Cooktown sightseeing

charlotte street Cooktown
Black Marlin Classic fleet

A good starting point for Cooktown is the Post Office in Charlotte Street. Located at the intersection of Green Street, this building was erected in 1887.

Along the “The River of Life” path you pass the Cooktown School of Art Society’s “Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery”. Alongside, the Cooktown RSL Club was built in 1885 as the Daintree Divisional Board Council Hall. In 1903 it became the Shire Council Hall where Council operated up to 1932.

At the Lion’s Park, the local markets are held here on Saturday mornings and there is a shaded children’s playground. Across the street to the right is the Jackey Jackey Store. Built in 1886 by Joseph Neuman as a general store and living quarters, it was part of a flourishing trade between New Guinea, Cooktown and southern markets.

Cooktown markets

From the park you will pass the Old Town Well and the Cairn to Edmund Kennedy, who landed at Rockingham Bay in May 1840 on an expedition to explore Cape York and was fatally speared in December of the same year. Then on to the Cook Monument & Cannon. The monument, dating from 1887, commemorates Cook’s landing in 1770. The cannon was brought to Cooktown in 1885. The then Cooktown Council carried the following motion, “A wire be sent to the Premier in Brisbane requesting he supply arms, ammunition and competent officer to take charge against a threat of Russian invasion.” The cannon, cast in Scotland in 1803, 3 cannonballs, 2 rifles and 1 officer were sent. It is still fired on the long Weekend in June.

The Bicentennial Park features the James Cook Statue donated to the people of Cooktown by BP. The Park is also the site of the annual re-enactment of Cook’s Landing. The bronze statue is the work of the Australian sculptor Stanley Hammond. A large granite rock Cairn on the foreshore bears a plaque with the inscription, “This cairn marks the spot where Captain James Cook beached his “HM Bark Endeavour” in the year 1770”.

The Milbi Wall is a reconciliation artwork that explains the significance of the first known European contact with the Aboriginal People of the area from an Aboriginal point of view. The vibrant Wall tells the story in hand-painted tiles. The Queen’s Steps and statue of Mick the Miner and the Chinese monument which commemorate the Palmer Gold Rush, to the Cooktown Wharf. Here you can try casting a line or simply chat with the locals. It is known as one of the best fishing spots on the eastern seaboard.

After the wharf, we have the town’s new waterfront precinct where there are toilets, fishing platforms, a water park, picnic tables and coin-operated BBQ’s all the way to the Powder Magazine. Used for the storage of explosives, it is interesting to note that no nails were used in its construction in 1874. It is believed to be the oldest brick building in Cape York.

Cooktown Foreshore Precinct

Alongside the Post Office, heading west, are the Post & Telegraph Office built in 1876-77. This building is home to The History Centre with award-winning interpretive displays from the Cooktown Historical Society’s Archives & Research Centre.

Cooktown Post Office | 123 Charlotte Street Cooktown

Across the street is the Sovereign Resort Hotel. The original Sovereign Hotel was built in 1874 and was one of the first double storey buildings in Cooktown. Partially destroyed during the cyclone of 1949 it attracted the nickname “The Half Sovereign”.

Mrs Watson’s Monument (c.1886) is dedicated to Mrs Watson, who survived an Aboriginal attack on Lizard Island in September 1881, to die later on Number 5 Island of the Howick group. Across the street lies the Ferrari Estates, built in 1886 for the Bank of North Queensland, then Seagren’s, erected in 1880 by a former mayor, P.E.Seagren, as a furniture store. Next door is the magnificent ”Old Bank” building, c.1891.

On the corner of Furneaux Street is a traditional Queenslander, formerly both bank and Post Office staff quarters now QWA. A block further up Furneaux Street on the corner of Helen Street stands the grand James Cook Museum built in 1889.

To your right at the top of Charlotte St is the old Cooktown Railway Station. This fine old building was originally the nerve centre of the Cooktown-Laura Railway. The 67 mile line operated from 1885 to 1961. The building was moved to its present site in 1965 and is now home to the Cooktown Creative Arts Association. In Anzac Park the Leopard Tank was donated to Cooktown R.S.L Sub Branch by the Commonwealth of Australia in 2011. Across the street on the corner of Walker Street is the Cooktown Hotel, formerly the Commercial Hotel. Built in 1875, and re-named the Cooktown Hotel in 1982, it is known locally as the “Top Pub”.

charlotte street Cooktown from Mungumby Lodge Rossville
grassy hill lighthouse Cooktown 2023

Grassy Hill & Lighthouse are located at the eastern end of Hope Street and the lookouts provide breathtaking panoramic views of Cooktown, the Endeavour River and Coral Sea. James Cook climbed the hill on several occasions to view the surrounding reefs enabling him to navigate a safe passage out after repairing his ship. Built in England, the lighthouse was shipped to Cooktown in 1885 and automated in 1927.

The Nature’s Powerhouse located in the Botanic Gardens, is home to a magnificent collection of botanical illustrations of flowering plants of the Endeavour River, including 15 original prints from the Banks’ Florilegium and the Vera Scarth-Johnson collection, which was donated to the people of Cooktown before her death in 1999. Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery. The Cooktown Visitor Information Centre is located in Nature’s Powerhouse. Browse in the gift shop or enjoy tea and scones in Vera’s Café.