Family Islands

The Family Islands are a chain of stunningly scenic continental islands, close to the Wet Tropics coast near Mission Beach, clad in lush rainforest and woodlands and surrounded by coral reefs, tidal flats and sandy beaches. The islands have been given National Park status.

The lush, green, gently-rising hills of the Family Islands contrast greatly 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, and eucalypt forest with an understorey of palms and looping lianas on drier more exposed ridges.

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 bountiful marine and island resources for food and materials. Today they retain a strong connection to these islands. Lt James Cook named Dunk Island in 1770 but it is best known from the writings of the "Beachcomber", E.J. Banfield, who lived on Dunk Island from 1897 until 1923, and wrote four books about the island's natural and cultural history.

The islands support many species of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals. Over time, 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 and are important feeding grounds for sea turtles and dugong.

Things to do

Dunk Island offers excellent bushwalking opportunities. Thirteen kilometres of walking tracks allow exploration of the island's famed natural history and rediscovery of its fascinating past. Take an easy stroll through the rainforest or embark on an island circuit of several hours, enjoying scenic views from the summit of Mount Kootaloo along the way.

Boating and fishing around the Family Islands National Park are popular activities.

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. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound from the many walking tracks and beaches on the island. Snorkelling on the reef offers the chance to glimpse the myriad animals and plants that comprise the Great Barrier Reef.

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Wheeler, Coombe, Smith, Bowden, Hudson and Purtaboi Islands are also in Family Islands National Park. These islands are accessible by sea kayak, private boat or charter vessel from Mission Beach, Cardwell, Hull River or Tully River while commercial ferry operators provide cruises around these scenic islands.

Some other islands in the group are not within the national park. They include Thorpe and Bedarra Islands (privately-owned) and tiny Woln-Garin (Unallocated State Land).

Further information: EPA Customer Service Centre
160 Ann Street, Brisbane. PO Box 15155, City East QLD 4002. ph (07) 3227 8185. fax (07) 3227 8749

Getting there

The Family Islands are situated off the coast of far north Queensland, between Tully Heads and Mission Beach. Dunk Island, 4.5km east of Mission Beach, is the largest and most northerly of the group. Access is by commercial flights from Cairns and Townsville; commercial ferries from Clump Point, North Mission Beach (travel time approximately 40 minutes) and water taxi from Wongaling and South Mission Beach (travel time approximately 10 minutes). Dunk Island is also accessible by private vessels. Most of the island is protected as national park threaded with a network of walking tracks. The Dunk Island Resort, farm and artists' residence, occupying the remainder of the island, are also accessible to day visitors.

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