The Solitary Islands are a group of five islands that form the centrepiece of the Solitary Island Marine Park (SIMP). Situated just off the eastern coast of Australia, between Sydney and Brisbane, the Marine Park stretches over 70 kms from Coffs Harbour in the south to Sandon River in the north, and up to 15 kms seaward. Totalling over 100,000 hectares, it encompasses estuaries, river and creek systems as well as open ocean waters beyond the scattered group of islands.
The Marine Park straddles the 30th parallel where a unique confluence of warm tropical waters from the East Australian Current and the cooler temperate waters of the Tasman Sea results in a remarkable diversity of marine life, with a mixing of many tropical and temperate species. There are hard coral colonies, lush soft corals, tropical giant anemones, black coral trees and tropical fish and invertebrate species vying for space with ascidians, sponges, sea tulips, algae and fish species more commonly seen in temperate waters.
The absence of a large river system outflow from the adjacent coast means there is minimal pollution and dilution with large quantities of fresh water, known to be detrimental to coral growth. The Solitary Islands Marine Park is administered by the Marine Parks Authority of NSW. An extensive zoning system is in place, with restrictions on activities that may harm the sensitive environment. Restrictions on commercial and recreational fishing, trapping and collecting are designed to enhance sustainability of the many species found here. Click here for more information on the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
The natural beauty of northern NSW, coupled with the magnificent subtropical coastline has long ensured the attraction to tourists. Whale watching, recreational fishing and game fishing charters as well as scuba diving are common pursuits.
Diving at the offshore islands is becoming more popular as the diversity of the marine life in the Marine Park becomes more widely known. None of the islands is large, and offer little protection in the event of inclement weather, but they do offer a unique diving experience. In the summer and autumn when the water is at its warmest, schools of surface fish - mackerel, bonito, tuna, abound, as well as manta rays and other visitors from the Great Barrier Reef, while in winter, as the water cools down, grey nurse sharks and giant cuttlefish are common. Follow the link to browse some of the hundreds of species detailed in the Photographs/species index.