Captain James Cook logged thousands of observations on his voyages to the Great South Land, but he reserved the distinction of Australia’s first 'white settlement' for the far north Queensland town that still bears his name.
Explorer and botanist Joseph Banks spent almost seven weeks ashore where Cooktown now stands in the winter of 1770 while the crew carried out repairs to the beached Endeavour.
Gold was discovered in the Palmer River during the 1870s to become a 'gold rush port' with a transient population of over 18000 people. Today the town's economy rests on the back of the fishing, prawning and agricultural industries.
It is a charming, relaxed frontier town brimming with Cook memorabilia. The most precious items, including a cannon and the original anchor from the Endeavour, are kept in the James Cook Historical Museum which is housed in a converted convent. But, Cooktown, which is rich in pioneer architecture, has much more to offer and amply rewards the traveller for the 240km haul from Cairns.
A comfortable drive to the west takes you to the small town of Laura, which hosts an annual festival of Aboriginal song and dance and which is the rallying point for visits to the world famous Quinkan Aboriginal rock art sites.
- Endeavour Festival (June)
Things to do
Cooktown Wharf - historic wharf with good fishing
Historic Cemetery - with graves of early settlers and Chinese shrines
James Cook Historical Museum - maritime history, shell collection,
Botanic Gardens - and interpretive centre
Visitor Information Centre - 101 Charlotte St, Cooktown
In the area
Tours - snorkelling, diving, fishing and river cruises all available here.
Aboriginal Culture - rock art sites at Split Rock and Gu Gu Yalangi rock art site and ceremonial dance festivals at Laura
Wild life - Lakefield National Park has a lagoon and swamp habitat for crocodiles and variety of wildlife
Islands - access point to Lizard Island