A Walk Around Cooktown
A good starting point is the Post Office in Charlotte Street. Located at the intersection of Green Street, this heritage building was erected in 1887.
Strolling east along the “The River of Life” Path you pass the Cooktown School of Art Society’s “Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery” with its fine collection by local artists. Alongside, the Cooktown RSL Club was built in 1885 as the Daintree Divisional Board Council Hall. In 1903 it became the Shire Council hall. The year 1919 saw the Hann and Daintree Divisional Boards amalgamate and became known as the Cook Shire, the Council operating here until 1932. Past the Cooktown Bowls Club, a recent addition, where visitors are welcome to join in social bowls, to the Lions Park. A small market is held here on Saturday mornings.
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 & southern markets. Neuman arrived in Cooktown in 1873 and made his start carting goods by horses and dray to the Palmer River Goldfields.
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 1840. Then on to the Cook Monument & Cannon. The monument, dating from 1887, commemorates Cook’s landing in 1770.
The cannon was brought to Cooktown at the request of the Town Council. On April 10th 1885 Cooktown Council carried the following motion. "A wire be sent to the Premier in Brisbane requesting he supply arms, ammunition & 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 Queen's Birthday Weekend in June. Here also the Musical Ship, a musical playground for an interactive experience to delight both adults and children.
Continue on to Bicentennial Park which was opened in 1988 and is the setting for the annual re-enactment of Cook's landing. BP Australia donated the James Cook Statue to the people of Cooktown. The bronze statue is the work of the Australian sculptor Stanley Hammond. A large granite rock 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".
On to the Milbi Wall (The Story Wall) built by Gungarde Aboriginal Corporation, the Queen’s Steps and statue of Mick the Miner commemorating the Palmer Gold Rush, to the Cooktown Wharf. Here you can try casting a line or simply chat with the locals.
On a path just past the Wharf is 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.
Alongside the Post Office, walking west, are the former Shire Council Offices. Originally built, in 1876-77 as a Post & Telegraph Office, the building was taken over by the Council in 1893 after fire destroyed their original offices. This building is now home to the Cooktown Historical Society’s archives & research centre. 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". It has since been demolished to make way for the new Queensland-style building.
Further on 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. The wife of a beche-de-mer fisherman, Captain R.F.Watson, the attack on her was provoked because their homestead was built on Aboriginal sacred land.
One of her two servants was speared, but Mrs Watson, her infant son and the other Chinese servant escaped in a boiling down tank to Number 5 Island. Due to there being no fresh water they finally perished. Their remains together with her diary were found in 1882.
Across the street lies the Ferrari Estates, built in 1886 for the Bank of North Queensland, and Seagren's Inn, erected in 1880 by a former mayor, P.E.Seagren, as a store. Then the magnificent Bank building, c.1891, which exhibits memorabilia collected by the Cooktown Historical Society. On the corner of Furneaux Street is a traditional Queenslander, which now houses Cooktown Paradise Realty, formerly both bank and Post Office staff quarters.
Just a block up Furneaux Street on the corner of Helen Street stands the James Cook Museum built in 1889.
Continuing on down Charlotte Street on the left is the West Coast Hotel another survivor of the Gold Rush days built in 1874. To your right is the Cooktown Railway Station. This fine old building was originally the nerve centre of the Cooktown-Laura Railway. Originally built in Adelaide Street in 1885 it served as ticket & booking office, waiting room and station master's residence. 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. 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".
Now’s the time for a “water hole and food stop” at one of the many places you have passed!
Still within reasonable walking distance, or a short drive, are other “must see” town attractions.
Grassy Hill & Lighthouse are located at the eastern end of Hope Street.
The lookouts provide panoramic views of Cooktown, the Endeavour River & 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. The lighthouse was built in England and shipped to Cooktown in 1885. It was automated in 1927. Between 1942-45 it was complemented by a radar station, which was dismantled after World War 2. It served the local community and shipping in the area for 100 years until it was made obsolete, and then subsequently restored by the Lions Club.
The Old Cooktown Hospital in May Street is a magnificent example of Queensland colonial architecture. Built in 1879, it served the communityuntil 1986. Beautifully restored it now stands as Kingdom Hall for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.