Cooktown is the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia. It is a small, isolated community of just 2,000 people, situated in Cook Shire, the largest shire in Queensland - the size of North Korea. As such, Cooktown is one of those places where getting there is an adventure in itself. A visit to Cooktown is a truly unique Australian experience, and if you're a keen fisherman, this is the place to head!


Magnificent view of Cooktown from Grassy Hill, in Tropical North Queensland. Cooktown was the site where Captain James Cook's ship, the Endeavour, came to shore in 1770, and the town has had something of a colourful history ever since. Predictably, conflicts arose between the indigenous Aborigines and the European settlers. The Aborigines were unfamiliar with the Europeans weapons, and in the resulting STRUGGLES, whole tribes of Aborigines were wiped out across the Cape York Peninsula. Today, you can find in Cooktown a memorial to those tragic times, a 12 metre long 'story wall' caled the Milbi Wall, which marks the place of the first encounter between the British seafarers and the local Aborigines, and tells the story of Cooktown and the Endeavour River from the perspective of the Aboriginal people.

Cooktown was the first true white settlement on Australian soil, and it was here that our national symbol, the KANGAROO - among other native flora and fauna - was first documented. Every June the town celebrates the Discovery Festival, a festivity to comemorate Cooktown's status as Australia's first, if brief, European settlement.

In 1872, gold was discovered in the Palmer River to the south of the town, and prospectors came from the world over, swelling the population to an estimated 7,000. At the height of the gold rush, Cooktown had 47 licenced pubs, not counting the numerous illegal 'grog shops'. Over a 17 year period, the region produced an incredible half a million ounces of gold... that's 15 tonnes!

But as the gold reserves dwindled, Cooktown declined along with them. The town enjoyed a brief recovery when tin was discovered, but in 1907, the town was practically annihilated by a cyclone. World War II provided a platform for recovery for Cooktown: because of its strategic location, Cooktown played an important role in the Battle of the Coral Sea, defending Australia from the Japanese expansion. During the war, most of the civilian population of the town were evacuated to points further south, as Cooktown became the base for 20,000 Australian and American troops.

Not until as recently as the 1980's, with the North Queensland tourist boom, has Cooktown regained any real level of prosperity. Modern day Cooktown still has the air of a true frontier town, serving as a trade centre for the surrounding regions with industries that include mining, mineral exploration, cattle grazing, and fishing. The Annan and Endeavour rivers provide accessible river fishing; charter boats are available for reef fishing, and large Spanish Mackerel, Barramundi, Queenfish, Trevally and Mangrove Jack can be caught just by throwing a line in from the public wharf. Although a popular tourist destination, Cooktown has somehow retained its typical Australian smalltown charm.

NOTE: Estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles inhabit this region, and Lakefield National Park is a crocodile conservation area. It should not be considered safe to swim, canoe or raft in the lakes or lagoons of Lakefield National Park, despite what some guide books may suggest. For more information about crocodile safety in Tropical North Queensland, please visit our SAFE TRAVEL page.

The Great Barrier Reef is just five nautical miles offshore, and nearby Lakefield National Park is the most accessible National Park in Cape York. Cooktown is also the northern end of the Bicentennial Heritage Trail, the longest trail of its type in the world. The southern end of the trail is at Healesville, just north-east of Melbourne, Victoria, 5,330 kilometres away.


Phone (07) 4032 0077
Fax (07) 4032 0055

We carry travellers..... not tourists!!

Billy Tea Safaris is an Advanced Eco Accredited Operator specialising in small tours *maximum SIXTEEN passengers* per custom built high clearance 4WD vehicle with extra-large viewing windows.

Family owned business for 36 years which runs 4WD personalised day tours to the World Heritage Rainforest of Cape Tribulation, Daintree and part of the Bloomfield 4WD Track.

Enjoy a one hour Daintree River Cruise, guided Board Walk, BBQ lunch, hand feed wallabies, a refreshing freshwater swim, tropical fruits and Billy Tea and Damper, ancient forest and flora and fauna. Visit Cape Tribulation Beach.

