Cooktown, Qld

Cooktown is a beautiful place. The road from Cairns to Cooktown is sealed, the best road we have travelled on for a long while.  We expected to drive through rainforest but the soil was very rocky and the vegetation sparse and dry.

About 20km outside Cooktown we passed by Black Mountain (Kalkajaka) National Park. From a distance we thought a bushfire had passed through the area, then realised it was mountains of black boulders.
The main feature of the park is the mass of granite boulders, some the size of houses. The absence of soil between the boulders and rocks create a maze of gaps and passages. The area has a bad reputation as numerous people and those searching for the missing have disappeared without trace giving Black Mountain the nickname ‘mountain of death’. Even a herd of cattle are reported to have gone missing.
The distinctive hard granite boulders originally formed about 250 million years ago. The mountain of grey granite boulders are blackened by a film of microscopic blue-green algae growing on the exposed surfaces.

Kapok trees grow abundantly in this area. The cotton like fluff found in the pods was once commonly used to fill mattresses.

There are four caravan parks in Cooktown. On the recommendation of fellow travellers we stayed at ‘Cooktown Caravan Park’, the first one you come to. It boasts ‘no sandflies’ on the sign out the front, as it’s not near the beach. We would recommend it. The sites are big with lots of bush around, only 2km to town and there were no sandflies. Dogs are welcome if you pre arrange it.

The town is small but quite picturesque, with frangipani in full bloom and mango trees laden with fruit everywhere.

The biggest undercover, outdoor bowls club we have ever seen is being constructed.

In the park is an amazing rubber musical ship for children, every part produces a different tone and sound. Very mellow and pleasant.

The vet has a sense of humour.

And we saw some interesting parking.

The 360o views from Grassy Hill aka Cooks Lookout aka Lighthouse Hill aka Windy Hill (the later with good reason), takes in the town, Endeavour River, and the Coral Sea as far as the horizon. Quite spectacular. The light house is a working light house.

One of our favourite places was Cook’s Landing Kiosk. They feed gropers there most evenings, times differ depending on tides. Two turned up and I have never seen such big fish, much bigger than a dolphin. We celebrated our sons’ 30th birthdays with fish and chips and champagne, it’s BYO.

We took a day trip to Cape Tribulation along the Bloomfield Track.

There are two roads to Cooktown from the south. One is the sealed road from Cairns, the other is the dirt track from Cape Tribulation called the Bloomfield Track (because Bloomfield is half way). Only half is now dirt but that half is very steep and windy with several creek crossings and can be impassable during the wet season. Due to the current drought there is not a lot of water in the creeks.

Traveling from Cooktown, the first stop along the track is the Lions Den Hotel.

This amazing vine is called Strongylodon macrobotrys, commonly known as jade vine or emerald vine. I thought it was plastic at first. There were little yellow birds about the size of a butterfly feeding on the blossoms.

The next stop on the Bloomfield Track was the Black Cockatoo Art Gallery and Tea Rooms. A couple who exhibit and sell their own art as well as that of their friends from around Australia. There was an amazing orchid in their garden, not sure what it is.

The towns of Bloomfield and Ayton are about half way along the Bloomfield Track. There are several types of accommodation and an IGA store. Weary Bay is the local swimming beach apparently, however there are crocodiles in the area so we stayed out of the water.

Not far past Bloomfield is the relatively small Aboriginal community of    Wujal Wujal  on the Bloomfield River, home to Bana Yirriji Art and Cultural Centre, well worth a visit.

The Bloomfield Track up to Wujal Wujal is sealed,  from here on it is dirt.


Some of the sections prone to flooding or are particularly steep have been concreted. Closer to Cape Tribulation there were several sections of road works happening and lots of large trucks full of gravel travelling back and forward, which made for some interesting driving on the often very narrow windy, dirt road.

Once at Cape Tribulation we headed for the camp ground we stayed in last time as they have a lovely eating area with a woodfire pizza oven, cold drinks and a beautiful beach.

From there we turned around and headed back to Cooktown stopping at a very parched Keatings Lagoon just outside Cooktown.

Back in Cooktown, our last outing was to the  ‘James Cook Museum’.  Housed in the old St Marys Convent built in 1880 it was set up by five Sisters of Mercy from Ireland.

The museum follows the story of Captain James Cook’s enforced seven week stay at the Endeavour River, during which the first meaningful contact between Europeans and Indigenous Australian took place, to the days of the Palmer River gold rush, as well as personal stories and items from Cooktown’s early residents….. It shows the evolution of education in remote regions of Queensland.  As well as regular classes, music, dancing and deportment were taught to boarders and day students until 1941.

It also houses one of the original cannons from The Endeavour retrieved in 1969, and the original anchor retrieved in 1971. Due to the reflective glass and obstacles, it was difficult to get a decent photo.

And so our time in Cooktown has come to an end. We now head south west to Chillagoe.

Take care, until next time.  Helen and Tim