Take a step back in time to when Australia was first making its way on the map. Cooktown was where Captain James Cook spent seven weeks exploring while his ship, the HMS Bark Endeavour (also know as simply the Endeavour), was being repaired after hitting a reef several kilometres south. With a rich history lined by deep cultural roots, Cooktown has managed to maintain its small town charm. Visitors on Coral Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and P&O Australia will discover the notable tales of this sleepy town - from the Indigenous Australians’ stories of creation right through to its pioneering days of the late 1700s, the gold rush in the 1800s, and its role in World War Two.
Cooktown is situated roughly 91 nautical miles north of Cairns with its small port lying on the eastern side as you enter the bay, towards the Endeavour River. When entering the harbour, it’s not unusual to see fishing boats as well as passengers and recreational vessels floating nearby.
All the facilities you will need are a short walk from the dock.
Facilities nearby include:
How to Get Around
The small town of Cooktown is very easily explored on foot with roughly a 10 to 20-minute walk between most main attractions. Taxis are also available to help you get around. Guided tours can be booked and run for approximately 90 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to explore other points of interest.
Travel times from the port:
It is a 12 minute journey to the James Cook Historical Museum
It is a 26 minute journey to the Botanic Gardens and Nature’s Powerhouse
It is a 17 minute journey to the Grassy Hill Lookout.
It is a 3 minute journey to the James Cook Historical Museum
It is a 5 minute journey to the Botanic Gardens and Nature’s Powerhouse
It is a 4 minute journey to the Grassy Hill Lookout.
Currency – The currency in Cooktown is the Australian Dollar. Coins appear in silver 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins, as well as gold $1 and $2 coins. Banknotes are available in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
Time Zone – Cooktown operates on Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) which is 10 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). AEST applies all year round.
Weather – Cooktown's tropical savannah climate results in a distinct wet season that is usually hot and humid from December to April and a distinct dry season for the rest of the year. Temperatures are consistently warm all year round with the average temperature sitting at the low to mid twenties for most of the year. November through to April, however, tends to see temperatures soar up to 30 degrees Celsius and higher.
James Cook Historical Museum – With so much history in one tiny town, a trip to the James Cook Historical Museum can’t be missed. Originally built as a convent during the prosperity of the gold rush of the late 1800s, the museum is home to the anchor and cannon of Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, as well as pages from his journal documenting the trip. From the story of the local Indigenous Australians (the Guugu Yimithirr people) to the history of the town’s settlement and mining stories, the museum offers a window into Cooktown’s rich and well-documented past.
Cooktown Botanic Gardens and Nature’s Powerhouse – The perfect spot for relaxing amongst nature, the Botanic Gardens is a haven for over 300 species of native and exotic plants – many of which were used by the Indigenous Australians for food and medicine. Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander who were on board the Endeavour also collected specimens of these plants. Spend enough time relaxing amongst the gardens’ expansive 62 hectares and you may see (or hear) the call of the Yellow Oriole, find a goanna flicking its tongue amongst the bushes, spot wallabies grazing out in the open, or maybe even spy a dingo!
Grassy Hill Lookout – From Cherry Tree Bay, make your way up 162 metres and find yourself in the same spot Captain James Cook found himself back in 1770 when searching for safe passage for his ship, to sail through after it was repaired. This was also the same spot that kangaroos, Australia’s national animal, were first sighted by the settlers! Head up at sunrise or sunset for an amazing 360-degree view across the ocean, river and town.