Cooktown, one of the most gorgeous and scenic places we have ever been to. It is nothing like I imagined at all! Believe it or not, its very lush and green! The powered sites at the Big4 Caravan Park are beautiful soft lush green grass, which was a nice surprise after many weeks in the desert.
From Cairns there are two ways to get to Cooktown by road. One is a fully tarsealed road which is an easy drive with some absolute ‘must stop’ look outs along the way. The other option is by a dirt road. It is very scenic also however it is 4wd only and I definitely wouldn’t try taking your caravan with you.
First port of call is The Lions Den Hotel. There they have great camping spots along the river bed in and around the hotel itself. You can enjoy the Lions Den Hotel by either road but if you are going the main road you need turn off to Lions Den and it’s a dirt road down to it. They serve some great Aussie food and of course icy cold drinks! It is 135 yrs old and made from iron and timber and has some of the quirkiest decorations adorning their walls as well as a tonne of tourists signatures!
Upon arrival in Cooktown and not really knowing what to expect, after setting up camp and taking a quick look around, all signs suggest that sandflies are our main competitor! So remember to have plenty of repellent with you. We walked into town just before dusk and headed to the wharf and estuary area. It is really peaceful and quaint as we walk along the foreshore, which even has the concrete steps still standing that were built for the Queen to disembark her boat when she visited back in the 70’s!
Here they have the best of both worlds. Ocean to the right and the estuary and river ways to the left. A fishermans haven! The foreshore is decorated with many artifacts of the landing of Captain Cook, which gives us all a history lesson. Things that we never knew had happened! Did you know that Cooktown was where Captain Cook famously ran his ship aground on the reef and had to limp into the safe haven of the bay of Cooktown? This is how Cooktown got its name!
As the sun sets, we head to the local Top Pub for dinner. It is an old character filled pub buzzing with excitement of who caught what today and what the tourists saw and did. It is very casual and very welcoming and a great way to sit down and plan your next day.
First on the list the following day is Mt Cook Lookout, with breathtaking 360 degree views of the whole area. You can see why Captain Cook didn’t mind too much that he was ship wrecked here. It is also a great way to get your bearings.
Next stop is the world famous James Cook Museum, housed in the old Nunnery. It is full of impressive artifacts including the original anchor from James’ ship The Endeavour! It is an absolute must see. The staff here will guide you and give you so much information that you will walk away feeling as though you are walked out of a time warp – you can easily spend the entire day here.
But no one comes to Cooktown without trying their hand at Barramundi Fishing, Cooktown style! We head up the estuary to try our luck. The surrounding landscape is just awesome. However it is Barra I am after not a great view, so after a while with no luck at all, which isn’t uncommon when I am in the boat, we head out to sea to the great reef which James Cook came to grief on. The reef is only 2 miles off shore and guarantees us a catch for dinner! The water is so crystal clear and fishing conditions are perfect, nearly all year round.
Day three sees us team up with Guurrbi Tours, the local Aboriginal tourist guide to take in an afternoon filled with bush walking and intrigue as we visit a birthing place and some stunning caves filled with Aboriginal Rock Art. Our tour guide gives us a detailed talk about what each artwork means and why they were painted. It is awesome to get out amongst the wildlife in the bush and see what life was really like for them all those hundreds of years ago. The local aboriginal people are some of the most intelligent and intuitive people you will ever meet.
The township of Cooktown has got all major amenities you will need and the caravan park is fully equipped for all your desires. Block out at least a week here as there is plenty to do as well as relaxing at the park or on the beach. Personally I could live here, it just has that feel about it. Cooktown is the real Australia.