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Cooktown Highlights Itinerary

Cooktown is the perfect base to start or end your Cape York adventure. With its rich history, must-do Aboriginal tours, world-class fishing, and loads to see and do, you should plan for a minimum of three nights - and many visitors find themselves staying much longer.
Cooktown Highlights Itinerary

Grassy Hill

Day 1. Cooktown Orientation

Start with a visit to the Botanic Gardens and Nature’s Powerhouse which houses the Charles Tanner Wildlife of Cape York Exhibition and Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery.

There are several walks in the Botanic Gardens and also trails which lead to the beautiful beaches at Finch Bay and Cherry Tree Bay.

In the afternoon take a leisurely stroll in the footsteps of Captain Cook along Charlotte Street to orientate yourself and admire the historical buildings and sites.

Children can be entertained by the Musical Ship and children's playground at the waterfront, and several cafes along Charlotte Street and at the wharf offer refreshments.

Allow plenty of time for a visit to the world-class Cooktown Museum, with its fantastic displays which include the anchor and cannon from the HMS Bark Endeavour, and the story of Cook's arrival from the perspective of the Guugu Yimithirr people.

End the day on Grassy Hill, with its panoramic views and superb sunset vistas.

Day 2. Hopevale Nugal-warra Rock Art Tour and Elim Beach

Aboriginal tours
Aboriginal tours

Just 45 mins from Cooktown, outside Hopevale, are the incredible Nugal-warra rock art sites, which can be visited with Nugal-warra Elder Willie Gordon, whose tours are deservedly featured as One of Australia's Must-Do Experiences, and not to be missed when staying in Cooktown.

The nearby community of Hope Vale has an Arts and Cultural Centre which supports local artists, and the magnificent Coloured Sands at Elim Beach are well worth a visit (4wd only).  Isabella Falls is a great place for a picnic and a swim.


Day 3. Go Fishing/Boating

Cooktown fishing
Cooktown fishing

Cooktown is famous as a world class fishing destination - join those in the know who come from all corners of the globe to experience sports fishing at its best. A few hours on the water is a relaxing trip and one of the best ways to appreciate the stunning natural surroundings from a different perspective.

Whether you take a guided trip with one of several fishing companies in town, hire a dinghy for the day, or bring your own boat, the fishing is a great experience for the whole family.

Alternatively take a nature boat cruise on the Endeavour River crocodile spotting, bird watching and casting a casual line for the estuarine fish.


Day 4. And so much more to choose from!

Rainforest walk
Rainforest walk

Also to be considered are horse riding trails, farmstays, hiking up Mount Cook, a visit to the mysterious Black Mountain National Park and birdwatching at Keatings Lagoon.

Visitors are very welcome to a round of golf at the picturesque links course at Walker Bay, or you can enjoy a game of bowls at Cooktown's Bowls Club.

Take the kids to our beautiful beaches at Finch Bay, Cherry Tree Bay, Quarantine Bay and Walker Bay but swimming is not advised.

More options include The Scenic Rim walking trail, fishing on the Annan river or from the wharf - or simply enjoying a 'coldie' with the locals in one of the pubs.

You could take one of the suggested self-drive itineraries. Or if you haven't already done so, head off to explore the Wet Tropics on Cooktown’s doorstep. There are several waterfalls and swimming holes in the nearby vicinity.

Hike up to the Home Rule waterfalls or walk one of the trails around the Mungumby Valley which offer superb bird watching. Seek the elusive Bennett's Tree Climbing Kangaroo at Shipton Flats, or for experienced bushwalkers go hiking in the incredible Cedar Bay National Park.

No trip to the area is complete without a visit to the historic Lions Den Hotel in Helenvale, and there are a couple of rainforest retreats in the region for an overnight stay.