Because of my association with Cooks’ Cottage in Melbourne, a visit to the James Cook Museum AND on fathers day was a must do – and very glad we made the trip to the town and particularly the museum.
Located in a former convent building the museum contains an eclectic mix of memorabilia and displays.
Firstly and most importantly is the Endeavour Gallery where the ships anchor and one of the cannons from The Endeavour are encased in a climate controlled glass enclosure. On a fateful night in 1770 and in a frenzy to prevent the ship from sinking, the anchor, cannons, water, ballast and much more were thrown overboard when the ship ran onto what is now known as Endeavour Reef, some 50 kilometres south east of present day Cooktown. Pumps were manned, the ship was fothered (sail lowered and placed over hole in ship) and the ship, Cook and his crew managed to survive. Maybe the entire history of south Pacific may have changed and Australians today might be speaking French if they were all lost.
The Endeavour Gallery also contains displays on the recovery in 1969 of the anchor and cannon; the landing of Cook and his vessel as seen from an Aboriginal perspective; a video of the Cook story as was presented on a 4 part TV series and much more.
The former use of the building is not forgotten and a chapel is on view as is a room devoted to the Sisters of Mercy who sailed from Ireland to the harsh tropical climate of FNQ (Far North Queensland). In the memories of one, “I prayed for a cooling wind.” It would have been a tough life in the tropics with the heavy black habit worn by the Sisters.
Three additional rooms are well worth visiting – Cooktown Stories, which contain a treasure trove of memorabilia from the town, including a dentists chair and “working” equipment – I just hope they had a decent anesthetic other than an obligatory trip to a local hotel. There is a “Glimpses of the Past” room which is a non-racial way of saying “Chinese Room” (some 90% of the population of Cooktown was Chinese who had flocked to the goldfields and many had become very successful business people). I particularly liked “The Indigenous Room,” which contains many displays and stories from the Aboriginal people who still today live in the area.
Further fascinating rooms are devoted to Gold and Exploration, Maritime and The Convent Building itself. In addition there is a well-stocked gift and book shop and coffee/cold drinks are available.
Judging from the creaking of the timbers of the grand staircase there may be a few resident ghosts.
History buffs should allow at least 4 hours and maybe more to visit an amazing regional Museum that is a real credit to the hard work of the volunteers of the National Trust of Queensland. It is open daily 9.30am – 4.00 pm and entry fees are payable with concessions for children, concession holders and pensioners. Sadly, the web site as shown below contains very little information.
Battle Camp Road was a road trip like no other.
Starting in Cooktown, we headed north towards Hopevale, past the green pastures and farms of the locals. No wonder people leave the city to live on acerage in the bush, it is truly stunning out here.
Before you get to Hopevale the road turns to red dirt, the kind of dirt most city 4WD's never experience! Make sure you stop in at Endeavour Falls, a Caravan Park which has a small waterfall at the back, and if you ask the lady nicely, she will let you see them if you leave your car parked out the front.
There is an intersection on the left about 10km before Hopevale which is the Battle Camp road.
Along here for another 8km or so there is the beautiful Isabella Falls, a fresh water creek crossing, cascading down into several pools before becoming a small waterfall. Surprising how cold it can be in September! We stopped here for a quick dip and to let the dogs out for a swim. Continuing on we had to cross over the Normanby river, a small crossing that wasn't very deep. From memory it was half way up the tyre rim. No swimming here for us or the dogs as it does have Crocs in it.
Arriving at the old Battle Camp station we stopped for lunch and to take in the sights. Battle Camp Station and the Battle Camp Range just to the south of here were named by a group of gold diggers who were heading west to the Palmer River to seek their fortune when they were set upon by a band of Aboriginals.
From here we had the choice of taking the turn off to Lakefield National Park (now called Rinyirru), but instead we drove on to Laura.
Here at Laura we were back on the bitumen again. The Quinkan Regional Cultural Centre was really interesting and we'll have to make plans to come back again for the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival as it is held every two years in June, so the next one is in 2013.
