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Exploring Dunk Island: Best Things To See & Do

Exploring Dunk Island: Best Things To See & Do

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Dunk Island is a tropical Great Barrier Reef Island located just off Mission Beach the Cassowary Coast Region of Queensland.

Whether you’re a Mission Beach local or you’re travelling the East Coast of Australia, Dunk Island (Coonanglebah) is a spot you definitely do not want to miss. I’ve visited this island several times and it is one of my favorite islands in Queensland.

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 get here and make the best of your trip!

Dunk island jetty

Update: 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.

However, now in 2023, there is a new fast-cat ferry that offers return transfers to Dunk Island from Clump Point Boat Ramp near Mission Beach. This takes only 25 minutes each way and only costs $75 per person for the return trip.

Dunk island ferry
The new Dunk Island ferry

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.

Dunk island, australia
Sandbar spit on dunk island, australia

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.

Dunk island and mount island, mission beach, far north queensland, australia
Dunk Island and Mound Island (Purtaboi)

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.

Hiking on dunk island
The start of the walking tracks on Dunk Island

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.

Green grass near the dunk island airstrip
Hiking on dunk island
Beach and palm tree in far north queensland

2. Hike 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.

Hiking in the rainforest of dunk island

3. Hike Up to 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 lookout is perched right at the top of this 271 metre hill on the island.

To get here, you'll follow the trail that 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.

Mount kootaloo summit on dunk island
Lookout at the top of Mount Kootaloo

4. Walk 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.

Muggy muggy beach on dunk island

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.

Dunk island, queensland australia

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.

Mound island, mission beach, australia
Mound island, mission beach, australia

7. Jump off the Dunk Island 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!

Sailing and cruising dunk island, australian east coast

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.

Dunk island spit
Dunk Island Spit

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.

Sunset from purtaboi island near mission beach

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!

Sailing and cruising dunk island, australian east coast

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.

Aerial image of dunk island, queensland

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.

Beach near mission beach

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.

Beach on dunk island

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 was purchased by Atlassian billionaire Mike Cannon Brooks in July 2022 with initial plans to repair and reopen the resort. However, as of 2023, it is still permanently closed.

Dunk island and mound island (purtaboi) near mission beach

Where to Stay Near Mission Beach

Unfortunately, you can't stay on Dunk Island since the resort is still abandoned. However, you can stay in nearby 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 pool at mission beach, queensland

1. Eco Village Mission Beach Luxury

An amazing resort set in tropical rainforest right on the edge of the Coral Sea.

Pool at a boutique bungalow accommodation retreat at mission beach, queensland

2. Boutique Bungalows Mid-Range

Great bungalow accommodation close to the town of Mission Beach.

Classic accommodation in mission beach

3. Jackaroo Treehouse Rainforest Retreat Budget

The best backpacker hostel in Mission Beach if you want to meet like-minded travelers.

Mission beach far north queensland
Best islands near cairns, australia

Not Sure Which Cairns Island to Visit?

Read my comprehensive guide breaking down the top 9 Islands off Cairns to help you decide!

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.

Great barrier reef aerial photograph near cairns, australia

50+ More Cairns Bucketlist Items

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!

Dunk islandjpg
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.


Thursday 20th of July 2023


I am planning a trip to this island and was wondering if you recommend spending 1 or 2 nights there ?

Amber Mcclure

Monday 17th of July 2023

Great information shared.. really enjoyed reading this post thank you author for sharing this post .. appreciated

Corey Edwards

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

Poor Reno sounds quite upset about the things that you wrote absolutely nothing about.

Reno Mally

Monday 21st of February 2022

This must be a joke there is nothing open in Mission Beach on a Monday or Tuesday no supermarket on a Sunday and no Doctor anyday as the town doesn't have one anymore 4months not to mention the Tavern has been closed down for the last month FLU No banks or bakery or public transport never read so much **** written about the best Village in Australia 5th best in the world what a JOKE

Olly Gaspar

Monday 21st of February 2022

Hi Reno, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment on my post.

Unfortunately I have no idea what you're talking about since the article doesn't mention any of the facilities available at Mission Beach. Are you sure you're commenting on the right blog haha?

This is an article about things to do on Dunk Island.

Lea-Ann Kennedy

Wednesday 5th of January 2022

There is no cafe on Dunk Island at present 05/01/2022.