The Ultimate Tour Guide for Your Montague Island Adventures

Montague Island, just about 9 km from Narooma, is the best-kept secret on the South Coast. The island has won countless awards and has featured on many travel shows for everything there is to do. The island is only 1.4 km long and 525m wide and was first discovered by James Cook in the year 1770. He first named the island Cape Dromedary, thinking it was connected to a mainland. The island was then named Montague in 1790 after George Montagu Dunk, who was the Earl of Halifax. The protected nature reserve has a rich colonial history and incredible wildlife heritage making it a must-visit.

Montague Island is a great year-round attractive destination with every season offering something unique. No matter what time of the year you arrive at the island, you are bound to spot plenty of wildlife while learning more about the historical and cultural heritage of the island. Montague Island is quite popular among tourists from Sydney, Canberra, and from all over Australia who flock to the island for the different activities there are year-round. 

Montague Island: A Rich History

king penguin in montague island

Montague Island is a nature reserve that offers you the chance to experience wildlife and the aquatic at its finest. This continental island is confined within the Montague Island Nature Reserve offshore of New South Wales in Eastern Australia. In this blog post, we will explore the rich history of Montague Island.

Indigenous History

Montague Island’s indigenous history can be traced back to the local aboriginal people who dwelled on the island. The island was originally called “Barunguba” which means “oldest son of Guluga”.

The island is also called Mount Dromedary, the brother of Najunuka found at the base of Gulaga. There are oral and archeological records that support the connection between the ancient names and the aboriginal people.

You can find aboriginal landmarks and artifacts across the island, excluding the east coast. The sites were prevalent for aboriginal ceremonies as well as food sources.

After the event of the ice age, the island became only accessible by bark canoe. The distance from the mainland to the island is 8-9 km. The journey in particular became dangerous due to the unpredictable sea conditions in the area. As for the record, a trip from the mainland to the island caused the death of 150 men in the 1880s.


The lighthouse is historically significant for its tower, keepers’ quarters, and other buildings. Located on the southern side of the island, it represents more than 125 years of light-keeping.

The lighthouse conception was born in 1873. At its inception, it struggled for relevance due to underfunding for several years. However, on the 1st of November, 1881, construction officially began on site.

To this day, the lighthouse retains most of its original form making it a quite fascinating historical landmark. The only changes implemented have been technological, an improved standard of living, and better working conditions.

The architectural blueprint of the lighthouse quarters follows a typical Georgian style. It was laid out by the well-known colonial architect James Barnet. The resources used in building the quarters were inspired by the environment, while the methods Barney used were denoting the culture.

There is a small cemetery on the grounds where an assistant keeper and two young children passed away between 1888 and 1894.

Many of the earlier families had a difficult lifestyle due to the island’s remote location. However, these families were able to adapt to the living conditions over 100 years.

European Settlers

The island was renamed by James Cook on a sea voyage over 200 years ago. On 21st April 1770, James Cook wrongly identified Barunguba as “Cape Dromedary”. He had assumed it was a part of the mainland where he had previously given Gulaga the name “Mt Dromedary”.

However, “Montagu” became the official name of the island after the Earl of Halifax George Montagu Dunk in 1970. However, it is unknown why the island is called “Montagu”, as well as who named it.  A few years later, the name was officially confirmed by Bass and Finders.

Sea travel was the shortest method of travel to the island. Consequently, several human settlements began to appear scattered about the mainland’s coast. The need for navigational beacons arose as a result of the many ships making voyages to the mainland.

What to do on Montague Island

Of all the things to do here is Montague Island, here are some of those that you should not miss –

Snorkeling with Seals

Montague Island is home to thousands of fur seals and can be seen basking in the sun and enjoying the clear waters of the protected bays. The majority of the seals are New Zealand fur seals, Australian fur seals, subantarctic fur seals, and Australian sea lions. One of the best ways to observe them is by swimming in the crystal-clear water alongside them on a snorkeling tour due to the site’s remoteness. You’ll be able to appreciate these beautiful animals darting, playing, and swimming around you at high speeds. If you are lucky, you might encounter some other amazing marine life such as sea turtles, dolphins, sunfish, sea eagles, shearwaters, and more. 

Whale Watching Tours

Southern right whales and humpback pass the island twice a year during their annual migration – the first time in June and July when they are moving north and then again in September and October when they return south along with calves. Come aboard a whale-watching cruise to view the gentle giants as they feed and breech within meters from your vessel. Book a whale-watching tour that will take you to the best vantage point to get a glimpse of these fabulous creatures. The tour is perfect for people of all ages and caters to special interests and educational groups. 

Reserve a Fishing Charter

Montague Island is close to a number of reefs, and there are a number of fish species, including Snapper, Bonito, Chasing King Fish, Snapper, gummy sharks flathead, and other species. Hop on to a fishing charter and catch live bait at the first light. Whether you are looking for a private, shared, or group charter, you are sure to have a great time. You’ll be provided with everything you need, such as tackle, fishing bait, and refreshments so that you can have a hassle-free fishing experience. If you have never had a mean fresh from the ocean, it is your chance to have a fascinating trip.

Book a Guided Island Tour of the Island

Go on an outstanding tour of the island with knowledgeable guides. The island is enriched in indigenous culture Buranguba and is a sacred place for them. Its maritime history, European settlement, and superior craftsmanship are visible as you walk around on the island. As you climb the steep paved track, you will be surprised by the lighthouse against the island backdrop. You can choose from morning,afternoon, and evening departures and can easily combine this tour with other tours for the ultimate experience. 

Overnight Stay at the Lighthouse

While most tourists opt for half-day tours ranging from three to four to Montague Island, you can also spend a night at the famous 125 years old lighthouse located on the southern end of the island. It is the only manned island station on the NSW coast and only one of the few that is open to the public. With two different options available, you can enjoy stunning views of the ocean right from the window. The rooms are equipped with modern facilities and are a great way to have the entire island to yourself once the sunsets. 

There are plenty of experiences you can enjoy at Montague Island. Whether it is an adventurous outing, enjoying the magnificent ocean vistas, or spending time discovering a variety of wildlife, the island will not let you down. Choose what you enjoy the most, and you are sure to create beautiful memories for a lifetime. However, with so many different tour operators out there, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.


Montague Island started as a hill than a headland and now a Island!


The original spelling of Montague Island was Montagu! The spelling changed to Montague on the 2nd June 1972. There is no explanation in why the spelling of the name changed. Montague Island was named after the second Earl of Halifax George Montagu Dunk,

In the last Ice Age, about 17000 to 20000 years ago, six kilometres inland, Montague Island was a hill. Montague Island become a headland when the climate warned and the ice melted. The sea level rise 10000  years ago to within 30 metres of what it is today and Montague Island.

With the sea still rising this created two large Islands – Montague Island and another Island to the south. 6000 Years ago the coastline was as it is today.

Once it became an Island Aboriginal people made seasonal visit to Montague Island by Canoe. There is two freshwater springs on the Island and access to many food sources, birds, bird eggs, fish, penguins and possible seals.

Montague Island history

Montague Island