Discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770, Cooktown remains Australia's most significant historical township. After Captain Cook landed in hot water- so to speak- running his ship aground on coral reefs in Cape Tribulation he sought shelter on the beaches of Cooktown. Captain Cook spent 48 days in Cooktown while repairing his ship, The HM Bark Endeavour. At The James Cook Museum in Cooktown you can take a glimpse at one of the most amazing trust museums open to the public. The museum houses a fascinating collection of Captain Cook's memorabilia, documents and records and also showcases collections pertaining back to the regions maritime, mining, indigenous and Chinese history.
One hundred years after the discovery of Cooktown by Captain Cook, the town became a gold mining community because of the rich gold deposits frequently found in the Palmer River. Cooktown was the site of Australia's largest gold rush and the small town prospered significantly before being virtually wiped out by two large cyclones and the economic depression.
Cooktown is again coming to life after its abrupt devastation boasting a pristine environment, world class game fishing, stunning coral reef, picturesque scenery and rich Aboriginal culture. Cooktown's old charm is sure to impress and you will feel as if you have stepped back in time while visiting this Frontier Town from Cairns.
The diverse range of activities and sights in Cooktown give visitors of all ages things to see and do. Visit lovely scenery and learn more about the fascinating heritage of Cooktown. Stroll through the township of Cooktown and come across historical buildings still in immaculate condition. The Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery showcases art from local Aboriginal artists and next to the art gallery is Cooktown's RSL Club which was built back in 1885 and is the former council hall. The Cooktown bowls club is where locals and visitors can enjoy a friendly game of bowls and a small market is held in this area on Saturday mornings. The Jacky Jack store which was built in 1886 is across the street and is a former general store and living quarters which played a key role in trade between New Guinea and Cooktown.
Monuments such as the old town well and the Captain Cook statue and cannon will provoke feelings of impact and awareness. Bicentennial Park which is located in the heart of Cooktown is the setting for the annual re-enactment of Captain Cooks landing. Visit the spot where Captain Cook beached the HM Bark Endeavour that is marked with a granite rock with a plaque and inscription. The Cooktown post office, which was built in 1876 was the original home of the post and telegraph office and the rebuilt Sovereign Hotel sits across the street from Cooktown's post office. There are plenty more historical sights in Cooktown and walking the streets of this pioneer town conveys triumphant tales of the past combined with optimistic prospects for the future.
Just outside of Cooktown there are plenty of lovely bays featuring powdery white sands and expansive views of the Coral Sea. Visit Finch Bay, Cherry Tree Bay and Quarantine Bay or check out some other great attractions just outside the town such as the Botanical Gardens, the cemetery and the Cooktown Golf Club.
Stunning displays of natural beauty surround Cooktown. Barrett's Lagoon is a bird lover's paradise and is an elegant freshwater lagoon spotted with lily pads and hidden amongst dense tropical rainforest; here you can see Australia's only member of the stork family, the Jabiru bird. The Hopevale Aboriginal community just north of Cooktown is decorated with unique sand dune landscapes and is rich with Aboriginal rock art and culture. Black Mountain National Park is west of Cooktown and is an eerie sight to behold. These mysterious rocks which appear black in color have a tendency to spontaneously combust when rain water hits the warmed up surface; there are many unconfirmed reportings of people, cattle and horses going missing while exploring these mystifying mountains.
From Cairns four wheel driving enthusiasts can venture up to Cooktown on the Bloomfield track and CREBB Track, tackling famous Australian terrain while enjoying stunning ancient rainforest and ocean views all around. If youare driving from Cairns and are going to tackly the Bloomfield track the best time to do this is in the Dry Season and ensure you are fully prepared with enough emergency supplies to last a few days in case of an accident.
The Great Barrier Reef lays right off the coast of Cooktown Australia and the unspoilt waters receive far less marine traffic than other destinations, leaving the reef untouched and pristine with abundant coral life and marine species. From Cooktown you can enjoy day snorkelling or scuba diving trips, or overnight dive trips. Lizard Island, a popular luxury holiday island that is famous for its stunning reef and beaches is only 93 km. off the coast of Cooktown. A popular five star resort for movie stars and celebrities alike
See here for more information on Lizard Island
The waters off the coast of Cooktown are a fisherman's paradise. Catch fish such as Coral Trout, Red Emperor, Large and Small Mouth Nannygai and Trevally which are some of the best eating fish in the world! The legendary elusive Black Marlin calls the ribbon reef off Cooktown's coast home and the fishing tour operators in Cooktown can accommodate for various fishing trips and a range of group numbers. You don't need to venture on a boat for some great fishing either, from Cooktown's wharf you are able to catch Spanish Mackerel, Mangrove Jack and Barramundi simply by throwing a line into the sea. Fishing in the rivers and estuaries of Cooktown is also popular.
For Marlin fishing charters click here
Food and Entertainment
For such a remote and isolated destination Cooktown has quite the range of restaurants. Pick up some fresh breads and light snacks at the Cooktown Bakery or some premium cuts at Cooktown Quality Meats. Chop Suey Louie's brings some of Cooktown's historical Chinese influence to travellers and Bliss Pizza and Takeaway creates scrumptious pizzas and burgers sure to satisfy any craving. Cooktown Café in the heart of Cooktown has quick and simple meals for people on the go. The Lion's Den Hotel is Cooktown's most famous and historical place to grab a beer or a bite to eat and it was established in 1875 and finally for some freshly caught seafood and waterfront dining visit The Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant.
