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Region Main

Cooktown

Cooktown Overview
If you want a truly Australian experience then head to Cooktown. It takes a degree of commitment to get there but the journey is an adventure in itself. Cooktown is a small, isolated country town that has incredible views, great fishing, an abundance of history and enough accommodation to ensure that you get a comfortable nights sleep at the end of your day.

Population
Approximately 1300

Distance from closest major city
Cooktown is located 260km north of Cairns by the coastal road (unsealed and recommended for 4WD vehicles only) and 350 km by the inland road (accessible by conventional vehicles).

History
Captain James Cook first landed in Cooktown in 1770 to make repairs to his badly damaged ship, HM Bark Endeavour. Since then Cooktown has had a colourful history, becoming a supply centre around 1890 during the Palmer River Gold Rush when the population swelled to over 35000. The civilian population was evacuated during World War II and in 1949 a cyclone destroyed most of the town. Cooktown has been rebuilt and is becoming popular as a tourist destination. For many travellers this is the beginning of their journey to Cape York.

Main Industry
Cooktown serves as a trade centre for the surrounding regions with industries that include mining, mineral exploration, cattle grazing, fishing and tourism.

Feel of the town
Cooktown is definitely a frontier town. Getting there involves a minimum 4 hour drive on the inland road and longer on the coastal road. It is worth the trip. If you are looking for a truly Australian experience this is the place to find it. Frontier towns attract people who work hard and play hard. The fishing is excellent, the locals are friendly and the history mixed with the beauty of this dry but tropical town makes for a memorable visit. Finding your way around is easy as there are only a few streets. One of the best scenic lookouts in the world is located at Grassy Hill, where you really can see to the ends of the earth.

Things to see in Cooktown
Grassy Hill Lookout James Cook Historical Museum/Cooktown Museum Cooktown Wharf Cooktown Cemetery Botanical Gardens (Walker St)

Things to do in Cooktown
River cruises, fishing charters and cruises, hire boats, dive trips and scenic flights. Check with tour booking services in Cooktown or in Cairns before your departure.

» Visit Tours To Go’s extensive range of Cooktown tours

Getting There
There are a number of options for getting to Cooktown. Driving on the inland road can be achieved by a conventional vehicle passing through a number of small towns. The scenery is at times quite striking as this is very dry country. The coastal road is popular however it is only recommended for 4WD vehicles as there are a number of creek crossings. The coastal road is stunning and by far one of the greatest experiences in North Queensland. There is a true feeling of being away from civilisation as you travel over very steep rainforest clad ranges, stopping to look at sweeping beaches with romantic names like Weary Bay. Once you get past Cape Tribulation the traffic slows down and you see far fewer people. The best way to get the most out of a trip to Cooktown is to travel one way on the inland road and the other way on the coastal road. Always check road conditions with the RACQ (Breakdown service) before heading to Cooktown as the coastal road can be closed during the wet season (November - June) for a few days at a time. There are a number of day tours that leave from Cairns and Port Douglas on a daily basis. There are also two and three day tours readily available. Coral Coaches offer scheduled services from Cairns and Port Douglas. Scheduled flights from Cairns to Cooktown are available on smaller regional airlines such as Transtate Airlines, departing daily.

Places to Stay
Cooktown has a good range of accommodation that includes hostels, pubs, caravan parks, motels, hotels and guest houses. Prices are very economical and there is accommodation to suit most tastes. There are no high rise or luxury hotels. There are also excellent camping facilities in and around Cooktown.

Places to Eat
Most of the accommodation houses have restaurants that serve a good range of food featuring local produce. Both the Burragi Floating Restaurant and the Sovereign Hotel have excellent meals available.

» Visit Cairns Dining’s Cooktown restaurants section

Services
Cooktown has a full range of services including taxis, mechanical repairs, grocery shopping, doctors, dentists, photo developing, chemist, car hire, tourist information, service stations, newsagent, post office and banking.


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