3 reasons to visit Cooktown
Located just over 300 kilometers north of Cairns, lies the small coastal village of Cooktown. The township sits at the mouth of the Endeavour River and has magnificent views across to the Coral Sea. With rich Aboriginal culture, fascinating history and stunning natural landscapes, Cooktown is a great inclusion to your trip to Tropical North Queensland.
1. Aboriginal Culture
Cooktown lies within the traditional lands of the Guugu Yimithirr people. Known as Gungardie ‘the place of the Rock Crystals’ in the local language due to the quartz crystals found abundantly in the region. The Guugu Yimithirr nation was divided into 32 family clans who cared for the region’s lands, kept cultural stories, and protected the sacred sites. One such local site is The Black Mountain known locally as Kalkajaka ‘the place of the spear’. This site is an important meeting place for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and is the source or many of their dreaming stories.
2. Early Settler History
Cooktown takes its name from Captain James Cook. Cook during his voyage of discovery suffered serious damage to HMB Endeavour on the neighbouring reef. The damage resulted in Cook’s crew being forced to beach the ship for repairs in the calm waters at the mouth of the river. The British crew spent 7 weeks at the site conducting repairs to the ship as well as replenishing stores.
The crews stay includes the first recorded act of reconciliation between Australia’s Indigenous people and the European settlers. On the 18th of July 1770 the Guugu Yimitthirr people noted the Endeavours crew had taken several turtles from the sacred breeding grounds without permission. Events escalated between the 2 parties. The Guugu Yimitthirr set the grass surrounding Cooks campsite on fire to cleanse the land. Cook himself fired his musket in retaliation and struck one of the Guugu Yimithirr people. A Guugu Yimithirr elder settled the dispute and made peace with Cook and his crew despite the language barrier.
The James Cook Museum located in Cooktown offers a fascinating glimpse into this piece of Australian history. Exhibits include the original anchor and cannon from the HMB Endeavour. The cannon and anchor were jettisoned from the ship back in 1770 when it struck the reef.
3. Natural Beauty
Cooktown sits at the apex of the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics Rainforest, and the Queensland Outback. It boasts access to many National Parks, protected sites and conservation zones.
Make sure to visit the Cooktown Botanic Gardens – the oldest regional botanic gardens in Queensland! The gardens include 62 hectares of reserve with walking tracks linking the gardens with Finch & Cherry Tree Bay and further on to Grassy Hill. The lookout from Grassy Hill is one of Cooktown’s premier attractions. The 360 degree view across ocean, rainforest and river are truly magical.
The floral emblem of Queensland is the Cooktown Orchid. The gorgeous blooms occur in mauve to brilliant magenta. Orchids naturally occur in the surrounding rainforest, hanging from branches or clinging to rocks.
Accommodation in Cooktown sells out fast, make sure you secure accommodation before travel. For those camping the Cooktown Caravan Park is a great venue! or treat yourself to a stay at the Sovereign Resort.
Find out more about our Cooktown touring options in 2022
Fly to Cooktown and meet our experienced guide for 1 day tour exploring Coooktown and the Queensland Outback. Enjoy the views from Grassy Hill Lookout and discover the regions fascinating history at the James Cook Museum. Enjoy the coach journey from Cooktown back to Cairns via the outback Mulligan Hwy with a rest stop at the famous Palmer River Roadhouse.
For those who want more free time to immerse themselves in the experience, our 3 day tour is for you. Travel north from Cairns with stops for a 1 hour Daintree River Cruise and walk on Cape Tribulation Beach. The journey continues on the 4WD Bloomfield Track to Cooktown via Wujal Wujal. Spend 2 nights in Cooktown and visit several historic attractions. Travel back to Cairns via the Outback Mulligan Highway.
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