Cooktown holds much of Australia’s rich history, with Captain James Cook’s landing and the first recorded reconciliation between the First Australians and Europeans in 1770. It is also home of the Cooktown Races, the Cooktown Discovery Festival and a number of museums and galleries.
Cooktown Cemetery: Charlotte Street, Cooktown
The historic Cooktown cemetery is the final resting place for many nationalities, religions and cultures that have made their life in this small town. The various styles of graves represent the different religious and non-religious groups that characterised the pioneering history of Cooktown and the Palmer River Gold Rush. Sections include the Roman Catholic Church, Church of England, Jewish and a spectacular Chinese shrine. The Roman Catholic section contains the graves of the first two Bishops of Cooktown and also the founding mother superior of St Marys Convent – Mother Mary De Sales. Other notable graves include Elizabeth Jardine (wife of John Jardine who established Port Summerset near the tip of Cape York), Mary Watson and her infant son Ferrier of Lizard Island and the Normanby Woman.
Museums and Galleries
Cooktown Creative Arts Association: 97 Charlotte Street, Cooktown
9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday and 9am – 12pm, Saturday
Established by a group of local artists in 1990, the Cooktown Creative Arts Association (CCAA) caters to a wide range of art and craft based activities. Located in the old Cooktown railway station, the artwork of local artists can be seen and purchased, including painting, jewellery, furniture, wood work stained glass and much more. The association also offers a range of workshops and demonstrations accessible to the general public, making this a wonderful place to go, browse and possibly find your own hidden talent.
http://www.wix.com/cooktowncreativearts/shop / (07) 4069 5794
Cooktown History Centre: 121 Charlotte Street, Cooktown
9.00am – 3.00pm, Mon – Saturday: March to October
The Cooktown History Centre, run by the Cooktown & District Historical Society, offers a unique insight into the intriguing history of the region with stories, photos, maps and interactive displays. Housed in the oldest building in Charlotte Street (erected in 1875 as Cooktown’s first post and telegraph office), the centre houses a brilliant exhibition that brings to life Cooktown’s Indigenous history, early families, railways and roads, cyclones and other significant events. It also offers people who have connections to Cooktown to trace their ancestry through the database in the research area.
Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery: 125 Charlotte Street, Cooktown
10.00am – 4.00pm, Monday – Saturday
The Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery is home to the Cooktown School of Art which formed in 1978 by a group of people looking to improve their skills. The Gallery, built in 1988, was named in 1998 in honour of late member Guzsely in recognition of her legacy. Fine Arts graduate Guzsely arrived in Australia as a refugee and moved to Cooktown with her husband in 1977. She became a valued member of the Arts Society and initiated the dream for a gallery. The gallery houses works by local artists in a variety of medium and styles. These include oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolour, mixed media, charcoal, graphite, pen & ink and indigenous art linked to local cultural traditions.
James Cook Museum: Corner of Helen & Furneaux Streets, Cooktown
9.00am – 4.00pm, Tuesday – Saturday
Housed in a magnificent 19th Century convent building, the James Cook Museum showcases the fascinating history of the region. The museum follows the story of Captain James Cook’s enforced seven week stay at the Endeavour River, during which the first meaningful contact between Europeans and Indigenous Australian took place, to the days of the Palmer River gold rush, as well as personal stories and items from Cooktown’s early residents.
https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/james-cook-museum / email@example.com / (07) 4069 5386
Kuku Bulkaway Aboriginal Art Gallery: 142 Charlotte St, Cooktown
This small gallery houses a collection of local indigenous arts and crafts. A percentage of all sales go towards the Yuku Baja Muliku Land Trust to aid in land management and turtle rescue work.
https://www.facebook.com/KukuBulkaway / (07) 4069 6957
Nature’s Powerhouse and Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery: Botanic Gardens Cooktown, Cooktown
9:30am – 4.00pm, daily
Located in the picturesque and heritage listed Botanic gardens, Natures Powerhouse is home to original botanical illustrations by acclaimed botanical artist, Vera Scarth-Johnson (OAM) and works from the Banks Florilegium, rare prints based on Sydney Parkinson’s sketches of samples collected by Joseph Banks in the area in 1770. Nature’s Powerhouse is also the venue for travelling art exhibitions and community concerts. Cooktown Visitor Information Centre.
The Boathouse: 121a Charlotte Street, Cooktown
10.00am – 2.00pm daily
The Boathouse is the home of the Cooktown Re-enactment Association which was formed in 1959 to deliver the annual re-enactment of Captain James Cook’s landing in 1770. On display is the exhibition ’48 days – A Shared History’, a series of stunning murals exploring the stay of Cook and the crew of the HMB Endeavour at Cooktown. The association celebrates and promotes Cooktown’s shared history – that of the European sailors and the local Bama (Indigenous people).
Willie Gordon, a Nugal-Warra elder and Guugu Yimithiir speaker knows all about the area and its culture. On his tours you will walk the ancient tracks of the Nugal people that we’ve used for centuries, showing spectacular rock arts of the “rainbow serpent” and others, describing the stories behind them and how they came to be, also demonstrating the arts of bush medicine and finding bush tucker, how to track certain animal trails and so much more. He also gives an insight to Indigenous philosophy and spirituality but no experience is ever the same.