Cornwallis Island is relatively small and is situated between Bathurst and Devon islands. With an area of 10,000 km2, it lacks any large peaks or ice caps; instead, it is a low-lying island with a few bluffs and hills. The western side of the island is made up of small, rounded hills; the eastern coast is flat, but slopes gradually higher toward the centre of the island. The highest point on Cornwallis Island lies just to the southeast of its centre, so it has a slightly domed shape. Glacial deposits cover much of Cornwallis Island, although sedimentary bedrock is exposed in some areas. Streams and rivers drain the higher land in the southeast; those towards the east run in narrow, deeply carved valleys; and waterways in the west run through wider valleys that become particularly broad towards the coast. East and south of Disappointment Bay to Helen Haven, the coastal areas are flat, but there are bold bluffs that drop as much as 250 m to the sea. The rest of the coast is lower and much more irregular, with low rounded hills separated by low terrain.
Resolute Bay (Qausuittuq), on the south central coast, is the second most-northerly community in Canada. It was established in 1947 as a weather station and airstrip for aircraft carrying supplies farther north. In 1953, four Inuit families were relocated to Resolute Bay from Québec; five more joined them two years later. Today, the settlement of Resolute has a population of 215.