Dunk Island is a tropical Great Barrier Reef Island located just off Mission Beach the Cassowary Coast Region of Queensland. Before you go, read this quick island guide to help you better plan your trip to this incredible East Coast gem!
Looking to explore one of Australia’s best-kept secrets?
Whether you’re a Mission Beach local or you’re travelling the East Coast of Australia, Dunk Island is a spot you definitely do not want to miss. In this quick guide, I’ll go over some of the best things to do on Dunk Island and include a few tips and hints to help you make the best of your trip!
Table of contents
- How to Book a Ferry to Dunk Island
- About Dunk Island
- When is the Best Time to Visit Dunk Island
- Camping on Dunk Island
- The Dunk Island Resort – Updates
- Best Ways to Explore Dunk Island: Things to do & See
- 1. Explore the Dunk Island Interior
- 2. The Island Circuit Track
- 3. Hike Mount Kootaloo (Kataloo)
- 4. The Muggy Muggy Beach Track
- 5. Snorkel at Muggy Muggy Beach
- 6. Explore Mound Island (Purtaboi)
- 7. Jump off the Pier
- 8. Swim at the Sand Spit
- 9. Catch the Tropical Island Sunsets
- 10. Go Bird-Spotting
- 11. Check Out the Dunk Island Airstrip
- Sailing to Dunk Island
- Where to Stay Near Mission Beach
- More Queensland Travel Guides & Adventure Inspiration
How to Book a Ferry to Dunk Island
Being an offshore island, Dunk Island can only be accessed by boat or ferry. While there used to be a water taxi service running from Mission Beach, this was shut down in 2020.
Update: thankfully as of 2022, there is now a new fast-cat ferry, offering return transfers to Dunk Island from Clump Point Boat Ramp near Mission Beach.
Alternatively, travelers in Mission Beach can visit Dunk Island via the popular MV Reef Goddess tour, which combines a full day of exploring the Outer Reef with a visit to Dunk Island.
About Dunk Island
Dunk Island features everything you could want from a Tropical North Queensland island. Here, you'll find a mix of sandy beaches and rocky shores, fringing reefs for snorkelling, and a lush rainforest interior with plenty of scenic walking tracks.
Located just off the coast of Mission Beach, and part of the Family Islands Group, this island is the perfect location to visit if you're chasing an epic day trip close to the mainland. The island is part of the Family Islands National Park, so you can also expect to find many bird species here, as well as marine mammals cruising by the coral reefs.
When is the Best Time to Visit Dunk Island
Like many of the Islands on the inside of the Great Barrier Reef, the best time to visit is between June to August. Exploring Dunk Island at this time of year means no stingers, and warm, predictable weather.
Typically, during these drier Winter months, temperatures hover between 25-28 degrees celsius, with water temperatures averaging around 23 degrees.
Camping on Dunk Island
Looking to explore Dunk Island for more than just a day? You're in luck. Since it is quite a popular place to visit from Mission Beach, the council has set up camp sites, with hot showers, water, picnic tables and even BBQs.
If you're looking to do a bit of camping at Dunk Island, you will need to reserve and pay for a camping permit, which is currently managed by the Cassowary Coast Regional Council.
The Dunk Island Resort - Updates
Similarly to South Molle Island, Brampton Island and pretty much most of the once-booming tropical Queensland Islands, Dunk too has an abandoned resort in the main bay. This was mostly destroyed during the devastating Cyclone Yasi that hit the shores of Mission Beach in 2011.
For obvious reasons, the abandoned resort is off-limits, with only the main central building remaining open for special events and weddings.
Update: The island has been purchased by Atlassian billionaire Mike Cannon Brooks in July 2022 with initial plans to repair and reopen the resort.
Not Sure Which Cairns Island to Visit?
Read my comprehensive guide breaking down the top 8 Islands off Cairns to help you decide!
Best Ways to Explore Dunk Island: Things to do & See
Planning your adventures with a Dunk Island itinerary? Below I've listed some of the best things that we got up to in tropical paradise.
1. Explore the Dunk Island Interior
The further you move up the Australian East Coast, the more tropical the rainforest flora becomes. Even compared to islands just south of Hinchinbrook like Orpheus and the Palm Islands, Dunk is much denser and more rainforest-like.
There are two trails leading from the main pier. They begin by walking through well-maintained camping areas and continue past the old airstrip. Further along, you'll walk along the long stretch of white beach past the abandoned resort, and finally into dense rainforest trails.
It's fairly easy to follow the bush tracks. However, I've also linked the official National Park walking map for your convenience.
2. The Island Circuit Track
Once you've passed the beach and are on the track, you'll have a few options. I recommend following the signs and taking the Island circuit track. This is an 11-kilometre walk that takes you to the top of Mount Kootaloo, down Palm Valley, across to Coconut Beach, and ends at the sand spit.
