Cooktown is the northern-most town that is accessible by 2WD vehicles on the east coast of Australia. Cooktown is about 4 hours north of Cairns via in the inland route. If you have a 4WD, you can also access Cooktown via the coastal route via Bloomfield. There is plenty in and around Cooktown to pleasantly occupy a visitor for a 3 night stay. This is our itinerary!
Day 1 – Drive up to Cooktown and Orient Yourself
On the drive up to Cooktown via the inland route via Mulligan Highway, there are a couple of lookouts worth stopping at to stretch your legs. Stop at Bob’s Lookout near Desailly and at the Black Mountain National Park lookout.
When you get to Cooktown, orient yourself by heading up to the Grassy Hill Lookout. The 360 degree view is spectacular!!
Day 2 – Visit Sights South of Cooktown
Start the day with a visit to Keating’s Lagoon Conservation Park which is only 10 minutes south of Cooktown. It’s a very pretty area and has a structure for birdwatching.
After that, head further south to the Home Rule Rainforest Lodge and Camping. There are clear signage and trail markers from behind this property for walking to Home Rule Falls. The hike to Home Rule Falls is a bit strenuous and tricky in parts but the reward at the end is definitely worth it. The falls are magical and to have time at such a spectacular sight without any other visitors is really special. The pictures does not do it justice at all!
Drive further south past Bloomfield to the dry (alcohol free) town of Wujal Wujal. The jewel of this town is the magnificent Wujal Wujal Falls. There are supposed to be areas in this town where crocodiles can be spotted sunning themselves on the riverbank at low tide but we were unable to spot any!
Head north home via the famous Lion’s Den Pub. This is a classic outback pub reminiscent of the Daly Waters pub in the Northern Territory.
Day 3 – Visit Sights North and around Cooktown
Start the day by driving about 30 minutes north to the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park. The delightful Endeavour Falls is a short walk from behind this park.
Only 10 minutes north from Endeavour Falls is Isabella Falls. This location is a safe swimming hole (i.e. no crocodiles!) It’s a good spot for a refreshing albeit chilly dip!
Make your way back to Cooktown to spend sometime at the Cooktown Museum. Stroll through the small but charming Cooktown Botanic Gardens. Don’t forget to drive through the botanic gardens to see Finch Bay. A splendid looking beach but as with most water bodies in this region, swimming is prohibited due to the risk of crocodiles.
Whilst in Cooktown, the markets are worth a quick walk if you are there on a Saturday morning. It’s held down by the waterfront. Even if the markets are not running, the waterfront area is worth a stroll as there are many public artworks documenting the history of the region. A local’s secret in Cooktown is an unassuming, low key cafe on the waterfront next to the laundromat. Head to the Riverside Cafe in the morning to pick up a reasonably priced French patisserie style sweet treat!
An interesting (and perhaps worrying) thing to note is that when we visited, we noticed a lot of “for sale” signs. Many businesses, plots of land and residential properties had “for sale” signs displayed. It is not clear why. Potentially, these may be a profitable purchase if the Bloomfield track is made accessible for 2WD allowing greater volumes of visitors (and attracting more residents) up to Cooktown.