The Family Islands consist of nine, mostly small granite islands. Bedarra and Thorpe Islands are privately owned and not included within the Family Islands National Park.
Captain James Cook named the group the Family Islands in June 1770. The largest island of the group (“The Father Isle”) was named Dunk Island after Lord Montague Dunk, the Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the British Admiralty. The second largest island (“The Mother Isle”) wasn’t named until 1886 when Lieutenant Richards surveyed the region giving the islands the names of Richards and his officers. Then acclaimed author E.J. Banfield christened the Mother Isle with the name Bedarra – referring to the Aboriginal name of Biagurra. Banfield’s novel “The Confessions of a Beachcomber” inspired the first Europeans to take up residency on Bedarra.
During World War II Dunk was part of a network of surveillance points along Australia’s east coast. The airstrip was built in 1941 and, in 1942 the No. 27 Radar Station Dunk Island was built by the Royal Australian Air Force on Mt Kootaloo, providing constant surveillance of the coast. Banfield’s original bungalow became the living quarters for the men staffing the radar station.