Cooktown Travel Guide

Cooktown is a small and isolated town on Queensland’s north-eastern coast, situated 2,000 kilometres north of Brisbane and 330 kilometres north of Cairns. This beautiful area is a destination for people who appreciate historical events and picturesque natural views.


Cooktown has an engaging history that will impress scholars who enjoy learning about the age of exploration. Captain James Cook arrived on a remote beach of Cape York in 1770 after his ship was badly damaged by rough conditions. Cook stayed on the shore for approximately seven weeks while his men repaired the ship. During this period, Cook and his crew encountered the Guggu Yimithirr people. These indigenous people were initially peaceful, but they attacked the English crew after an argument over food. None of Cook’s men were injured during this attack, but Cook wounded an Aboriginal man with his musket. This caused the Aboriginal attackers to retreat, and Cook and a few crewmen pursued them. Cook eventually cornered the indigenous people near a large rock formation, but the conflict ceased after an elder agreed to a truce. This was the first documented truce between Europeans and the Aboriginal people. The location of this affair is now an attraction known as Reconciliation Rock. During your tour of Cooktown, visit Reconciliation Rock to reflect on the events that occurred in 1770. When James Cook returned to sea on the HM Bark Endeavour, he claimed the entire eastern coast of Queensland for Britain.

Cooktown is also a great place to learn about the Aboriginal cultures of north-eastern Queensland. The local inhabitants of the area are the Guugu Yimithirr people. These indigenous Australians referred to the area around Cooktown as Gangaar. In the local language, Gangaar means ‘place of rock crystals’. This is certainly a reference to the large deposits of quartz in the lands around Cooktown.

Things to see and do in Cooktown

Cooktown, Queensland

A panaroma shot of Cooktown.

Learn more about the conditions that James Cook and the Aboriginal people faced in the wilderness by exploring the Endeavour River. Use a kayak to feel the power of the river as you battle oncoming winds. You will feel a sense of accomplishment when you finally reach your destination. The Endeavour River has several lovely beaches, so you may wish to land on a quiet patch of sand for a tasty picnic.

For awe-inspiring views, climb to the top of Grassy Hill. From Grassy Hill, you will be able to admire fantastic views of the Endeavour River and the ocean. Allow your eyes to feast on a green world of hills, forests, and beaches before you continue your adventure.

Cooktown is also the northern end of the world-famous Bicentennial Heritage Trail. This 5,330-kilometre path is the longest trail in the world. It stretches from Cooktown, Queensland to Healesville, Victoria.