Top 11 Things to do at Cooktown

Discover Cooktown in Far North Queensland

There’s no shortage of things to do at Cooktown where in 1770 James Cook landed after his ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

The old adage “Seen one rainforest, seen ém all” certainly doesn’t apply.

Exploring Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula was just a blip on my travel radar until last December.

I’d already seen plenty of rainforests so with many other exciting places beckoning, I figured if an opportunity arose to go to North Queensland I’d go but otherwise I wouldn’t make the effort.

An opportunity did arise, in fact, after relatives moved to Cooktown in late 2014.

An airline company was offering cheap flights from Brisbane to Cairns so that blip on my travel radar suddenly started beaming “visit me”.

I planned to make the trip before the 2016 wet season (January to March) but I’ve since learnt the monsoon rains in summer renew wildlife in spectacular fashion.

Waterfalls are also in full flow so awesome photographic opportunities would have been greater than the month I chose, September 2015.

While Cooktown is accessible in a standard vehicle all year round, time was limited for my north Queensland jaunt so I took a 45-minute flight from Cairns with Hinterland Aviation.

Cooktown is steeped in history dating from ancient Indigenous times, Captain James Cook’s landing on the bank of the Endeavour River in 1770, and the Palmer River Gold Rush of the late 1800s.

The town is located 28 kilometres north of Cairns.

Top 11 things to do at Cooktown in pictures

Things to do at Cooktown - trees

1. Visit the botanic gardens.

Things to do at Cooktown - crocodile

2. Go crocodile spotting. The best time is during the dry season (July to December) on a low tide when they come out of the water to sun themselves on the river banks. Beware of venturing near the water on beaches and riverbanks where crocs view humans as prey.

Things to do in Cooktown - man at a waterfall

3. Visit the Trevathan Falls just south of Cooktown off the Mulligan Highway.

 

Things to do in Cooktown - river scene

4. Enjoy spectacular views of Cooktown, the Endeavour River and the Great Barrier Reef from the Grassy Hill Lookout and Lighthouse.

 

Things to do in Cooktown - Cherry Tree Bay

5. Hike from the Grassy Hill Road to Cheery Tree Bay, Cooktown’s most secluded beach and fringed by rainforest and large rock formations.

Things to do at Cooktown - visit Black Mountain

6. Visit the mysterious Black Mountains 25km south of Cooktown on the Mulligan Highway. The mountains of grey granite boulders are culturally significant for the Kuku Yalanji people and tales abound of people, horses and cattle disappearing, never to be seen again.

 

Things to do at Cooktown - visit the Lions Den Hotel

7. Have a beer in the Lion’s Den Hotel, built in 1875 on the banks of the Little Annan River. Surrounded by mango trees rainforests, the historic hotel built of timber and iron is famous for its quirky interior.

 

 

Things to do at Cooktown - river scene

8. Take a sunset cruise along the Endeavour River.

Things to do at Cooktown - museum

9. Visit the James Cook Museum, located in the restored Sisters of Mercy convent school building, where artefacts from Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour and diary extracts are housed. The museum also holds Indigenous Australian and Chinese displays.

Things to do at Cooktown - art gallery

10. See Indigenous Australian art, pottery and jewellery at the Wujal Wujal professional gallery near the Bloomfield River.

Things to do at Cooktown - fountain

11. Take a walking tour of the town to see the water fountain, Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery, history centres, Milbi (story) Wall, a statue of Mick the Miner and the interactive Musical Ship. James Cook tributes include a statue, cannon and monument marking the spot where Cook beached his Endeavour in 1770. Markets are on Saturday mornings near the bowls club.

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