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What Size Boat Can I Drive With a Boat Licence in Australia

what size boat can i drive with a boat licence in australia

Boating is a fun and popular activity in Australia, attracting people of all ages. However, figuring out the rules about “what size boat can I drive with a boat licence?” can be confusing.

This guide will help you understand the rules and regulations for boating in different Australian states and territories. Whether you’re an experienced sailor or just starting, this information will help you stay safe and legal on the water.

General Rules for Boating in Australia

Across Australia, there are no specific size limits on the boats you can drive for fun, as long as you have the right licence for the boat’s engine power and meet other local rules. This means you can operate anything from a small fishing boat to a large luxury yacht.

Let’s look at the details for each state.

New South Wales (NSW)

In New South Wales, you need a boat licence if your boat can travel at 10 knots (about 18.5 km/h) or faster. You also need to have practical boating experience.

If your boat is over 35 meters long and you enter major ports or areas like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, you may need a marine pilot to guide your boat.

Queensland (QLD)

In Queensland, you need a marine licence if your boat’s engine has more than 4.5kW (about 6 horsepower). Once you get this licence, it’s valid for life, as long as you keep your driver’s licence current or have a Marine Licence Verification Certificate.

Like in NSW, if your boat is over 35 meters and you enter certain areas, you’ll need a marine pilot.

Western Australia (WA)

Western Australia requires you to have a Recreational Skipper’s Ticket (RST) for boats with engines more than 4.5kW. There are no restrictions on how far from shore you can go with this ticket.

Once you have the RST, it doesn’t expire, so you don’t need to renew it. For a reliable course, get your skippers ticket Perth by Safe Boat School.

South Australia (SA)

In South Australia, you need a boat licence no matter the size of the boat or engine. You have to be at least 16 years old to get a licence, but there are special permits available for kids aged 12 to 16.

The licence is given to you on the spot and stays valid as long as you meet the conditions, like keeping a current interstate licence or showing the right qualifications.


Tasmania requires a boat licence for any boat with a motor of 4 horsepower or more unless it’s a hire or drive boat. The Motor Boat Licence is valid for three years, so you’ll need to renew it periodically.


In Victoria, getting a boat licence is similar to getting a driver’s licence. There are no specific size limits on the boats you can drive, but your licence must be current and valid.

If your boat is over 35 meters and you enter certain areas, you will need a marine pilot, just like in NSW and QLD.

Northern Territory (NT)

The Northern Territory has the most relaxed boating rules in Australia. You don’t need a boat licence or even a registered boat, and there are no size limits on the boats you can drive.

This makes NT a great place for recreational boating without a lot of paperwork.

How Long Is a Skippers Licence Valid For

The length of time a skipper’s licence is valid in Australia depends on the state and the type of licence:

  • Western Australia
    The RST doesn’t expire and doesn’t need renewal.
  • Queensland
    Marine licences are valid for life as long as you keep your driver’s licence current or have a Marine Licence Verification Certificate.
  • South Australia
    Licences are issued immediately and stay valid as long as you meet the conditions.
  • Tasmania
    Motorboat licences are valid for three years.
  • Victoria
    Licences must be current and valid, with no specific validity period mentioned.
  • New South Wales
    Boat drivers need a valid licence to operate at certain speeds, and personal watercraft operators need a current PWC Licence.
  • Northern Territory
    No skipper’s ticket is needed for recreational boating.

To sum up, while the rules for getting a boat licence in Australia vary by state, there are usually no restrictions on the size of the boat you can drive for fun, as long as you follow the local licensing rules. Whether you’re in New South Wales with its speed-related rules, Queensland with its lifelong licences, or the easy-going Northern Territory, knowing these rules will help you enjoy your time on the water safely and legally.

Boating offers a great sense of freedom and adventure. With the right licence and knowledge, you can explore Australia’s beautiful waterways to your heart’s content.

Always stay informed about the local rules and make sure your qualifications, like skippers tickets Maylands by our school, are up to date. Happy boating!

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Mike Watson

Mike Watson, owner and operator of Sea Safe Boat School, has over 35 years of sea-going experience. Starting his maritime journey at 15 in Grimsby, England, he's sailed locations like Iceland and Greenland. Certified as a Master-5 Trainer, Mike is now dedicated to offering courses to those pursuing their recreational skippers ticket in Perth.