Billy Tea Safaris also operates an Outback tour to the town of Chillagoe, this historical tour will step back in time to explore the 400 million years old Chillagoe Caves on a 1.5 hour tour with your National Park Ranger. Including a cruise at Mareeba Wetlands, Aussie Pub Lunch, agriculture land, historic mining towns, and viewing of Aboriginal rock art, flora and fauna.
Hangar 83, Royal Flying Doctor Street, Aeroglen, Cairns
Phone 1300 475 000

Get a taste of the Great Barrier Reef, from Cairns!

See it all! GSL Aviation offers one of the best value Reef experiences in Queensland with a range of scenic flights, tours and air charter over the beautiful Great Barrier Reef and North QLD coastline from Cairns International Airport.

Our signature 40 minute Reef Hopper flight is a great way to get an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef and is the must do tour in Cairns!

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and the amazing contrast of colours is something that's best experienced from the air. After becoming airborne you'll fly to Green Island, and overhead the Great Barrier Reef. After exploring the Reef you'll head back toward the mainland, with views of the North Queensland coastline.

Ask us about our 'Fly and Cruise' package too and enjoy the Reef from above and below the water! Sights include Cairns, Green Island, Arlington Reef, Upolu Reef, Batt Reef, Tongue Reef, Port Douglas, and Palm Cove.
Phone 1300 32 10 19

Premium personalised tours in small group comfort!

Discovery Tours Australia is a family owned and operated touring company with over 30 years of touring experience here in beautiful Far Northern Queensland and beyond.

EScape the crowds and immersing yourself in the beauty and vastness of what Australia truly has to offer, with scheduled and private tours for families, groups of friends, individuals and businesses who want to experience Far Northern Queensland or the Northern Territory.

Discovery Tours Australia specialise in small group tours leaving no rocks unturned in this expansive country with exclusive permits to breathtaking locations! We can personalise any charter and offer private tours! Anything from 1/2, Full or Multi Day touring options.

Driver guides are passionate and the best in the business, with an excellent safety record and a proven history with countless happy customers. We supply an experienced Guide to ensure your trip goes smoothly, utilising their bush skills and imparting their wealth of knowledge. As well as being fun and informative, these tours will introduce you to the wonders of indigenous culture, fauna, flora, botany, geology and history of our totally amazing continent.


Phone (07) 4069 6289 / Mobile 0418 643 272
Cooktown Catch a Crab has specialised eco-tours of the Endeavour River and the Great Barrier Reef. Tours are individualised to suit your needs to ensure that this trip is an adventure not to be forgotten.

Phone (07) 4069 5396
Reef Fishing and Hire Boats

PO Box 315, Cooktown
Phone (07) 4069 5980
Gone Fishing offers guided fishing on rivers, reefs estuaries, headlands and islands around Cooktown, everything from half-day charters to exclusive tailor-made packages.

Keatings Lagoon, Cooktown
Phone (07) 4069 6073
Join Hidden Valley Trail Rides and ride amongst the gum trees and all the other types of fauna and flora growing in the tropical outback of Cooktown's river's flood plains.

McIvor Road, Hope Vale
(via Cooktown)
Phone (07) 4060 9389
Listen to your hosts Gerry and Irene as they step back in time and enrich your lives with their knowledge. Stroll through their exotic fruit garden and see what a Carrot Tree looks like.

142 Charlotte St, Cooktown
Phone (07) 4069 5396
The one stop shop for all your fishing and boating needs.


Helen Street, Phone (07) 4069 5386, Open daily from 9:30am to 4:00pm.
The James Cook Museum is located in the former convent of Saint Mary, built during the gold rush times. It is regarded as one of the best regional museums outside any capital city in Australia. It was also the first high school in North Queenland. Nowadays the anchor and cannon of the HMS Bark Endeavour are on public display, including some extracts from Cook's journal. The Museum also presents an insight into the Aboriginal history of the area, the mining times and their Chinese legacy. From the top of the building you can have the best views of the town and river.


One of the monuments of Captain Cook located in Cooktown, in Far North Queensland. Being the town called Cooktown, there couldn't be but some monuments dedicated to CAPTAIN COOK, six in total. The James Cook Statue was donated to the people of Cooktown by BT and it is located north of Bicentennial Park. We challenge you to find the other five!

