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About Family Islands

Getting there and getting around

Dunk Island sits just off shore from Mission Beach, North Queensland. Photo: Tourism Queensland.

Dunk Island sits just off shore from Mission Beach, North Queensland. Photo: Tourism Queensland.

Family Islands National Park map (PDF, 181K) Check Great Barrier Reef zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks surrounding these islands.

Visit www.gbrmpa.gov.au for zoning information.

The Family Islands are off the North Queensland coast, between Tully Heads and Mission Beach. Dunk Island, 4.5km east of Mission Beach, is the largest and most northerly of the group. Access to Dunk Island is by either private vessel, water taxi from Wongaling and South Mission beaches (travel time approximately 10 minutes) or commercial charter boat. Most of the island is protected as national park and the remainder of the island is freehold (Dunk Island Resort and farm) and council esplanade.

Wheeler (Toolgbar), Coombe, Smith (Kurrumbah), Bowden (Budg-Joo), Hudson (Coolah), Mung Um Gnackum, Kumboola and Mound (Purtaboi) islands are also part of the Family Islands National Park. These islands are accessible by sea kayak, private boat or charter vessel from Mission Beach.

Access to Mound (Purtaboi) Island is prohibited (PDF, 570K) during the seabird breeding season from 1 October to 31 March.

For details of transport operators to the islands, see the tourism information links.

Some islands in the group are not national park. Thorpe (Timana) and Richards (Bedarra) islands are privately-owned and tiny Woln-Garin Island is unallocated State land.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities in the Family Islands National Park.

Park features

View over Dunk Island spit from Mount Kootaloo. Photo: Queensland Government.

View over Dunk Island spit from Mount Kootaloo. Photo: Queensland Government.

The gently-rising hills of the Family Islands contrast with the jagged and lofty profile of Hinchinbrook Island, which dominates the southern horizon. Dunk Island, like the other Family Islands, is cloaked in a mosaic of dense rainforest in protected gullies and wet slopes. Eucalypt forest, with an understorey of palms, occurs on drier more exposed ridges. Much of this vegetation was severely damaged when Cyclone Yasi crossed over Dunk Island in February 2011 and will take a number of years to recover.

The Family Islands lie within the traditional sea country of the Bandjin and Djiru Aboriginal peoples, who, for tens of thousands of years, have collected, gathered and hunted the rich marine and island resources for food and materials. Today they retain a strong connection to these islands. Lieutenant James Cook named Dunk Island in 1770 but it is best known from the writings of the 'beachcomber', E.J. Banfield. Living on Dunk Island from 1897 until 1923, Banfield wrote four books about the island's natural and cultural history.

The islands support many species of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals. The brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly has become a symbol for Dunk Island. The fringing reefs surrounding each of the islands are home to a diversity of reef life. Extensive seagrass beds lie between the islands providing important feeding grounds for sea turtles and dugong.

Camping and accommodation

Camping on Coombe Island. Photo: Julie Lightfoot.

Camping on Coombe Island. Photo: Julie Lightfoot.

Camping

The camping area on Dunk Island is managed by Dunk Island Resort.  Bookings can be made online at www.dunk-island.com. Fees apply.

Bush camping is available on Wheeler and Coombe islands.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Campers on Coombe and Wheeler islands must be self-sufficient with their own drinking water, fuel stoves and rubbish bags.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Mission Beach. For more information see the tourism information links.

Things to do

The Ulysses butterfly has become the symbol for Dunk Island. Photo: Mike Trenerry.

The Ulysses butterfly has become the symbol for Dunk Island. Photo: Mike Trenerry.

Scenic beach views, Dunk Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Scenic beach views, Dunk Island. Photo: Queensland Government.

Brammo Bay, Dunk Island. Photo: William White, Queensland Government

Brammo Bay, Dunk Island. Photo: William White, Queensland Government

The Family Islands offer many opportunities for you to explore adn enjoy the natural surrounds:

Walking

Dunk Island offers a range of walking tracks which allow exploration of the island's famed natural history and rediscovery of its fascinating past. Take an easy stroll through the rainforest to a secluded beach or embark on a climb to the summit of Mount Kootaloo. (The distances and times below are calculated for walks beginning on Dunk Island Spit).

