One of the islands that make up the Family Islands National Park, and a part of the Great Barrier Reef.
4km from the Queensland coast, not far from the town of Mission Beach.
The Island was named by James Cook during his first voyage in 1770. It was named after the first Lord of British Admiralty, the Earl of Sandwich, “Lord Montague Dunk”.
The local aboriginals called it “Coonanglebah”, that translates to “Island of Peace and Plenty”
During “John MacGillivrays” expedition to the area in 1848, with the ship “HMS Rattlesnake”, he wrote the following notes of Dunk Island:
Dunk Island, eight or nine miles in circumference, is well wooded—it has two conspicuous peaks, one of which (the North-West one) is 857 feet in height. Our excursions were confined to the vicinity of the watering place and the bay in which it is situated. The shores are rocky on one side and sandy on the other, where a low point runs out to the westward. At their junction, and under a sloping hill with large patches of brush, a small stream of fresh water, running out over the beach, furnished a supply for the ship, although the boats could approach the place closely only at high-water.
In 1897 Edmund James Banfield, settled on Dunk Island with his wife Bertha, as the first white settlers. He suffered from exhaustion and work anxiety, and had been told by doctors, that he only had 6 months left to live. Edmond lived on the Island until his death , 26 years later on the 2nd of June 1923.
E. J. Banfield had been a journalist and senior editor of the “Townsville Daily Bulletin” for 15 years, before he moved to the island. He wrote several books while living on Dunk.
Some of his books were:
Confessions of a beachcomber (1908), a book that inspired many, and that fueled the romantic and exotic dream of Dunk Islands palms and white beaches. <Download a free legal copy here>
A year after Bertha Banfields death in 1933, the Island was bought by a Captain Brassey. Brassey turned Edmond Banfields bungalow into the first form of early resort on the Island.
World War II
When World War II broke out, the Australian Airforce took over the Island, and built the first airstrip in 1941.
In 1942 Radar Station No. 27 was established on the island, and a Light-weight air warning radar, with two diesel generators were installed. When the war ended the radar station was dismantled and removed. The base og the radar still exists, and probably looks like a rusty version of the one below.
After the second world war visiting tourist again became the main focus for Dunk Island.
People were attracted by the paths around the island, and to it’s two peaks, and it’s pristine white beaches with direct access to the Great Barrier Reef.
In 1956 Eric McElree, the founder of AVIS Rent-A-Car, bought the Island from Captain Brassey, and the resort was expanded and became more and more luxurious, to attract tourists from abroad.
Trans Australian Airlines bought Dunk Island in 1976, and expanded it once more, adding the larger complex we see today, with Restaurants, bars lounges and accommodation. In 1992 Quantas and Austrian Airlines merged, and the resort continued under the Quantas name.
On Christmas Eve, 1997 P&O Australian Resorts bought Dunk, and refurbished the 21 year old complex, while upgrading the accommodations to modern standards.
In July 2004 P & O Australian Resorts was acquired by the company Voyages. At the time, the 12 hectare resort could accommodate 360 guests in its 148 rooms. They offered three different types of guest rooms, called: Beachfront Suites, Beachfront Rooms and Secluded Garden Rooms. Activities included a six hole golfcource, sailing, diving, windsurfing, parasailing, swimmingpools, volleyball, beachball, gym, fishing, birdwatching, archery and skeet shooting.
In September 2009 the company Hideaway Resorts, a part of Swiss based Pamoja Capital bought the islands Dunk and Bedarra, and announced that they were going to invest in them, and redevelop the resorts on them.
Peter Bond bought the Island with its cyclone damaged resort in 2011, for 7.500.000 AU$.
May 1st 2019 Peter Bond put the Island on the realty market for 20.000.000 AU$. (that is what Voyages paid for repairs after the 2006 cyclone).
Cyclone Larry March 20th 2006 Dunk Island was hit by the was a category 4 cyclone Larry. 280 guests and 160 staff members were evacuated, while 20 employees stayed on the island riding out the storm. It took 3 months and a reported 20.000.000 AU$ to repair the complex, after the damage from the storm.
Cyclone Yasi On the night between February 2nd and 3rd 2011, the eye of the category 5 cyclone Yasi, passed directly over Dunk Island. There were reports of 300km/h winds and 7 metre storm surges, Electrical power from the mainland and cellphone service was disrupted, and the 70 remaining employees on the Island had to rely on the diesel generators on the island. The beach front apartments were ruined, and left as empty shells. The roof had been ripped of the main complex, and the swimmingpools filled with sand. At the time it was assessed that it would take 18 months to rebuild the resort, but since then only the campground and campsite amenities have been rebuilt.
The resorts guest rooms stand untouched, with the battle scars from the last cyclone.
The Age of Consent (1968) – Starring Dame Hellen Mirren, and James Mason, that was seen as quite outrageous by the time, because it contained nudity.
Sanctum (2011) – Dunk Island was used in the final scenes, where the survivors end on Dunk Islands “Muggy Muggy Beach”.
The foundations, with the base of the rotating air warning aerial.
The path to Mount Koo-Tal-Oo Lookout, that passes a suspensionbridge and the graves of Edmond and Bertha Banfield.
How to visit
Buy the island. Dunk Island was up for sale may 1st 2019 for 20.000.000 AU$
If you don’t have that kind of cash to spare, you can take the water taxi from Mission Beach, or a scenic flight service from Cairns airport instead.