On Grassy Hill, the name was given by Cook because it was covered only in grass as the aborigines used to burn the forest to encourage the regrowth of the vegetation and it would also attract animals, there are also a few monuments, some of them dedicated to Cook. The Lighthouse, built in England and shipped to Cooktown in 1885, became automated in 1927 and during 1942-45 it was complemented by a radar station. From the Lighthouse, views of the area at sunset are breathtaking as well as those of Cooktown itself and the Endeavour River. You can either get there by car or on foot, but the walk is long and steep, so do not forget to bring water with you.

The Grassy Hill Sun-Dial is in fact a 'Global Positioning Monument', displaying the distances to different cities all over the globe and which direction the lay in. The Mrs. Watson's Memorial, erected to commemorate the death of MARY BEATRICE WATSON, was once used as a fountain so people from Cooktown wouldn't die of thirst.

And finally, Captain Cook's Grassy Hill Monument conmemorates the landing of Captain Cook in 1770 and his trips to Grassy Hill. In one of the sides of the peak there is a large board with details of both his trips and journals. Next to the monument lies a Cannon, brought to Cooktown requested by the town council in order to prevent an unlikely attack by the Russians. The gun is still fired during the 'Endeavour Festival', celebrated annually on the Queen's Birthday weekend. In the mangrove behind Cook's monument, you can see the remains of one of the barges used in the construction of the Anna Bridge in 1889.

The Cooktown Cemetery, located along McIvor Road, at the western end of the town, is a good testimony of the diversity of the town and stands out for being probably the best presented graveyard in Australia. Catholics, Aboriginies, Chinese, Protestants, Jewish, French, Scots, they were all buried in the same graveyard. Unknown citizens as well as those who are still remembered, such as Mrs. Watson and her son, they all have a place here. Another popular tomb is that of the mysterious NORMANBY WOMAN.

The Chinese Shrine was erected in 1887, more as a place where funerary rites were conducted than as a tribute to the Chinese buried in the cemetery. At one time there were more than 3,000 Chinese living in a separate Chinatown in Cooktown. However, there is only one Chinese gravestone in the cemetery.

The colourful and interpretive Milbi Wall, in Cooktown, Tropical North Queensland.MILBI WALL
And last, but not least, is the Milbi Wall, an impressive collage designed and constructed by local Aboriginal people to acknowledge the significance of their first encounter with Europeans. Located on the left of the first turn off the wharf, the 12 metre long wall is a very interesting display of local art. It is divided in three sections: the first one explains the Creation Stories, including how the Endeavour River and Cooktown were created; the second section traces the history of the Aborigines, from the early settlement times until the World War II - as well as during the gold-rush days - and commemorates the first historic meeting between Captain Cook and his crew and them; and the third part refers to the unprecedented decision, in 1967, to recognise the right of Aboriginal people to be equal to all the other Australians.


The Botanic Gardens, located on Finch Bay Road, were first established in 1878 as 'Queens Park'. It includes 62 hectares of land, with more than 300 different species of native and exotic plants. Many of these plants have been used by the local Aborigines, the Guugu Yimithirr, as a source of food as well as for medical purposes.

The gardens were developed on a site favoured by the Chinese charcoal burners. And although the gardens were neglected for 70 years, they were again restored in the 1980's, and now visitors can enjoy a colorful and relaxing park. New to the park is a large wooden python, seven metres, bigger than a life-size one, carved by local craftsmen unsing Cooktown Ironwood. Don't miss your photo opportunity with it!

The gardens also include the Nature's Power House, which is located just at the entrance of the park. Divided into two sections, you can enjoy a remarkable exhibition of local reptiles and some other species. Also to be seen is a priceless collection of botanical illustrations of over 150 local flowering plants by Vera Scarth-Johnson, who donated it to the town just before her death in 1999.