Muggy Muggy Beach (Grade: easy)
Distance: 3km return
Time: Allow about 70mins walking time

From the spit, walk to the north-east end of the beach to the start of the walking tracks. This pleasant walk winds through rainforest, coastal woodland and mangroves before arriving at Muggy Muggy Beach. At this picturesque sandy cove, sheltered behind a rainforest–clad headland, enjoy a swim and snorkel before returning along the same track. Access to this walking track may be affected by tidal influences at certain times.

Mount Kootaloo circuit (Grade: moderate)
Distance: 7km return
Time: Allow about 3hrs walking time

From the spit, walk to the north-east end of the beach to the start of the walking tracks. This more strenuous walk winds up a steep track to the 271m summit. Cyclone-damaged rainforest on the lower slopes allows glimpses over the island and reefs as the track ascends. On the upper slopes, the forest opens out and eucalypts emerge through the canopy. Near the summit, a short branching track leads to a lookout, which offers spectacular views over the Family Islands and nearby mainland. Near the lookout, the remains of No. 27 Radar Station, built during World War II, are slowly being reclaimed by the rainforest. The track continues around the summit, rejoining the main track and returning to the beach. Access to this walking track may be affected by tidal influences at certain times.

Island circuit (Grade: moderate)
Distance: 11km return
Time: Allow about 4hrs walking time

This challenging walk continues on from the summit of Mount Kootaloo, descending through Palm Valley to Coconut Beach. The walk returns to The Spit along the Coconut Beach track, offering views over the mangrove-fringed tidal flats along the way.

Coconut Beach (Grade: moderate)
Distance: 7.5km return
Time: Allow about 2.5hrs walking time

Starting from the camping area, this walk initially skirts the beach and follows the counci esplanade, past private property. It climbs around rocky outcrops and boulders and passes behind mangrove-fringed tidal flats before arriving at Coconut Beach. Visitors can return along the same track or continue on the Island circuit in reverse.

Picnic and day-use areas

Day–use facilities including toilets are provided on the Dunk Island spit. They are managed by Dunk Island Resort.

The beaches and walking tracks on Dunk Island are available for use by self-sufficient day visitors. Visitors must carry drinking water, a first aid kit and emergency communication equipment (such as a mobile phone).

Boating

Boating around the Family Islands National Park is a popular activity. Please remember to:

  • Reduce your speed in seagrass areas and look out for dugongs, turtles and other large marine animals.
  • Anchor in sand away from coral reefs and seagrass beds.
  • Use a reef pick if anchoring in coral is unavoidable. When hauling in, motor toward the anchor to prevent damage.
  • Some of the Family Islands contain significant seabird nesting sites and special rules apply during the seabird breeding season from 1 October to 31 March (inclusive):

Motorised water sports

Motorised water sports, including jet skiing, waterskiing and parasailing are restricted to certain locations. For more details, see the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority information sheet (PDF) on motorised water sports and related maps (PDF).

Fishing

Family Islands National Park and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Swimming and snorkelling

Swimming and snorkelling are possible from the many beaches around the Family Islands.

Dangerous stinging jellyfish ('marine stingers') may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full body lycra suit or equivalent may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Visit marine stingers for the latest safety and first aid information.

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal.

Viewing wildlife

The Family Islands offer excellent opportunities for nature walks, birdwatching and reef exploring. Visitors to Dunk Island can explore a reef-fringed and rainforest-clad 'tropical isle' made famous by E.J. Banfield's lyrical descriptions dating from the early 1900s. Snorkelling on the reef offers the chance to glimpse some of the myriad animals and plants that make up the Great Barrier Reef.

Things to know before you go

Brammo Bay beach, post Cyclone-Yasi. Photo: William White, Queensland Government

Brammo Bay beach, post Cyclone-Yasi. Photo: William White, Queensland Government

Be prepared for your visit to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time:

Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way. Please Be pest-free! (PDF, 574K) before your visit.

Essentials to bring

Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit to Family Islands National Park. Make sure you bring:

  • protective clothing, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun
  • suitable shoes for walking on rough surfaces
  • insect repellent to avoid mosquito and sandfly bites
  • sufficient drinking water.

Opening hours

Family Islands National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round except for the seabird closure on Mound (Purtaboi) Island (PDF, 570K).

