Things to do & see
Grassy Hill Lookout
A breathtaking 360deg view of the Endeavour River and the Great Barrier Reefs.
The landscape you see today from the top of the hill has changed little since Captain James Cook and the crew of the HM Bark Endeavour climbed Grassy Hill in 1770 to view the surrounding reefs enabling him to navigate a safe passage. One of Cooktown’s most breathtaking sights especially at sunrise and sunset.
Get a taste of Australia’s fascinating history by visiting the Cooktown Museum.
This stunning 19th century structure is a beautifully restored Sister of Mercy School building. Inside the museum is the original anchor and canon from Captain Cook’s ship HMB Endeavour, walk in the gardens surrounding the museum to find some of the 170 species of plants Sir Joseph Banks identified and named in the region in 1770 and learn the captivating story of reconciliation between the local indigenous people and Cook.
Located 2kms from the center of Cooktown surrounded by mountains.
Finch Bay is known for its rock formations on the left side of the beach plus one large boulder that lays on the edge of the water referred to as Whale Rock. Among those large rocks to your left is a walking track that connects Finch Bay to Cherry Tree Bay, Grassy Hill and the Botanical Gardens. On the right side of the beach is Alligator Creek which is good fishing.
Cooktown Golf Links
Cooktown Golf Club is a nine-hole course with dual tees.
Locally constructed on the coastal dunes, the course has been built in and around the tropical bushland that boarders Walker Bay and the Annan River. With natural contours and a sand-based course, the Cooktown Golf Club offers a unique and entertaining golfing experience and some challenging conditions across 9 terrific holes. A great challenge for an experienced golfer, or fun day out for the casual hitter.
Black Mountain National Park
Black Mountain lookout 25kms South of Cooktown.
You can’t miss this impressive mountain range of massive black granite boulders stacked on top of each other! Known as Kalkajaka (meaning ‘place of spear’), Black Mountain is an important meeting place for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people and is the source of many Dreaming stories. This mountain range holds a unique variety of flora and fauna and indigenous history. Beware the mountain looks inviting but people have been injured and died trying to climb Black Mountain.
Archer Point & Archer Point Lighthouse
Located about 20 km outside Cooktown signposted from the Mulligan Highway, you travel 2km approx.
10km along an unsealed access road. Often windy, this is a popular spot for kite surfers. As the 3 beaches are all facing a different direction there is always a calm beach to relax on. From the beach at low tide, you can walk out to the reef and snorkel off the point, but beware of crocodiles and stingers. It’s a great spot for all levels of fishing expertise. This is a non-camping area – but great for day trips, there are no facilities, make sure you take adequate drinking water, the views from the lighthouse are spectacular.
Cooktown Botanical Gardens & Natures Powerhouse
The stunning Cooktown Botanical Gardens established in 1878 are one of the oldest botanic gardens in Queensland.
Located 1.5km from the Cooktown’s centre. In the gardens you will find species collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander in 1770, orchid house, bush tucker garden, rainforest garden and more. Natures Powerhouse features the Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery, Gardens Shop, Café and visitor information centre.
Isabella Falls is one of Cooktown’s hidden gems, located 30mins north of Cooktown.
This lovely set of falls usually runs all year round. Safe place to have a swim while exploring Cooktown’s surrounds.
Sunset Cruise with Riverbend Tours
Experience the Endeavour River at its most special time of day.
Explore the harbour in the long afternoon light and then head upstream to watch the sunset over the distant ranges, enjoy a cheese platter and listen to stories about Captain Cook’s infamous passage along the Cape, about devastating cyclones, about the glory days of pearling luggers and about the new Cooktown, gateway to the frontier. This sunset cruise can make for a wonderfully peaceful way to end the day.
Cooktown’s wharf was once one of the busiest ports in Queensland during the Gold Rush.
It is now a very popular meeting place and fisherman’s haven. Wet a line trying to catch the illusive Barramundi. The wharf is a beautiful spot to relax and eat fish and chips while watching the sunset over the Endeavour River.
Elim Beach / Coloured Sands
Elim Beach is home to the famous Coloured Sands, and a popular camping spot at Elim Beach Campgrounds.
Coloured Sands is located 300m along Elim Beach, you will see the sand dunes start to erupt with colour, driving along Elim Beach should NOT be undertaken in a 2WD vehicle and be sure to check the tides. Elim Beach is a great spot for fishing and you will usually see local Hope Vale people enjoying this area.
Keating’s Lagoon Conservation Park (Mulbabidgee)
This scenic wetland habitat is a popular bird watchers retreat, located 8kms south of Cooktown.
Keating’s Lagoon is a natural freshwater lagoon that traps and holds wet season runoff which then creates an ideal habitat for wetland vegetation, which provides abundant food for animals and migratory water birds. This easy boardwalk track takes you 300m through the wetland to a bird hide then continues on to a picnic area.
William Daku Park
Located along Cooktown’s foreshore.
The William Daku Park is the perfect place to relax and have a BBQ, fish from one of the pontoons, enjoy the water park or just go for a stroll along the waterfront.
Cooktown is unique for its close proximity to many angling environments.
Fish the Endeavour River for Mangrove Jack, Finger Mark and Barramundi, the Coastal headlands for Mackerel and Queen Fish the options are endless with the Great Barrier Reef being just minutes from the boat ramp! If you don’t have a boat don’t worry because there are still plenty of places you can go like the Cooktown Wharf, Bloomfield River and Big Annan Bridge or head inland and fish fresh water creeks for Sooty Gunter and Jungle Perch!
Aboriginal Rock Art Experience
Walk amongst sandstone escarpments and tropical savannah with Aboriginal Traditional Owners.
Explore exquisite ancient rock art hidden in the rock shelters which has been home for Balngarrawarra people for thousands of years. Get an insight into the traditional life of Aboriginal people and learn about spirituality, survival and bush tucker.
This scenic pebble beach is located 5kms from Cooktown’s CBD situates with Mt Cook as the backdrop.
This beach is a great spot for a picnic, beach walk or fish.
Mt Cook National Park
Mt Cook is the backdrop of Cooktown which can be hiked, it’s a 3.4km return trip up a steep bushland gully.
The average return time is 3-4 hours, the view from the summit is breathtaking and highly recommended to see at sunrise. The track becomes slippery and narrow when near the summit to take caution.
This heritage listed cemetery was built from 1874 to 1920.
The layout of the cemetery is an example of late nineteenth century planning with denominational divisions being apparent with Roman Catholic, Protestant, Chinese and Jewish sections.
The Boat House
Waymbuurr Milbi Cultural Centre.
A not-for-profit organization dedicated to share the history of the Indigenous and European people who encountered each other here at the Endeavour River in Cooktown in 1770. Waymbuurr Milbi (The Waymbuurr Story) Cultural Centre is a newly built centre on the site of the old Boathouse.
The Lion’s Den Hotel
The Lion’s Den Hotel has been an important stop for tourists and locals for decades.
A rest stop from the gruelling travel throughout the Cape York Peninsula. As the rugged dirt roads gave way to bitumen, the Lion’s Den became a popular tourist destination and camping spot with one of the few safe swimming holes enjoyed by locals and travellers in the far north.
Cooktown Hotel – Top Pub
This beautiful old weatherboard two storey pub was originally established in 1874.
It is now a popular watering hole with the locals and tourists and affectionately known as the Top Pub or The Toppie. The Cooktown Hotel has great food, entertainment and accommodation. Everybody is always welcome.