Cooktown Tourist Attractions
Cooktown (pop. 1300) was the first - though very temporary - white settlement on the east coast of Australia. In 1770 Captain Cook had to beach the Endeavor here for repair after running aground on a coral reef, and the crew lived ashore in tents for seven weeks.
In 1872 gold was found on the Palmer River, and within a short time Cooktown became the port for the Palmer goldfields, with almost 100 bars, hotels and a main street 3km long. By 1900 the gold was worked out, and the town in its remote situation on the Cape York Peninsula sank almost into oblivion.Nowadays the steadily increasing tourist interest in the far north of Queensland has reached Cooktown. The town has accommodation for visitors and can be reached by boat, by air or, in dry weather, overland. Tourism is slowly but steadily becoming an important element in the town's economy. There are now organized trips to Cooktown by boat from Cairns and Port Douglas.Most of the buildings of the gold-mining period have disappeared. The James Cook Historical Museum in Helen Street, a richly decorated brick building of 1887-8, has interesting displays on Cook's life and voyages.A Chinese shrine commemorates the many Chinese who died in the goldfields. In the cemetery in Charlotte Street is the grave of Mrs Mary Watson, an early settler who recorded her tragic flight from the Aborigines on Lizard Island in her diary.The Discovery Festival held annually in June celebrates Cook's landing with a re-enactment.
From Grassy Hill there are good views of the surrounding country and the reefs. In 1988, Australia's bicentennial year, a 5000km long Bicentennial National Trail for walkers and riders from Cooktown to Healesville in Victoria was inaugurated.Cooktown is a good base for trips to Black Mountain National Park, Lakefield National Park and the Aboriginal cave paintings at Laura.
Lakefield National Park
528,000haThe very varied landscape of Lakefield National Park includes savannas and plains with open woodland which are flooded in the rainy season, wide rivers and expanses of marshland, lagoons with rich flora and fauna, particularly water birds and crocodiles, mangrove swamps and rain forest. It is the most accessible National Park on Cape York Peninsula north of Cooktown.
Address: PMB 29, Cairns Mail Centre, Cairns, QLD 4871, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: because of the heavy rain and high temperatures in summer the park should be visited only in the dry season (June to October). Access via Laura (all-terrain vehicles only), passing the former Old Laura cattle station; or from Cooktown via Battle Camp. No supplies. Proper equipment for travel in the outback is essential. In the tidal reaches of rivers beware of crocodiles. The ranger stations can give information about where bush camping and canoeing are possible.
Black Mountain National Park
780ha.This is an area of granite boulders, bare rocky peaks and hillsides covered with rain forest vegetation. The highest point is the Black Mountain (475m). The hill and the park take their name from the dark-colored lichens which cover the bare granite. The park is a rock wallaby reserve.
Address: Box 611, Cooktown, QLD 4871, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: In autumn, when the waterfalls are at their most impressive, and in winter. Access from Cooktown on the Cairns road. No tourist facilities. Warning: Beware of snakes!
Outside Black Mountain National Park there are tracks leading to the waterfalls on the Annan River and Mumgumby Creek.
Cedar Bay National Park
5650ha.The Gap Creek valley divides the park into two parts. The Bloomfield Track, a dusty road suitable only for all-terrain vehicles, runs through the valley.
Address: Cape Tribulation, PMB 10, PS 2041, Mossman, QLD 4873, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: winter. Access from Cooktown via Blomfield; the rough track goes through the park. The coastal region of the park is more easily accessible from the sea. No visitor facilities.
Endeavour River National Park
1340ha.While Cook was having the Endeavor repaired in this area, in June 1770, his companion, the botanist Joseph Banks, recorded the flora and fauna. This park, to the west of Cooktown, is named after Cook's ship and fine examples of Aboriginal rock art are found here.