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required for all areas in the Family Islands National Park and fees apply. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Special permits are required for commercial or organised events within the park. Contact us for further information.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted on Family Islands National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to Family Islands National Park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and mangroves.

Climate and weather

Family Islands National Park has a tropical climate. In summer, the daytime temperatures average 30 °C with high humidity and rainfall. From April to September, the days are cooler and less humid and, despite the steady south-easterly trade winds, are usually the best times to visit. For more information see the tourism information links.

Visitors should check weather conditions before setting out. The islands may be inaccessible to all boats if there are strong wind warnings, gales or cyclonic activity. Commercial tour companies cease operating ferry, water taxi and air services at these times. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available at Mission Beach on the mainland. For more information see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

Dangerous stinging jellyfish may be present in coastal waters. Photo: Jamie Seymour.

Dangerous stinging jellyfish may be present in coastal waters. Photo: Jamie Seymour.

To enjoy a safe visit to the Family Islands, please:

  • Take care on loose, slippery and uneven walking track surfaces, particularly in wet conditions.
  • For your safety, walk in daylight hours only.
  • Always carry water, wear hats and sturdy footwear and try to walk in the cooler part of the day.
  • As you walk, rest often in the shade as heat exhaustion can affect all walkers.
  • Access to the resort's airstrip is strictly prohibited—do not enter this area.
  • The resort’s lease area, including buildings, are private property and access is not allowed due to safety concerns associated with Cyclone Yasi.
  • Wear sunscreen and cover up when you are swimming or snorkelling.
  • Be aware of wind, current direction and tides.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish ('marine stingers') may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full body lycra suit or equivalent can provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Visit marine stingers for the latest safety information and first aid.
  • Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal.
  • Know your own health limitations for safe snorkelling—do not put yourself and others at risk and always snorkel with a buddy so that help is at hand.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

Help to keep the park in a natural state.

  • Everything in the park is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
  • Do not feed wildlife—it can affect the natural population balance.
  • Leave your pets at home—domestic animals are not permitted in national parks or intertidal zones as they disturb native wildlife.
  • Lighting of fires is prohibited. Bring a fuel or gas stove for cooking.
  • Please stay on the walking tracks at all times—shortcutting damages vegetation and causes erosion.

Be pest-free!

Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way. Please Be pest-free! (PDF, 574K) before your visit.

Before you visit, please check that your boat, clothing, footwear and gear are free of soil, seeds, parts of plants, eggs, ants and insects (and their eggs), spiders, lizards, toads, rats and mice.

Be sure to:

  • Unpack your camping gear and equipment and check it carefully as pests love to hide in stored camping gear.
  • Clean soil from footwear and gear as invisible killers such as viruses, bacteria and fungi are carried in soil.
  • Check for seeds in pockets, cuffs and hook and loop fastening strips, such as Velcro.

While you are on the islands, remove soil, weeds, seeds and pests from your boat, gear and clothes before moving to a new site. Wrap seeds and plant material, and place them in your rubbish.

Everyone in Queensland has a General Biosecurity Obligation to minimise the biosecurity risk posed by their activities. This includes the risk of introducing and spreading weeds and pests to island national parks.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

View from Mount Kootaloo track, post-Cyclone Yasi. Photo: Queensland Government.

View from Mount Kootaloo track, post-Cyclone Yasi. Photo: Queensland Government.

The Family Islands National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) for the enjoyment of visitors and the conservation of nature.

The Dunk Island Spit is leased to the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and sub–leased to Dunk Island Resort to provide day-use and camping facilities for all users.

The national park is managed in accordance with the Family Islands National Park Management Plan (PDF, 1.3M). This management plan is currently under review.

The reef waters surrounding the Family Islands are within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The surrounding waters are within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Commonwealth Hinchinbrook Plan of Management also has provisions for the waters surrounding some of the Family Islands.

Tourism information links

Mission Beach Visitor Information Centre
www.missionbeachtourism.com 
Porters Promenade, Mission Beach QLD 4852
Phone (07) 4068 7099
Email

Rainforest and Reef Information Centre
www.greatgreenwaytourism.com
142 Victoria Street, Cardwell QLD 4849
Phone (07) 4066 8601
Email
A partnership between NPSR and the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, managed by Great Green Way Tourism Incorporated.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
28 November 2016