Cooktown is located 242km north of Cairns and is the eastern gateway to exploring the Cape York Peninsula. The historical port town from the early gold rush era was named after Captain James Cook and is rich in history and blessed with scenery.
The town’s name is of great significance. In 1770 the great explorer beached and moored his ship here in need of urgent repairs. A fabulous account of Captain Cook and Cooktown’s history is catalogued at the world class James Cook Museum on Furneaux St in town. An entry fee of $10 per adult applies.
in the town centre focuses on the town’s history with a bronze Captain Cook monument commemorating the great man and a granite boulder marking the site he beached his barque H.M.S Endeavour on 18th June 1770. Also in the foreshore park stands a cannon, previously requested from the Qld government to protect the town from potential Russian invasion. It is fired each June on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend when the Captain Cook landing re-enactment takes place. The Cooktown foreshore with its historic monuments, manicured grass and towering palm trees is just beautiful.
The Cooktown Art Society located on the main street in the town centre displays a selection of local artists’ pieces, including some fantastic landscapes and aboriginal artwork. A gold donation is requested for entry to the gallery.
The Wharf lies at the northern end of town and commercial fishermen unload their catches here, Coral Trout being a popular offshore catch. The wharf is a popular congregation area for anyone interested in fishing. A jetty is located at the wharf for keen anglers wanting a flick or alternatively there is a rock groyne at the end of Charlotte St which is another popular land-based fishing area in town. Common catches include Barramundi, Queenies and Spanish Mackerel.
On the scenic side, Grassy Hill Lookout is a good place to start. A steep windy drive up Green Street to the hilltop offers some remarkable views of Cooktown, the Endeavour River and Coral Sea. The lookout is only a short walk from the car park and note that it can be very windy up there.
Nature’s Powerhouse and Botanic Gardens provide beautiful garden scenery and access to the coast. The heritage-listed gardens on Walker St feature plenty of shady palm trees, cactus garden and colourful flowers. The accredited Visitor Centre is open 7 days from 9am-5pm and offers local information, wildlife exhibition, art gallery, café, book shop and gift shop.
A bushwalk leaves from the back of the gardens to Finch Bay. The easy 1km walking trail reaches this beautiful serene beach bordered by mountains. Please note this is Saltwater Crocodile country and swimming is not advisable in any of these waters.
Access to more scenic bays and the Annan River mouth is via Quarantine Bay Rd south of town. About 2km down the road turn off towards Golf Links and then right onto the four-wheel drive track which leads to Walker Bay and the Annan River mouth is 3km in. This area is just gorgeous and a great fishing spot on the river mouth too.
Quarantine Bay is a further 3km along Quarantine Bay Rd (5km in from the highway). This pebbly beach is another fishing haunt, particularly rock fishing off the granite boulders north of Monkhouse Point. Barramundi and Mangrove Jacks are the catch of the day here.
Bird watching enthusiasts will appreciate a 500m stroll through the forest to the paperbark wetland and birdhide at Keatings Lagoon Conservation Park. Located south of town via Hutchinson St this picturesque lagoon attracts a variety of birdlife in the dry season as the lagoon shrinks and the birds come to feed. At the right time of year it is a bird watcher’s paradise.
Cooktown is just a taste of what the Cape York Peninsula has to offer. This charming historical town with its crystal clear waters and million dollar views is only the beginning of Cape York’s tropical wilderness.
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Destinations in Queensland
Daintree National Park
Tin Can Bay
Undara Volcanic National Park
Return from Cooktown to Queensland