Cooktown as its name suggests was named after Captain James Cook in 1770. Captain Cook beached his ship the Endeavour in the Endeavour River for badly needed repairs after the ships hull was damaging on the Great Barrier Reef, just offshore from Cooktown.
In late 1873 gold was discovered in the Palmer River Catchment, it took a little over a month before Cooktown was established as a port town to supply the Palmer River goldfields. During the following years many Chinese and European settlers came to Cooktown and the Palmer River goldfields in search of gold and riches. During this time Cooktown become one of the major ports on not only the Queensland coastline but the whole Australian coastline. Cooktown grew to be home to an estimated 30,000 residents with 65 hotels, 20 restaurants and 32 general stores. Some of these colonial buildings can still be seen in Cooktown today.
By early 1888 the gold has started to run out in the Palmer River and this sounded the end to Cooktowns growing population and prosperity. By the early 1900s Cooktowns population had been reduced to only a few thousand residents. The population was then further reduced more with many young men enlisting in World War II. On top of this in 1918 a large fire burnt many of the towns major and important commercial buildings.
Recently an all weather sealed road was been completed connecting Cooktown to Cairns and Port Douglas and making a visit to Cooktown an attractive day or overnight trip.
Cooktown is a laid back town with approx 1500 residents. The town offers a range of accommodation options including hotels, caravan parks, camping and hostels. Cooktown is also home to various restaurants, supermarkets, gas station and small stores.
The waterfront area of Cooktown is a great place to start exploring the town and its history. Here is where you will find the monument to Captain James Cook and the main street of Cooktown which is lined by the remaining historic buildings of Cooktown. The local wharf is a popular place with local fisherman, and at times a great place to get a bargain from local fishing boats who may just sell you some fresh seafood while unloading.
Grassy Hill is a popular spot for visitors to Cooktown, the road takes you to the top of a hill which offers views over Cooktown, the Endeavour River and the surrounding area. Captain Cook even climbed Grassy Hill while in Cooktown to see if he could plot a safe passage through the reef and into the open sea. On top of Grassy Hill a monument commemorates his visit and climb. The top of the hill is also home to a small lighthouse which was used for over 100 years in assisted boats safe navigating along the rugged coastline.
Cooktown is also home to a variety of National Parks and nature walks. The heritage listed Cooktown Botanical Gardens, Mt Cook the Lakefield and Black Mountain National Park are all popular destinations with locals and tourists. Be sure to check with locals for up to date information before setting of on a hike.
One of the highlights of a visit to Cooktown is the visiting the Captain James Cook Museum. The museums home is a restored heritage building which was originally a local Convent. The Captain James Cook Museum offers visitors a wealth of local historic information including information on Captain James Cooks time in Cooktown, the Gold Rush and local aboriginal and Chinese immigrant heritage and history. One of the main pieces in the museum is the anchor and a cannon, from the HMS Endeavour.
Cooktown is an amazing place to visit when visiting Northern Queensland.