Cooktown & A Little Maritime History

You may remember last week I wrote a post about the superbly decorated QT resort at Port Douglas with all things coastal vintage. We spent one night there before hitting the road for the Far North Queensland historic town of Cooktown. 

Oh the scenery along the way was just stunning. Endless miles of big open country and big blue skies.

When we arrived in Cooktown we went straight up to the top of Grassy Hill to be greeted with this gorgeous view of the spectacular and vast Endeavour river.

In 1770, Captain James Cook - a British explorer was sailing up the Queensland coast when his boat the HMS Endeavour round aground after hitting a reef nearby. This was when he discovered this little inlet and spent 6-weeks here repairing his boat.

However, it wasn't until another 100-years after Captain Cook landed that Cooktown really got established and became a thriving little port. The nearby Palmer River gold rush put Cooktown on the map, and by 1886, this lovely old lighthouse was constructed on top of Grassy Hill to help ships & boats navigate their way. And it still functions today.

After a trip up Grassy Hill, we took a stroll around this small town of only 2000+ people. Due to its remoteness, the population really hasn't altered much in 100-years since the end of the gold rush.

This anchor & chain sits right outside the local RSL club. If only I could have smuggled it in my bag :) 
What an amazing piece of history.

The James Cook Museum is well worth a visit. I headed straight upstairs to see the maritime section. This is a replica of the HMS Endeavour.

This piece of coral came from the reef many years ago. It was huge. Simply stunning isn't it?

There was a pearling industry for a while and this is from that era.

Old ship's pulley and South Sea Pearl Shells. You can see where the pearls grew in these shells.

Ship's bells and lantern. Oh so many lovely maritime things.

The most fascinating part of the museum was this anchor and it's discovery. When Captain Cook ran aground in 1770, the anchor was lost. In 1971, just over 200-years later, divers amazingly found the anchor and here it sits in the museum today. Incredible isn't it? 

A trip away isn't complete without a visit to the beach.  

And this one outside Cooktown didn't disappoint. There was just one house with the entire beach to itself and maybe the odd salty crocodile lurking which I was more than happy not to see! As much as the beaches are beautiful this far north, I'm not too keen to get in the water. 

Cooktown is a fascinating place and well worth the visit to all those that love the sea and maritime history. Also a fabulous place to go fishing out to the reef. 

We stayed in a motel directly opposite the wharf which provided us with views of the Endeavour river and the wharf. I loved walking along the wharf to look at the boats and was delighted to see off in the distance anchored in the middle of the river a game fishing boat that I worked on in 1998 still based here. 

One of the other most fascinating places for me was the cemetery & learning the history of so many pioneers. Many graves displayed old clam shells. I'm not sure of the meaning but they were beautiful to see and I thought it was a lovely idea. I hadn't seen that before.

Despite Cooktown's remoteness, it is easy to get to these days. Since 2007, it has been bitumen all the way! And the council is in the process of developing the waterfront including a lagoon similar to the one at Airlie Beach or in Cairns. It will be even more enticing to visit and will be great to come back to in years to come with our girls.

and until next time, lover of the sea and all things Coastal Vintage.



  1. Lovely pictures and story. Cooktown was such a surprise to me when we visited last year. I feel it's like no other town in Australia with its beautiful historical buildings surrounded by such amazing geography. We took the unsealed road (4WD only) to get there which was a lot of fun!

    1. You are so right. It does feel like no other town. Next time I would love to take the unsealed coastal road!


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