We were also lucky enough to be the only people that afternoon to walk through the Aboriginal Rock Art caves at the Split Rock Gallery, only a couple of K's south of Laura. There were 3 caves to see but we only saw 2: the Mushroom Rock Gallery and the Split Rock Gallery. Payment for entry into the caves is by an honesty box system for a small $5 fee per person. So cheap!
Back to Cooktown now via the Peninsula Development Road, a road that is now fully bitumened from Laura to Lakeland.
One quick beer in the pub for the ride home and we had a good nights' sleep that night! What a big day!
Read more: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/21a930/#ixzz1j6Lcdjkl
A friend of ours reccommended we see Walkers Bay, which is quite similar to 4 Mile Beach in Port Douglas.
Only there are no people! Great!
We had the whole beach to ourselves and we spent half the day beachcombing and the other half fishing and placing crab pots. What a life! We launched our boat here and went UP the Big Annan River and flicked a few lures looking for Barra. Again, a bit windy but I reckon in Summer when the wind dies down (only 4 months a year it doesn't blow 40kts!) it would be a great place to fish the gutters.
Wind Surfers would love it here - next time I visit I will be bringing a hat I can secure fastly to my head :-)
The drive was well worth it as Archer's Point is approximately 10kms from the turn off on the Mulligan Highway.
Free camping is available here and we took the opportunity to set up in one of the bays. We had to pitch the tent behind the car as the wind nearly swept us off our feet! It didn't stop the wind completely but it sure did help us cook that night.
We found out later that Archer's Point will be having Wind Turbines installed to generate electricity. I am sure that in one month it would generate enough electricity to power Townsville for a year!
Unfortunately it was a bit windy for fishing, but the views were spectacular, with windswept rainforest covered mountains plunging into the turqouise sea.
A unique attraction for Cooktown is the Milbi (story in the Guugu Yimithirr language) Wall, a one metre high curving wall around 12 metres in length made of many hundreds of ceramic tiles and divided into 3 sections.
The first tells the stories of the creation of the Cooktown area (sometimes called dreamtime stories), so important to the culture of the first Australians.
The second section of the wall represents the first contact with Europeans – Captain James Cook and his crew aboard The Endeavour and continues to the sad time of the of WW2 when the people were forcibly evacuated south by the steamship Poonbar to a community near Townsville and not returned until 1950, 5 years after wars end. Another good reason for "Sorry Day."
Third section centres around the 1967 Australian Constitutional referendum, when we, the Australian people, voted with a huge majority to give Aboriginal and Torrens Strait people full equality, including voting rights.
One of the many panels depicts the arrival of Cook and his ship, “It was an incredulous people who watched Captain Cooks huge ship arrive. It was outrageous compared to the Aboriginal practical small canoes. Also the white skinned people were thought to be ghosts. Being a spiritual people, the Aboriginals fear made first contact very slow and difficult. They named them Wangarr, meaning white people, which is still commonly used by the Guugu Yimithirr people today.
“When onshore to repair the ship Cook gained the confidence of the Aboriginal people without violence. Scientific recordings were made and the gangurru was given the name kangaroo”
The log of James Cook does tell a slightly different story; shots were fired and at least one Aboriginal was injured. In retaliation, fires were lit in the tinder dry grass and bush land and paty of Cooks ships’ property was destroyed. Sometimes the acts of reconciliation do mean truths are quietly swept aside for the benefits of all. (From reading of another journal, it would appear that a temporary pig sty was destroyed in that fire and some pigs escaped. It seems that feral pigs are sometimes called "Captain Cookers" by locals)
The Milbi Wall is well worth a visit and if you are interested in visiting other Aboriginal Culture sites and attractions in FNQ click here
Web site shown below is not an official site, but does show more photos than I’ve displayed.
A short drive from the central area and main street of the town is an oasis of greenery – an indoor Natures Powerhouse and the historic Botanical Gardens.
The indoor Natures Powerhouse contains a stunning collection of works of art by local artists with a very strong emphasis on plants. There are 2 galleries named after locals – one “The Charles Tanner Gallery” is named after a former naturalist (deceased) who spent his life time collecting Australian reptiles, including crocodiles – almost the original Crocodile Dundee of Paul Hogan film fame, The other “The Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery” is named after a former resident who likewise devoted her life to nature and in her case plants. An excellent display of her works of art is displayed.