And if after seeing so many wonders you are hungry or thirsty, the Verandah Café makes a perfect stop to fuel up while watching wallabies grazing around. Opens from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

If you want to go back home with a beautiful tan, don't miss the Cooktown beaches. On Finch Bay, a spectacular beach surrounded by mountains, you can fish for barramundi and coral trout while standing in one of the tens of massive size rocks. On the right hand side of the beach lies the mouth of a small river, rumor has it that there are crocs around, so watch out!. The beach is right at the end of the road from the Botanical Gardens.

Quarantine Bay owes its name to the fact that it was first used as a quarantine section for passengers of ships with diseases. Covered with pebbles and shells, this beach is fantastic for fishing and swimming thanks to its warm and shallow waters. If you are keen to catch a Barramundi Cod or a Mangrove Jack, the northern side of the Monkhouse Point is the place. Quarantine Bay is located just seven kilometres south of Cooktown, off the main Highway to Cairns.

On the other side of the town it lies the North Shore beach. Just across the river, this over one kilometre long beach is excellent for beachcombing, fishing or just to enjoy some time off from the busy town life. It can only be accessed by boat, so you can be sure it will practically deserted. Ask the Cook's Landing Kiosk by the wharf for more information about how to get there.

If you are fit to walk one and a half kilometres through a walking track, it is worth you going to Cherry Tree Bay, a spectacular secluded beach which is only accessible on foot. It can also be accessed from Grassy Hill, there is a sign on a bench indicating the way. You won't be disappointed once you get over the walk, but save some energy because crocs inhabit the little creek on the left of the beach. Mountains and trees surround this quiet beach.

Walker Bay, just 400 metres before getting to the Golf Club, offers gorgeous sunsets and it is a good spot for windsurfing. Again, watch out for crocs. It is only accessible by 4WD.

Archer Point is accessible to normal cars but only in dry conditions. Turn left 13 km south of Cooktown. You will see the ruins of an old farm house on the right hand side of the turnoff. The advertising sign reads "10 bloody miles to go". This is one of the best beach fishing locations on the coast as well as one of the most spectacular views of the coastline. Camping is permitted. Salt Water crocs, Salties, live in this area so keep an eye when you are near the water.

46 kilometres north of Cooktown you find the city of Hope Vale, famous for Elim Beach. The beach is rich with spectacular coloured rocks and cliffs that stretch along kilometres of coastline and it is a popular spot for fishing, crabbing, beautiful waterfalls, Aboriginal cultural sites and historic buildings. Only 400 metres north you can spot the Coloured Sands but this area can only be accessed on a 4WD or by foot on low tide. To have the best views, climb to one of the soft sandhills on the north side past the Coloured Sands. Be aware that sand cannot be collected.

On your way to Elim Beach you will pass through the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park. To enter the falls you will need to ask the General Store for permission. At the Falls you can get fuel and groceries as well as stay over at its camping and caravan sites. And you can enjoy a swimm without having to watch out for crocs or bushwalk along the riverbank if you are keen on seeing the prolific flora and fauna of the place. Although during the dry season the falls will not be always flowing, the visit is still worth.

Isabella Falls are located only 15 minute drive from the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park on your way to Laura. At the Falls you will spot beautiful butterflies, even several uncommon species.

Charming Bloofield Falls. Other waterfalls are Bloomfield Falls, south of Cooktown. To get there you will have to drive to the WUJAL WUJAL Aboriginal comunity, and drive south towards the Bloomfield river, around 600 metres away, where you will see a sign directing you. You will have to leave your car at the end of a dirty road and follow the walking track until you find them. The falls are spectacular after the wet season but, unfortunately, swimming is not recommended as the river is home to the salt water croc.

If you did hire a four wheel drive, the Trevethan Falls are a must! From where you leave the car there is still a good thirty minute walk, but don't let this put you off, the falls are something unique. They lay on private land, so before venturing in make sure you have permission from the landowner. Access to the falls and its crystal clear waterhole is via Mount Amos Drive. If you are into climbing, the views from up the rocks are breathtaking. Camping is not allowed.

