The largest community/town on the island is Milikapiti.
At 2,234 mi² (5,786 km²) it is just outside the 100 largest islands in the world, but is the second biggest island in Australia, after Tasmania (and excluding the continental landmass). It is also known in the Tiwi language as Yermalner.
It is said that the first European to sight the island was Abel Tasman in 1644, although this is now disputed. Melville Island's most likely first European discovery was probably made by the Portuguese, as Aboriginals encountered by the explorer Phillip Parker King (son of governor of New South Wales Philip Gidley King) in 1818, were found to know some Portuguese words.
King named it for Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville, first lord of the Admiralty, who is also commemorated by the much larger Melville Island in the Canadian arctic. Shortly after this, the British made the first attempt to settle Australia's north coast, at the short-lived Fort Dundas.
The climate is tropical.