The building also contains a well-stocked book and gift shop as well as a great collection of maps. It is also a very good venue to gain information for visitors, including brochures and other information for travelers – I needed information on the Bloomfield Track and the lady checked tide times and rang to check on the condition of the track for me. It is strongly recommended that a visitor should check on road conditions within the Cape York Peninsula area BEFORE driving away from “civilisation.” (This advice is also strongly suggested for other remote area of Australia)
We decided to “lash out” and enjoy a coffee and cake overlooking the gardens at “Vera’s Café on the Veranda,” a great view looking at the best of nature while enjoying local coffee and well-made cakes. I checked the menu and saw the café has lots on offer if the internal fires need stoking with a meal.
There is a small charge to enter the galleries and the coffee etc at menu prices, which I thought to be very reasonable and I’m a skin flint – LOL While enjoying our coffee and cake, we watched a local Scrub Hen looking for its meal.
The Botanical Gardens have a long history and were first established in 1878 – only 5 years after Cooktown was established and include many of the plants used by the local Guugu Yimithirr people. Many of the plant species were collected by Joseph Banks and his assistant, Daniel Solander, who accompanied James Cook on The Endeavour on the first of the 3 great voyages of discovery. Check here for list of plants taken from the area to UK in 1770
The gardens have also contained walking tracks that lead to 2 popular local beaches.
If you look at the bottom left corner of the main photo, there is the head of huge iron-wood carving of a Queensland Python ready to scare kids. I’d just hate to meet the real thing.
Both Natures Powerhouse and Botanical Gardens are well-worth visiting and a credit to Cootown. Depending on level of interest, I’d suggest at least an hour to visit as a get away from the “hustle and bustle” of the main street.
Located behind the statue “Mick the Miner” is a non-descript set of three weather-beaten concrete steps with a glorious view overlooking the Cooktown Inlet and Endeavour River. Surrounding the steps is a purpose built, but small jetty that juts into the inlet somewhat like a sore thumb, but it does give clear berth to a larger ship – how large?
None other than HMY (Yacht) Britannia and QE11 (Queen Elizabeth the Second – sometimes and very irreverently and typical Aussie humour - Queen Liz) and assorted entourage, aid-de-camps and all the other trappings of Royalty – don’t forget to mention HRH Prince Phillip – and a few other come-along-for-the-jaunt freeloaders. Oh, nearly forgot to add Troops - 1 platoon of Royal Marines, Crew 19 Officers and 217 Royal Yachtsmen. My guess is tha population of the “Yacht” might have been larger than the population of the town at the time. I wonder how the local hotel would have coped if they’d all popped in for a quickie between engagements?
My somewhat cynical sense of humour can almost imagine the number of committee meetings, letters and all the rest between the local shire council, the Australian Government and the protocol office of the British Government for the design and construction of a non-descript set of three weather-beaten concrete steps that probably took 2 teams of guys at least a week to build - maybe more if they too had popped into the local for a quickie or three.
Now it must be understood why that previously stated non-descript set of three weather-beaten concrete steps is there for all to see and even makes it into the list of must-sees that was in our motel room and proudly sponsored by the local council and chamber of commerce/tourism.
OK so what’s all the fuss about a non-descript set of three weather-beaten concrete steps? The Queen arrived in 1970 to open the James Cook Museum and that was part of a year long celebration marking the 200 years since Captain James Cook’s remarkable voyage of discovery and the claiming of all the east coast of what he named New South Wales for King George 111. Just to make sure Cook got all that correct, that naming ceremony was conducted twice – Botany Bay (now part of Sydney) and Possession Island just east of the tip of Cape York Peninsula – interesting stuff history.
Located only 250 metres apart are the 2 monuments to Lieutenant James Cook and his remarkable voyage to Australia. (He was later promoted to Captain, but held the rank of Lieutenant during the first of his 3 great voyages of discovery, however as he was the commanding officer of the Endeavour he was entitled to the title of Captain).
