Dunk Island, largest of the Family Islands

Dunk Island is situated just off the mainland cost from Mission Beach, south of Cairns, and within the Great Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage site.

Dunk Island is part of the Family Islands Group, which are known for their long spits of sand. Dunk Island is the “father” of the family – the largest, at six kilometers by two kilometers.

Three-quarters of the island is a National Park. Dunk Island’s shoreline and surrounding waters are designated a Marine Park.

The island is accessible for day trippers, but is more popular for extended stays at the island’s resort. The resort is one of Australia’s leading resorts.


Dunk Island’s traditional name is “Coonanglebah,” which means the island of peace and plenty.

Captain Cook sailed among the Family Islands and named Dunk, after Lord Montague Dunk (then Earl of Sandwich). He renamed Dunk “Father Isle,” Bedarra Island “Mother Isle,” and the other 14 islands “The Children.”

Natural environment

The island is known for its tropical rainforest, sandy beach, rocky shoreline, and hilly terrain. The highest point on the island is Mt. Kootaloo.  The island is home to 150 bird species, and the stunning electric blue Ulysses butterfly, which is the island’s symbol.  Mammals and reptiles also inhabit the island.

Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)

The island offers nature walks and water-based activities, as well as a variety of activities organized by the resort:

  • Bushwalking: There are plenty of walking trails on the island, so hike to the island’s highest point, Mt. Kootaloo, to admire the beautiful vistas, or take the leisurely guided rainforest walk.
  • Swimming and snorkeling: Snorkeling is easy to do from the resort, for example from Muggy Muggy Beach.
  • Boating: Join a guided water tour – either on kayak or jetski to explore the waters surrounding the island, charter a fishing or motor boat or catamaran, rent a sailboard, join a diving tour, rent a dinghy, or join a sunset cruise.
  • Tandem skydiving: Skydiving trips can be arranged from the island.
  • Mountain bike tours
  • Waterskiing
  • Horseback riding


Dunk Island Resort offers something for everyone. It has a romantic vibe for vacationing couples, and is child-friendly for families on holiday (the resort has a kids’ club, Junior Rangers activity program complete with meal times, and babysitting services).

The 146 rooms are all air-conditioned, and each has a balcony or patio. Guests can select beachfront suites, beachfront rooms, and garden-view rooms. Beachfront accommodations have direct access to the beach and great views of Brammo Bay. Suites comprise a king-sized bedroom and bathroom on the upper level, with a living area on the lower level. Rooms have a combined living and sleeping area and bathroom, and have a king- and single- bed. Family rooms feature two queens and one single bed. Garden rooms are a short walk from the central resort facilities.

Resort facilities include two resort pools; two restaurants and two cafés; a bar; a pool-side bar; an 9-hole golf course; three tennis courts, and a squash and badminton court; conference room; gymnasium; horse-riding; an archery course; and day spa and massage center.


There are nine campsites on the island within the national park.

Getting There

Dunk Island is located halfway between Cairns and Townsville, and about four kilometers offshore, and can be reached a variety of ways.

By air…

Flights connect major Australian capital cities to Cairns. From there, commercial airlines (Qantas, Virgin Blue) operate flights to Dunk Island.

Scenic flights operate between Cairns Airport and Dunk Island, sometimes as frequently as thrice daily. Private charter flights are also available. The flight is about 45 minutes long.

By land…

A daily bus transfer service operates between Northern Beaches, Cairns (city, airport), and Dunk Island.

By sea…

The Quickcat ferry runs between Mission Beach (1.5 hours south of Cairns, mainland), and Dunk Island three times a day, and takes about 20 minutes.

Related posts:

  1. Bedarra Island, Queensland, Australia
  2. Moreton Island, one of the World’s largest sand islands
  3. The Whitsunday Islands, Queensland
  4. Fraser Island, Queensland, World’s Largest Sand Island
  5. Goldsmith Island, Smith Islands National Park

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