42 kilometres south of Cooktown you can experience a magnificent view: the Home Rule Falls. You don't need to have a four wheel drive if you take the inland route. However, if you are driving a conventional car drive slowly and you will sure make it. To drive along the coast road, we recommend you hire a four wheel drive (Visit to our CAR HIRE page, we can get you the best deal). In order to get to the Falls you will first have to get to Rossville and from there to the Home Rule Rainforest Lodge. And if you happen to be around at the end of September, then do not miss The Wallaby Creek Festival. For exact dates, check our TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND EVENTS CALENDAR

The area is, by anyone's standards, no short of falls. Roaring Meg Falls are located at the head of the Bloomfield River, south of Cooktown, and can be accessed through the CREB track (Cairns Regional Electricity Board), which is the inland route only by four wheel drive. Please note that you will need permission to travel to Roaring Meg and can be obtained on (07) 4098 2188 or faxing (07) 4091 3281. Camping is allowed. Be ready for a spectacular scenery.

But Falls are not the only water related activities in Cooktown. The Annan River also lies south of Cooktown and, if you are driving to Cooktown taking the inland road, you will come across two bridges crossing the river: the 'Little Annan', close to Annan Gorge, and the 'Big Annan', only six kilometres out of town. The old wooden bridge has recently been replaced by a concrete one but the spot is still popular for fishing. But forget about swimming, crocs have made this river their home. However, you can swimm at the Annan Gorge, where you will be amazed by its pristine waters. And the whole area makes for a perfect picnic spot although camping is not permitted.

But you still haven't had enough natural wonders to keep you going for a while, we still haven't mentioned the Great Barrier Reef. Did you know that Cooktown is Australia's closest town to the Reef?

Nearby there are also some interesting national parks. The Mulbabidgee Keatings Lagoon Conservation Park, eight kilometres south of Cooktown on the right hand side of the Mulligan Highway, is home to a very important bird sanctuary. And the Black Mountains National Park, only 28 kilometres south, contains an imposing mountain range of massive granite boulders blackened by surface lichen. For more information about National Parks in the area, visit our NATIONAL PARKS page.


Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre, Lot 2, Peninsula Development Road, Laura, Phone (07) 4060 3457,
Fax (07) 4060 3470

Indigenous tourism is becoming very popular among visitors, and Cooktown is rich with Aboriginal heritage and history. Near the town of Laura, west of Cooktown, you will find Quinkan Country. Be amazed by the amount of rock paintings featuring all sorts of animals and mythological creatures, including QUINKANS and sorcery figures. There are hundreds of galleries hidden in the cliffs of the Great Dividing Range, some of them go as far as Punsand Bay, the northernmost point of the Australian continent, and the site is thought to have been used for 13,000 years. The most popular of these Aboriginal sites is Split Rock, set up with boardwalks and interpretative information, Mushroom Rock and Giant Horse Gallery are another two sites. The best way to understand these sites is through a guided tour. Visit the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre for more information.


The Cooktown Discovery Festival re-enacts the events that took place when Captain Cook first landed on the banks of the Endeavour River in 1770. Spectators from all around the world will be delighted by the authenticity of the whole event. The costumes are the genuine clothes Captain Cook's crew wore as well as the garments used. The festival includes a gala ball, spectacular fireworks, bull riding, ute muster and 4WD.

Cooktown's annual races attract jockeys as far south as Townsville. Prize money amount to $20,000 plus trophies, sashes and bonus incentives. An event for the race lovers as well as for everybody wanting to have a good time.

The Races are the main event is Cooktown's social calendar and are a great day for the whole family. Social events such as raffles, fashions on the field, competitions and the five race program. From 8pm you can dance the night away at the Presentation Dinner Dance.

The Cooktown Corroboree Gunbu Gunbu is part of the Queensland Music Festival, a biannual event that brings international artists and contemporary music to audiences throughout Queensland. During a whole week, the ANZAC park is in a frenzied state as performances, concerts, rituals, workshops for the kids, and dances take place. Another entertaining insight on the Aboriginal community.

Presented by Cape York Folk Club Inc., Wallaby Creek Festival is a small, friendly event set amongst the lush camping grounds at Home Rule Rainforest Lodge via Rossville. The daily program offers music on 2 stages including some of Australia's well loved festival bands and solo artists as well as showcasing local bands; breakfast with the poets; workshops; street theatre; guided walks to the spectacular Home Rule Falls and environmental displays.

