate extending from the mean high water mark of Cook Island out to a 500 m radius from the survey marker on Cook Island.


  • conserve the biodiversity of fish and marine vegetation
  • protect fish habitat
  • protect threatened species and manage protected species
  • facilitate scientific research
  • facilitate educational activities.


Temperate, subtropical and tropical species of fish, crustaceans and molluscs are abundant in the complex rocky reefs of Cook Island Aquatic Reserve.

Several threatened or protected species also occur in the reserve, including the giant Queensland groper, black rockcod, goldspotted rockcod (formerly known as estuary cod) and the grey nurse shark.

Cook Island, along with Julian Rocks and the Solitary Islands further south, are thought to provide 'stepping stones' for tropical marine species dispersing southwards along the coast. The rocky reef systems at all of these islands are managed in marine protected areas.

Cook Island itself supports a large population of nesting seabirds.

What can I do in the aquatic reserve?

Scuba diving is a popular activity in the reserve, and you also can enjoy other marine activities such boating, snorkelling and whale watching.

Fishing by all methods and collecting is prohibited in the area enclosed by the line connecting the coordinates (WGS84 datum) listed below and returning to the point of commencement – as shown on the map as 'fishing closure'.

The five coordinate marks in the reserve are typically shown by marker buoys at sea but please note that these buoys are not in service at all times especially following severe weather.

Coordinate mark

Latitude (South)

Longitude (East)
















Fishing (except using set lines) and collecting is allowed in the section of the reserve that is outside the area bounded by the line connecting the coordinates (WGS84 datum) listed above and returning to the point of commencement, and is also subject to other NSW fishing rules and regulations.

Please report illegal or suspect fishing activities to your nearest Fisheries Office or use the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536.

Public moorings at popular diving locations around Cook Island have replaced the need to anchor and help protect corals and other marine invertebrates (animals without backbones) while providing safe mooring for vessels. Use of moorings is subject to the following conditions:

  • Vessels must not exceed the maximum capacity of the mooring.
  • It is the responsibility of the vessel master to ensure that vessel size and wind condition is compatible with the mooring.
  • Commercial vessels (including tour operators) have priority at red moorings. Please vacate the mooring promptly if requested to do so.
  • A vessel may not occupy a mooring for more than 12 hours.
  • Vessels must not be maneuvering under power while attached to a mooring.
  • Vessels must not be left unattended while attached to a mooring.
  • Only one vessel may occupy a mooring at any one time.
  • A painter line must be used to secure vessel to mooring line.
  • Moorings are used at own risk. Appropriate seamanship should be applied at all times.

Cook Island Aquatic Reserve Commercial Mooring BuoyCook Island Aquatic Reserve Public Mooring Buoy

Explore the aquatic reserve

Cook Island lies just off Fingal Head on the northern NSW coast.

Getting there

You can get to the reserve by boat, with boat launching ramps available in the Tweed River estuary. The reserve surrounds Cook Island and is located approximately 600 m offshore from Fingal Head and 4 km south-east of Tweed Heads. Cook Island itself is a nature reserve and recreational use of the Island is not permitted (Contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 02 6670 8600).

Further information

Please contact us at