Cooktown was founded on the place of the first European settlement, where Captain James Cook beached his ship the Endeavour. It later became the main port of the gold rushes that took place from 1873 to 1883. Cooktown’s area is rich in Aboriginal culture, with a large community of Aborigines still living there.
For the first time in its history, access to Cooktown is possible by road in all weather conditions thanks to the paving of a highway. The town is now fully serviced by communications and roads, which makes it a perfect tourist destination, with loads to offer.
You can rest and enjoy a relaxed holiday in a friendly atmosphere, trying typical restaurants and historical old fashioned pubs and taking strolls on the lovely beach of Finch Bay, surrounded by mountains and perfect location for a picnic; or you can sunbathe on the beautiful Cherry Tree Bay, where it’s possible to see wild turtles and dugongs swim through the waves.
The amazing about Cooktown is the variety of landscapes it offers: there are lonely untouched beaches, the Great Reef, wetlands, rainforests, tropical forests, mountains, and hidden waterfalls. You can go fishing, snorkelling, horse riding, climb the mysterious Black Mountain, hike on Mount Cook, birdwatch at the Keatings Lagoon, or you can rent a boat to relax off the shore or maybe a car to discover the outback... just choose your favourite activity and start exploring this surprising town and its surroundings!
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Attractions to see in Cooktown
This port used to be the busiest in Queensland especially during the Gold Rushes. Today it is a meeting and fishing spot for tourists and locals alike, and it’s packed with small bars and shops.
James Cook Historical Museum
This museum traces Cooktown’s history from its intriguing foundation. It displays loads of interesting things such as the original Endeavour’s anchor. You must visit it if you want to know all about this nice town.
The Milbi Wall
Situated in the place of the first encounter between the British and the Aboriginal people, it depicts Cooktown’s history from the latter’s perspective. You will be amazed at the painted stories of the world’s creation by the Rainbow Snake, of the coming of the European invaders and of the triumph of the Aborigines today. Make sure you don’t miss this one.
The Old Railway Building
The original railway was located in Adelaide St. and the service ran between 1885 and 1961. When it stopped this building was moved to its present location for the Cooktown Creative Arts Association to occupy and display arts and crafts.
Grassy Hill and the Lighthouse
Climbing this small hill you will probably wonder why it is called Grassy: that’s because it was covered only in grass when the Europeans arrived, due to the Aborigines’ habit of burning the vegetation to draw animals back towards the inland. The lighthouse was brought here from England in 1885 and after being dismantled (when obsolete) it became a popular attraction.
Travel Tips for Cooktown
The one and only bakery. Located on Hogg Street, near the central Charlotte St., it offers bread, cakes, pizzas and the best pies in town.
Great Barrier Reef
Cooktown is the closest port to the magnificent Reef, therefore you just can’t miss a snorkelling trip or a ride in a glass bottom boat, which allows you to enjoy the spectacular view of one of the most appealing attractions for visitors from all over the world.
Cooktown History Centre
Is the oldest building in Charlotte St., which was once a post office, hosts today this Centre which will give you all the possible information about Cooktown history.
This is a bowling club where you will have the chance to play and mingle with the locals (it’s one of their favourite places) and taste many different types of salad. You can also choose to have the complete dinner with a great view on the bowlers in action.
Jacky - Jacky Store
What used to be nothing more than a normal store in the 19th century is nowadays a nice meeting point and a lovely coffee shop which gives you the possibility of sitting and enjoying an amazing view over the river while sipping a good drink.
Scenic Rim Walking Trail
Tracks and pathways through Cooktown’s diverse habitats and their rich variety of both flora and fauna. You can start your trail at any point and walk in either direction of this route situated at a walking distance from the city centre.
Mrs Watson’s Monument
A monument to the courage of a pioneer woman who was attacked by Aboriginal men while alone in her house with her child. She died in the attempt to defend her son.
Natures Powerhouse and Botanic Gardens
Displaying both native and exotic plant species, these gardens are among the oldest in Australia. There’s also a permanent exhibition of Vera Scarth-Johnson’s illustrations depicting amazing local plants; furthermore if you follow the pathway through the Gardens you will get to Finch Bay, so why not take a stroll?
Gill’s & Gut’s
Admittedly this place is almost always crowded, but the takeaway food is worth queueing: fish and chips, mackerels, prawns and much more all served in paper parcels.
Go fishing, folks
People come from all the corners of the globe (mostly from San Francisco and Tokyo) to experience sports fishing in Cooktown: you can either take your own boat, hire one or take a fishing tour with one of the many companies that offer this service.
Fun and facts about Cooktown
Cooktown sits at the mouth of the Endeavour River, named after Captain Cook’s ship that he tethered to a tree on the banks.
That same tree is now replaced with a commemorative stone.
The Endeavour River is infested with crocodiles!
Cooktown’s main street provides plaques with the history of the town.