Children's activities are plentiful and include crocodile free swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Wallaby Creek. Free camping is available to all ticket holders. Food and market stalls are presented to tempt your viewing, tasting and shopping pleasures. The festival provides an ideal September vacation destination for families.


Cooktown holiday accommodation varies from traditional pub lodging to affordable motel rooms and modern resort accommodation. There is also home style bed and breakfast accommodation in Cooktown, not to mention a selection of caravan parks and campgrounds, with some offering self contained cabins. Please visit our COOKTOWN ACCOMMODATION section, or use the buttons in the right hand column to choose the style of Cooktown accommodation that suits you.



Driving from Cairns to Cooktown, you have two choices; the 326 kilometre inland route, which is sealed road suitable for conventional vehicles, and the coastal road, which is only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles, and not suitable for caravans or trailers. The coastal route, although shorter (235 kilometres) can take longer in driving time because of the 'varied' (to put it politely!) road conditions. In the wet season, the coastal road can become unpassable. You should check the latest ROAD CONDITIONS before setting off. Both the coastal and inland routes offer superb scenery, and if you have the luxury of a four wheel drive vehicle, we recommend you travel north on one route, and south by the other.

Peninsula Road to Cooktown, Far North Queensland.The Peninsula Development Road provides and insight into the outback lifestyle, which has remained largely unchanged for decades. The small farming communities found along the way to Cooktown stand as testament to the region's pioneering history, and the area is dotted with evidence of the Northern Outback's colourful history.

At the northern edge of the Atherton Tablelands, the first settlement you will come across is Mount Molloy, just inland of Port Douglas. Mount Molloy, like Mount Carbine a little further north, is a reminder of once abundant copper and mineral deposits. The paved road continues as far as the township of Lakeland - also known as Lakeland Downs - situated in the fertile Laura River Valley, at the junction with the Mulligan Highway. Lakeland consists of little more than a hotel, a café, and roadhouse and a small store. Like many townships in the area, Lakeland sprung up in response to the local goldrush. The nearby Palmer Rivers Goldfields are perhaps the most famous of the Far North's mining endeavours. Well known for Butcher's Hill Station, where horses were bred for the Indian Army at the end of the 19th century, Lakeland is now a major agricultural area. The road is now paved all the way to Cooktown, and the surface is suitable to all vehicles, except for during extreme weather conditions.

Stretching north from Cape Tribulation, where the paved road ends, the spectacular Bloomfield Track slices through dense coastal rainforest and winds past deserted beaches. Remember, there's a reason it's called the Bloomfield Track - it's because it is suitable for four wheel drive vehicles only! This is an ADVENTUROUS but rewarding trip, taking around five hours from Cairns, not including picnic breaks or swimming stops.

One of the many creek crossings on the route to Cooktown.Especially during the rainy months, fairly deep RIVER CROSSINGS are likely. Low range may not be required during mild conditions. There are no facilites along the track, and it is recommended that the traveller take some food and water in case of emergency. The track is fairly well travelled however and assistance should not be too far away if required. Observing the approach and transit of the more difficult crossings by other vehicles will give an indication of the level of difficulty.

Thirty-three kilometres north of Cape Tribulation, you will see a 'No Liquor' sign as you reach the Bloomfield River, and the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal. In the wet season, this crossing may be quite challenging. Also, note that saltwater crocodiles inhabit this river.

The road continues north for 46 kilometres through tiny settlements of Rossville and Helensvale before meeting the sealed Cooktown Developmental Road 28 kilometres south of Cooktown. Bloomfield Falls make a pleasant side trip, take a left turn just north of the Bloomfield River crossing.

At Cairns Unlimited, we strongly recommend experiencing this unique part of Australia by car, as this is the only way you will have the freedom and flexibility to enjoy the countryside at your own pace. If you're interested in hiring a rental car, four wheel drive, or campervan (or four wheel drive campervan!) please fill out the no-obligation rental car enquiry form on our CAR HIRE page. We will get back to you directly with the best deal that is available. It may be much less expensive than you think.