Cooktown is one of my favourite far north Queensland towns. It sits on the banks of the Endeavour River, about a four hour drive from Cairns on the now sealed-all-the-way Mulligan Highway. The town began as a port for the Palmer River gold rush in the 1870s. But it was first seen by Europeans a century earlier, when James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour sought refuge here after damaging their ship on a reef.
There’s plenty to see and do in Cooktown, and the rich history of the region is very accessible to visitors. The local historical society is a treasure-house of information, and each year the town re-enacts the Cook landing and the first interactions between Europeans and the local indigenous people.
When you visit Cooktown, make sure you take a wander through the local cemetery. Local tour companies will show you through and tell you stories of the people buried there. You’ll learn about the mysterious disappearance of a French naval vessel, the story of pioneer Mary Watson, and the still baffling tale of the Normanby woman – a fair-skinned and probably Scandinavian woman who lived with Aborigines at Normanby River in the 1880s.
Listen to Wayne Brennan from Cooktown Tours guide us through the Cooktown Cemetery.