Cooktown, grey nomads

Cooktown, about 330 kilome­tres north of Cairns, is a genu­ine slice of grey nomad para­dise. Known as the ‘gateway’ to Cape York, the town – which boasts a permanent population of around, 2,000 lucky souls – is blessed with a perfect dry sea­son climate, a stunning natural backdrop, a fascinating history, superb heritage buildings, an enormous variety of activities and attractions, and a laid-back and friendly atmosphere.

No wonder the many excellent caravan parks and camping ar­eas are busy, busy, busy during peak periods.

Cooktown sits at the foot of Mt Cook beside the magnificent Endeavour River, and it is this excellent location which first drew Captain James Cook here back in 1770. Memorials and reminders of the legendary explorer’s seven-week stay in the area as he repaired the En­deavour are everywhere.

There’s the stunning 360-degree Grassy Hill lookout where Cook once stood to search for a passage through the reef, the James Cook Museum, and, of course, the famed Captain Cook statue. If you are lucky enough to be in town in June, you should definitely not miss the annual Discovery Festival and re-enactment of Cook’s landing.

The region boasts a number of fantastic festivals and events, and the bi-annual Laura Abo­riginal dance festival is well worth the drive inland. There are some magnificent Aboriginal rock art sites around Cooktown, adding to the feel­ing that history it is everywhere … but this magnificent district has so much more to offer. There are beautiful beaches, de­lightful waterfalls, idyllic swim­ming holes, and some truly amazing bushwalks … and the town’s Botanical Gardens are spectacular in their own right,.

If you’re looking to get out and about to meet some of the local creatures, you’re in for another treat. Cooktown offers access to a myriad of angling environments … you can chase barramundi and mangrove jack in the estuaries, trevally and queenfish off the beaches, black marlin out at the outer reef, and red emperor and mackerel at the inner reef.

Birdwatchers are equally well rewarded, with an abundance of species around due to the varied local habitats that range from Wet Tropics rainforest and Cape York Peninsula wil­derness, to coastal wetlands and drier woodlands.

This is also 4WDer’s country. Many save the iconic Bloom­field Track for the southward journey, aware that the chal­lenges and thrills of a trip to the Cape lay northward. With the joys of the Daintree so close and vast national parks like Lakefield all deserving proper exploration, it is no wonder that – no matter how many weeks and months they stay – nearly all grey nomads wish they could stay in Cooktown longer. Most just decide they’ll just have to come back again!



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