Taking the Island Circuit track takes approximately three hours, but offers an opportunity to see the best parts of Dunk Island's lush green rainforest.
3. Hike Mount Kootaloo (Kataloo)
If you just want incredible views of the southern end of Dunk Island, then walking to the highest viewpoint at Mount Kootaloo (sometimes also spelled Mount Kataloo) is the best way to get them.
The trail continues on from the end of the beach at Brammo Bay and climbs gently for two kilometers to an old World War Two Radar Station. This isn't exactly a strenuous walk, but you'll climb to the very upper slopes of the island.
At the summit, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Family Islands group to the north.
4. The Muggy Muggy Beach Track
If you're looking to snorkel or just relax on a more secluded beach, then instead turn left at the first junction and follow the pleasant walk to Muggy Muggy Beach.
The beach is just around the corner, and should only take around 20 minutes to reach from the pier. This is a picturesque sandy cove lined with large boulders and coconut palm trees.
5. Snorkel at Muggy Muggy Beach
As mentioned, Muggy Muggy Beach is located just around the corner from the main resort beach on Brammo Bay.
The beach itself is a much quieter and more secluded beach for swimming and snorkeling. There are also several hanging palms on the beach, making it feel a bit more like an isolated tropical paradise.
You can snorkel all around the bay, sticking to the fringing reef to get a taste of the unique Great Barrier Reef marine life.
6. Explore Mound Island (Purtaboi)
When you first arrive at Dunk Island, you might notice the small, rocky island known as Mound Island, nested just outside of Brammo Bay. The indigenous name for this island is Purtaboi.
It's possible to kayak or boat over to the island. However, keep in mind that it is an important bird nesting site. Stepping onto the island between 1 October and 31 March is prohibited to protect the nesting.
7. Jump off the Pier
The main pier at Brammo Bay looks like it's made for jumping! If there aren't too many people fishing, then it's possible to launch some backflips even at low tide!
8. Swim at the Sand Spit
The sand spit on Dunk Island has to be one of the most picturesque sand bars in Australia, maybe besides Hill Inlet.
The sand spit is probably one of the best places to swim on the island since there are no rocks and the water is extremely clear! You'll even likely spot some sea turtles cruising by if you pay attention.
It's also a great spot to snap some photos and get a unique vantage point of Dunk Island.
9. Catch the Tropical Island Sunsets
We all know that there's no better sunset than an island sunset. Catch the sunset at the beach at Brammo Bay or watch the colors light up over the Family Island group at the top of Kootaloo.
10. Go Bird-Spotting
Did you know that over 100 species of birds have been recorded on Dunk Island? This makes it a perfect place for birding!
Walking along the branching tracks, you'll find plenty of sunbirds, emerald doves, and if you look up, maybe even a majestic osprey flying above. Of course, you'll also want to keep an eye out for the brilliant Blue Ulysses Butterly!
11. Check Out the Dunk Island Airstrip
As you'll notice in the photos, Dunk Island has its very own airport, a tiny airstrip that once flew tourists in from nearby Cairns to stay at the Dunk Island Resort.
However, these days, at least until the reconstruction of the resort is finalized, the strip is mostly used by the Royal Australian Air Force.
Sailing to Dunk Island
Dunk Island is traditionally a Cruiser's island. Therefore, for those enjoying Australian coastal sailing, there's usually great, seaworthy company.
Anchorage and Berthing Information
The main anchorage area on Dunk Island is in Brammo Bay. It's important to read your maps when entering, as the fringing reef spreads deep into the bay. While we anchored here, we watched a large 60-foot sailing vessel run aground close to the sand spit, luckily, they didn't venture too far into the reef.
There are also three guest mooring buoys that are operated by Queensland Parks. These hold monohulls up to 20 meters and catamarans up to 18 meters and are rated to 34-knot winds.
The anchorage at Brammo Bay offers good protection against established South East trade winds, but will be very exposed to Northerlies.
50+ More Cairns Bucketlist Items
- Visit the Cairns Islands
- Kuranda Railway & Skyrail
- Rusty's Markets
- Day trip to Cape Tribulation
- ... +51 more things to do in Cairns!
Where to Stay Near Mission Beach
Planning a trip to Mission Beach? Here are the top-rated accommodation options and places to stay whether you're a backpacker, luxury traveler, or couple on a weekend getaway chasing something close to the beach with easy access to Dunk Island!
- Eco Village Mission Beach - an amazing resort set in tropical rainforest right on the edge of the Coral Sea.
- Boutique Bungalows - great bungalow accommodation close to the town of Mission Beach.
- Jackaroo Treehouse Rainforest Retreat - the best backpacker hostel in Mission Beach if you want to meet like-minded travelers.
More Queensland Travel Guides & Adventure Inspiration
I hope you've found this updated guide to visiting Dunk Island in Queensland useful!
While you're still here, make sure to check out some of my other travel guides and blog posts to Far North Queensland!