"Laid back Cooktown - well-worth visiting" Cooktown by sirgaw
Cooktown Travel Guide: 29 reviews and 64 photos
Note – underlined = tips written on location/attraction
For some strange reason I’ve always wanted to visit Cooktown and had read it was only accessible by a dirt road, THEN I read the road had been sealed all the way. As I’m a volunteer at Cooks’ Cottage in Melbourne so a visit to Cooktown became a must-do.
We had pre-booked a normal compact sized rental car from Cairns and I was more than pleased to be told that I’d been up-graded at no additional cost to a 4WD – until my wife saw the vehicle and needed a step ladder just to get in and out, but after 3 days she got used to all of that and even enjoyed the additional view from up in the clouds.
Cooktown is about 325 km from Cairns and the journey follows the Captain Cook Highway along the coastal belt almost to the town of Mosman and then heads inland. After Mosman, part of the road is a spectacular series of switchbacks going over the Great Dividing Range and then onto the tablelands of far northern Queensland (FNQ), before the semi arid almost deserted savanna country for most of the journey. (not that deserted as I found out – cops and a speed detector in the middle of no where!!!!)
We arrived mid afternoon and found out motel, the Cooktown Seaview Motel – with only one main street it was easy to find. Directly opposite the inlet of the Endeavour River, this was named in 1770 after Cook’s vessel of discovery. After a quick unpack, coffee and the fuzzy picture quality of the TV news (you know when you are in remote Australia by TV reception – or lack of it), we walked the short distance to the Cooktown Bowls Club and a very reasonably priced meal of gigantic country proportions.
The next day we set off firstly to the James Cook Museum where I spent a very happy few hours. I could have stayed longer and particularly with my association with Cooks’ Cottage in Melbourne. It was great to be able to chat and compare notes with my fellow volunteers separated by 2,500 kilometres.
I’m a bit of a fan of country bakeries – well we did find one and after a quick snack headed off to Grassy Hill and the great view overlooking the town, the inlet, the river and out into the Coral Sea. During WW2 Cooktown was a very important part of the defense of Australia and had a huge military presence – almost the entire civilian population (Aboriginal too) were evacuated south. Sadly many of the former residents did not return and Cooktown’s population in the early 1950’s was around 2-300 – less than the population of HMY Britannia when she berthed in 1970 and the Queen opened the great museum. Have a peek at my Queens Steps tip where I poked a bit of fun at the locals – no offence meant.
We headed to the well worth visiting Natures Powerhouse and Botanical Gardens and had a coffee that we were unable to get at the bakery. We pushed on to The Milbi Wall, Mick the Miner statue and poked around the wharf area where some of the friendly locals wanted to chat – a long chat! We dragged ourselves away and then pondered the importance of The Queens Steps, before finally getting to ‘the shrine’ Cooks Landing Place Monument and Captain James Cook Monument where I would have doffed my tricon in a salute to the life and work of James Cook. (See my home page for a photo of the tricon)
The title of this page is “Laid back Cooktown – well-worth visiting.” We found out just how laid back it is on a Sunday evening and managed to get a meal at the Cooktown Hotel better known as “The Top Pub” where after we were lured in by a German tourist, had, what I like to call, an ‘interesting meal.’ Maybe if we’d stayed longer we may have been invited for lunch – we would have been the lunch if we’d taken up the challenge of, “Wanna game maaaaaate” – LOL
Earlier I mentioned that we had lucked in getting a 4WD. We had originally planned on re-tracing our path back to Port Douglas along the sealed inland route. With the 4WD at our disposal it was a once in a life time opportunity to travel along the Bloomfield Track through the World Heritage listed Daintree area. We stopped along that spectacular track at the Lions Den Hotel, which also should be World Heritage listed in a quirky sort of way.
I have also placed to warnings on the Cooktown pages and strongly suggest you read before venturing into FNQ: CHECK ROAD CONDITIONS – FIRST and Check where you swim Please be careful when driving and near water, but enjoy the trip to a unique part of Australia so steeped in history.
Cooktown has an amazing history and as Cook and his party set up tents in the area, the town could claim to be the first European settlement site on the east coast of Australia.
About the photos:
1. Looks idyllic – the Endeavour River inlet and the boats. Such a laid back place and well worth a visit
2. The main “drag” Charlotte Street that has seen so much history since its founding in 1873
3. From where James Cook stood in 1770 on Grassy Hill and looked for a safe passage through all the reefs
- Pros:The history
- Cons:Too hot and wet in the "wet season"
- In a nutshell:Great place for a visit and get away from the rat race - careful, down south the rats are winning.
Although I took the photo of the above sign in Palm Cove on a brief stop there, the warnings are just as relevant to... more travel advice
We were driving along the deserted main street of Cooktown on a Sunday evening and looking for a feed. One of the very... more travel advice
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