Cooktown is one of our most historically significant towns. In 1770, the British explorer, Captain James Cook and his ship HMS Endeavour, ran into trouble as they hit the Great Barrier Reef and caused significant damage to their vessel. Captain Cook needed to find safe water to repair his ship so he limped it into the nearest river. After a lengthy stay onshore to undertake repairs, Captain Cook sailed north to Cape York and through the Torres Strait to Batavia.
The river in which Cook and his men had been stranded in was named ‘Endeavour River’ and apparently this is the only river in Australia that Cook ever named.
A century after Cook’s landing, Cook’s Town was built and a new community grew to support the many miners and families of the Palmer River gold rush.
Cooktown is one of those beautiful historic coastal towns that you really need to visit to understand the beauty and history of the area. We’ve found that people either love or hate Cooktown, for us we love it and have visited numerous times on our travels. There is so much history, some of the old buildings are amazing and the views are simply spectacular. Cooktown also happens to be Australia’s closest town to the Great Barrier Reef.
For our visit to Cooktown this time we decided that everyone would split up and do their own thing for a few hours. We had been to Cooktown a few times previously so we just went for a walk, did a bit of shopping and grabbed some yummy local seafood to eat down on the water.
What to do:-
**James Cook Museum – Learn all about the story of Cook’s arrival from the perspective of the Guugu Yimithirr people. Displays also include the anchor and cannon from the Endeavour.
**Cooktown Cemetery – An interesting place to visit with many historical graves, the oldest identifiable grave is that of Rev Francis Tripp who died on the 20 May 1874 at the age of 46 years. Other gravesites include that of Elizabeth Jardine (wife of John Jardine – one of our earlier blogs went into detail of the Jardine family), Mary Watson and the Normanby Woman.
**Botanic Gardens – Beautiful gardens and plenty of walking trails. Free entry.
**Cooktown History Centre – This is housed in the oldest building in Charlotte Street and has everything you need to know about Cooktown’s history.
**Fishing – We are not fisherman, but apparently the surrounding rivers and estuaries are the perfect place to catch a meal!
**Grassy Hill Lookout – This is the place for amazing 360 degree views of Cooktown and surrounds.
**The Milbi Wall – This 12 meter curved wall is placed at the location where Captain James Cook and his crew first set foot on land. This wall features almost 500 hand painted and carved tiles.
**The Musical Ship – This unique interactive musical playground is fitted with many different instruments to help you make your own music. This is great fun for the young and old!
Cooktown is actually quite a large town with excellent facilities and this offered a great opportunity for people to stock up on anything they needed.
A walk along the foreshore is a must, apart from beautiful views there are plenty of monuments and other interesting things to look at.
After a few hours exploring Cooktown, our meeting place was Grassy Hill Lookout. This is one of the must visit places to take in the amazing views over the Endeavour River and Cooktown. Grassy Hill is from where Captain Cook was able to map out a course out through the reefs.
Although this is an old historic town and it seems quite remote when you are there, today your visit to Cooktown is made even easier with the fully sealed highway running all the way into town. If you are after a relaxing break with great scenery and plenty of history, this is a great place to base yourself to explore the surrounding areas.
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We are George & Shelly, a married couple from Sydney, Australia, who love 4WDing, camping and travelling this great country of ours. We love sharing our adventures and hope to inspire others to travel as well. Join us on our journeys around Australia!
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