Named after Captain Cook, the small coastal township of Cooktown Australia, is popular both as a fishing paradise and also as a destination for history buffs wanting to learn more about Captain Cook beaching his ship here.
Cooktown is a beautiful area to visit and with a population of just over 2000 people it is a fairly small town. Don’t go there expecting to find large chain supermarkets and, as we recently discovered, be aware that not much is open on a Sunday.
These were our favourite things to do in Cooktown:
1. Grassy Hill Lookout & Lighthouse
Offering the best views of Cooktown, this lookout is reached via a long, windy road up Grassy Hill (driving is the best option unless you are super fit and up for an exhausting walk).
The lookout provides 360 degree views over the township, Endeavour River and the coast.
Also perched on top of the hill is the old Cooktown lighthouse, which was built in the UK and shipped out to Cooktown in 1885. It was then used for over 100 years before being dismantled after World War II.
Grassy Hill is the best spot to enjoy sunrise and sunset, but be prepared as it can be very windy up here. The day we visited it was blowing a gale.
2. James Cook Museum
This is a fascinating place to visit, and its actually open on Sundays!
The building has had many purposes over the years but was refurbished and reopened as the James Cook Museum by Queen Elizabeth in 1970.
It now houses the actual anchor and cannon from Captain Cook’s ship, the HMS Bark Endeavour, as well as a range of displays that are integral to Australia’s history and Cooktown’s identity.
If you’ve got kids with you ask for one of the museum’s trivia sheets to keep them captivated. They can fill them out as you wander around the museum.
3. Finch Bay
Wow, this really is a beautiful beach.
Just 2 km out of town and just past the Botanic Gardens, there is a car park and walkway down the softest white sand and picture-perfect beach. Stretching for about 500 metres, the beach is huge and is apparently the town’s most popular swimming beach.
However, Alligator Creek with its mangroves crosses part of the beach on one side and there are large signs warning about crocodiles in the area, so it’s probably best to stick to beach activities that don’t involve swimming!
4. Fishing off Fisherman’s Wharf
The word on the street is that one of the best fishing spots in Cooktown is right on the pier, also known as Fisherman’s Wharf.
We tried our hand fishing here at sunset, joined by a few other locals and tourists, but luckily the pier never felt crowded. We had a few nibbles but we didn’t catch anything except for a few good photos of the sun-streaked sky as the sun set.
5. cooktown cemetery
It might be a bit ghoulish but I often enjoy wandering around cemeteries because they can reveal so much about a town’s history.
The Cooktown Cemetery really gave me a great insight into the areas previous mix of nationalities and religions. There is a segregated area where the nuns were buried, an area for the Defence Force, a ‘Rebel’s Corner’, a Jewish section and another division for the many Chinese who moved to the area during the Gold Rush.
6. best fish & chips
It’s a big statement, but I am going to say it.
Cooktown make the best fish and chips in North Queensland, and I am not alone in my opinion.
Right next to Fisherman’s Wharf is a little fish and chip shop, where you can buy awesome fish and chips at a reasonable price wrapped up in butchers paper so you can take it down to the pier or foreshore.
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