Cooktown has a tropical climate and the months of April to December are generally the driest months with temperatures averaging about 27 degrees. The Green Season is between January and March and is marked with heavy rainfall during the evening and high humidity; roads are often subjected to flooding during the green season.
When visiting Cairns make sure you have at least two days to come and visit Cooktown and get to know some of Australia's heritage.
The Seaview Motel is the only waterfront property in Cooktown and has motel units and luxury townhouses available. The Milkwood Lodge is a luxury rainforest retreat just outside of Cooktown and has luxurious pole cabins nestled amongst the rainforest.
Mungumby Lodge located approximately 25minutes from Cooktown is a unique wilderness retreat offering 10 timber bungalows and FREE Continental breakfast daily.
The Sovereign Resort Hotel in Cooktown is a four star property that offers air-conditioned resort rooms and two bedroom rooms. This historical hotel was initially built in 1874 before having to be revamped more recently after bearing the brunt of a large cyclone in the early 1900's.
Pam's Place features a variety of accommodation from self contained units to dormitory style rooms.
Finally for something a bit different why not stay at Hazelmere Farm Stay and B&B where you can freely enjoy 900 acres of cattle country while being pampered with full room and board.
By Car - The inland road is now completely sealed and is a great introduction to the famous Australian outback. From Cairns drive up the Kuranda Range and past Kuranda to Mareeba, at Mareeba follow the Mulligan Highway North from Cairns the length of the drive is 331km and around four hours driving time from Cairns.
The Coastal Road takes you through the World Heritage Listed Rainforest and past Cape Tribulation. After Cape Tribulation the road is unsealed and a 4WD vehicle is needed. This route is 250 km and driving time is based on the tracks condition at the time. Please note these roads are subject to closure during wet periods.
By Air- Hinterland Aviation flies from Cairns to Cooktown two times daily, 5 days a week.
By Bus- Country Road Coachlines travels to Cooktown on both the inland and coastal road.
Guided Trips - Adventure North provides small group day and overnight tours of Cooktown and surrounding areas.
Cooktown Tour | 1 Day Fly/Drive Tour | Cooktown | SCO
- Departs From: Cairns
12 to 14 hours (approx)
Join a small group of other adventurers on this awesome full day 4WD (four wheel driving) tour of Far North Queensland, travelling through the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest on the Bloomfield track to the historic town of Cooktown. Enjoy a delicious lunch and true North Queensland hospitality at one of Australia’s oldest bush pubs. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as Cassowaries and Wallabies in the beautiful landscape along the way. You’re sure to have an amazing time learning about Queensland’s history as you follow the same path as pioneers before you.
Cape Tribulation & Cooktown 3 Day 2 Night | CCWD
- Departs From: Cairns, Northern Beaches, Port Douglas
3 Day 2 Night
Spend 3 days and 2 nights exploring the rugged Far North Queensland landscape on this awesome four wheel drive adventure tour through the bush. Travelling in a comfortable air-conditioned 4WD vehicle that can carry up to 16 people, you will see the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, drive along one of Australia’s most stunning coastal roads and splash through a creek crossing on the Bloomfield Track. Enjoy lunch at the famous Lion’s Den Pub before your overnight stay at Cape Tribulation. See the mysterious Black Mountain and stay overnight at Cooktown on your second night before returning south to Cairns or Port Douglas.
Cooktown, Daintree & Atherton Tablelands 4WD Tour | 3 Day / 2 Night | DTA CK1/CKS
- Departs From: Cairns City & Northern Beaches and/or Port Douglas
Explore the very best of Far North Queensland over 3 days of adventure on this awesome 4WD adventure experience! From the lush rolling green hills of the Atherton Tablelands, to the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, to the rugged yet serene landscape of Cooktown, you’ll see it all from the comfort of a luxury 4WD vehicle. Learn about nature, history and Indigenous culture along the way from your experienced and knowledgable naturalist guide, plus get the chance to spot some of Australia’s famous wildlife such as kangaroos and the beautiful yellow crested cockatoo. This tour departs with a minimum of 4 passengers every Monday and Thursday.
15 Day Cape York Camping Drive Safari | NW
- Departs From: Cairns & Northern Beaches
Take the journey of a lifetime with a local tour company with over 20 years experience on this epic 15 day adventure into the rugged landscape of Far North Queensland. Camp out under the stars, see Aboriginal rock art, explore the Palmer River goldfields, learn interesting Cape York history and find out why ‘The Tip’ holds such a special place in the hearts and minds of Australia’s 4WD adventuring community. All camping equipment and most main meals are included. Click ‘See Details’ for more information and a full tour itinerary.
Mungumby Lodge Cooktown
Located 25 minutes from Cooktown, Mungumby Lodge offers a unique wilderness retreat with individual timber bungalows with FREE Continental Breakfast daily. Enjoy the wildlife, explore the region or relax in the Lodge overlooking the swimming pool and tropical surrounds. See our Packages for SELF DRIVE packages.
Sovereign Resort Hotel Cooktown
Located in the heart of Cooktown the Sovereign Resort Hotel offers Resort Rooms and Two Bedroom Apartment style accommodation. Enjoy the choice of two dining options and large tropical swimming pool whilst exploring the Cooktown region.
Seaview Motel Cooktown
Seaview Motel offers motel and two bedroom townhouses in Cooktown Village - close to all amenities and featuring stunning views.
Milkwood Lodge Cooktown
Enjoy your own private pole cabin complete with kitchenette and large balcony, with tranquil rainforest all around. Milkwood is only 2 minutes from Cooktown and provides the perfect base from which to explore this historic town and the surrounding rugged landscape.