The first and smaller memorial marks the actual spot where The Endeavour was beached for repairs and adjacent to the Milbi Wall. The plaque reads: “This cairn marks the spot where Captain James Cook beached his Barque H.M.S. Endeavour on the 18th of June in the year 1770” Sadly undated and it should be noted that the vessel had the designation HMB (Bark not Barque) and not S (ship) – yes I know this is all technical stuff and maybe you might consider the writer to be pedantic, but these are important facts and should be correct on public memorials.
The second (main photo) bears the inscription “In memoriam Captain Cook who landed here June 17, 1770. Post Cineres Gloria Venit.” One online translator suggested “After Ash Wednesday Fame Came,” however if you have knowledge of Latin and wish to correct, please feel free to send me a VT email.
You may have noticed a one day difference between the dates shown on the plaques – both are correct. Yes I know this is very confusing, but Cook’s log and journal were dated using “ships time” which begins at 12 noon, thus an incident that occurs at say 7 am on 18th June will be shown as 17th June in the ships log and any journals. This is the cause of endless confusion when reading older ships documents.
If you are interested in a good, free, on-line read, can I strongly recommend, Captain Cook's Journal During the First Voyage Round the World by James Cook
After running aground on Endeavour Reef and limping into the site of modern day Cooktown, James Cook and his sailors were looking for a safe passage out of the inlet and further exploration of the Australian mainland. Paralleling the coast of Queensland is the famous Great Barrier Reef – a chain of reefs stretching some 2000 kilometres, a great tourist draw card to this country, but presents a real and ever-present danger to shipping even today.
Cook climbed what he termed Grassy Hill, a steep climb, that affords a great panoramic view over the inlet and far out to sea. He was able to plot a course through the dangerous reefs and thus safety.
Today there is a road that terminates in a loop around the spectacular and well designed lookout. Bus and disabled parking is available adjacent to the lookout steps and a small car park for other vehicles is located a short but steep walk away.
In addition to the spectacular 360 degree view there is a plaque:
“Dedicated to Lieutenant James Cook R.N. and the crew of Endeavour and to all mariners – Royal Australian Navy.” Sadly the plaque is undated. The lighthouse is a separate structure.
During our visit we were “treated” to blustery and a cold-for-the-tropics wind and a rain squall – good fun – although my hating-the-cold-and-wind wife thought differently – LOL
Photo on Cooktown introduction page was taken from Grassy Hill lookout.
103 years after Cook’s ship The Endeavour was beached for repairs on the banks of the river that bears the name of his ship, another ship berthed at what was at first called Cook’s Town and later shortened to Cooktown. A statue was created and appropriately enough titled “Mick the Miner." The plaque reads :
“OFF TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE”
“At this spot on the 24th October 1873, the vessel “Leichhardt” discharged its cargo of Government officials, miners, horses and supplies for the trek to the Palmer River. This was the start of the famous “Palmer River Goldrush”, and the birth of the Port of Cooktown. Miners from all around the world, numbering in their tens of thousands, quickly followed the flow of people, supplies and gold through the port establishing Cooktown as one of Queensland’s most prosperous towns and the States second busiest port.
“This statue represents a typical miner on his way to the goldfields in the 1870’s, and was commissioned by the Cooktown and District Historical Society to mark the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Cooktown.
“Dated 31st October 1998 and Donated by The Endeavour Lions.”
If you are interested in history, I suggest a visit to the Cooktown and District Historical Society Inc and their COOKTOWN HISTORY CENTRE sadly I was unable to call in during my brief visit to Cooktown.
Cooktown History Museum is located in an old bank building. The museum is a nice way to learn about the founding of the town and the life in Cooktown and Palmer River gold fields. The exhibitions consist of photographs, maps, documents and more.
The museum is open Mon to Sat, - 9am to 3pm.
If you are an experienced walker or just like to take a slow pace there is walks for both.
Cooktown Scenic Rim Walking Trail is one that all can do. This walk allows you to commence or complete at many points along the way.
You can get a detailed map at the Tourist Information Centre in the Botanic Gardens or at the Council Office.
Mangroves Wetland Section , this section is influenced by the tides. It follows the Endeavour River and on to the Cooktown Cemetery .
There are a number of other walks that you can do and see great views.
Once again check at the Tourist Information Centre.