20km south of Cooktown is the turn off (4WD) to Archer Point a beautiful piece of coastline with a lighthouse up on the point. Now returned to the custodianship of the Yuku Baja Muliku people it is well worth a visit. There are a couple of beaches and a reef close to the shore, which can be walked to at low tide – and some good fishing.
ENDEAVOUR & ISABELLA FALLS
The picturesque Endeavour River Falls, 32 kms north of Cook town (2WD), are accessed at the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park. The owners of the store and caravan park welcome visitors to view the Falls but please drop in to the shop and let them know you are visiting. No swimming. Continue past the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park towards Hope Vale, turning left onto Battlecamp Road (well signposted). Several kilometres along the road crosses Isabella Creek and the very pretty falls are a short walk down – where there is a safe swimming hole.
These beautiful falls lie about 30 mins drive south of Cooktown (including 2 kms of 4WD track). Here you will be rewarded by remote beauty, tranquility and safe swimming – a great place to bring a picnic and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
LAURA ROCK ART GALLERIES
Laura is recognised as one of the most significant rock art sites in Australia dating back at least 15-30,000 years. It is famous for its depictions of Quinkans (pictured), supernatural spirits that live in the surrounding sandstone and do their work at night. There are many Aboriginal art sites in the area, the most popular being Yalangi, Mushroom Rock, the famous Giant Horse and the Quinkan Galleries (2-3 hours). Split Rock is another gallery located 12 kms south of Laura and is well set up for self-guided tours with boardwalks, interpretative information, toilet and car park. Check out the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre for information and guided tours.
Rising up from the wilderness just outside Cooktown is a colossal, blackened jumble of enormous boulders that looks less like a natural formation than something that was intentionally dumped here by giant hands. Black Mountain, long been associated with bizarre unexplained phenomena and intertwined with dark folklore, is a strange place long shunned and feared by the indigenous people who believe it is a sacred battlefield and the scene of the last spear fight between the black and white cockatoo the totems of the inland and local clans.
HOPE VALE & ELIM SANDS
Set in a picturesque valley 40 mins north of Cooktown, Hope Vale Aboriginal Community is gateway to one of the most spectacular sand dune environments on Cape York within the traditional country of the Guugu Yimithirr,. Hidden in the hills surrounding the township are the Nugal rock art sites, set in a beautiful, ancient country with giant rocks and stunning views. Drive (4WD) through white silica sand hills, rugged escarpments and heath lands for another hour to get to the stunning beach at Elim, home to the famous Coloured Sands.
HOME RULE FALLS
Home Rule is a private camping ground near Rossville, 30 minutes away from Cooktown. A moderate 2.6 kms (45 mins each way) rain forest walk following a water pipeline from Home Rule takes you to an impressive three-tiered waterfall. Here, surrounded by tropical rainforest, Wallaby Creek plunges into a large deep swimming hole.
LIONS DEN HOTEL
The iconic Lions Den Hotel, established in 1875 from timber and iron with its quirky decorations and some great old photos is a favourite spot for locals and tourist alike. Set on the lush banks of the Little Annan River, surrounded by 100 year old mango trees and tropical landscapes it is a great spot for a lunch out of town or to listen to live music in season.
Keating's Lagoon (Mulbabidgee) is a beautiful tranquil conservation park just eight kilometres southwest of Cooktown. This conservation park has been set aside to protect the wetlands and surrounding habitat, which is teeming with birdlife. A visit to Keating’s Lagoon reserve just outside Cooktown is a treat not to be missed. It’s a beautiful peaceful wetland home to an array of flora and birdlife. Known as Mulbabidgee to the Waymbuurr people, the Traditional Owners of this park, it has been used for thousands of years for the collection of a variety of plants for food, medicines and raw materials. The wetland is a refuge for thousands of waterbirds, especially in the dry season (May to October) when they congregate to feast on the rich aquatic life.
BLOOMFIELD FALLS & TRACK
Drive on sealed Bloomfield to Bloomfield to experience one of the most picturesque drives in the region; amazing coastline, flanked by rainforest. Take a short walk to see the spectacular Bloomfield Falls and visit the Bana Yirriji Art & Cultural Centre at Wujal Wujal. Crossing the Bloomfield River takes you on to the famous 4WD track through the rain forest to Cape Tribulation.
LAKEFIELD NATIONAL PARK
The Cape’ largest national park, Lakefield (Rinyirru) lies only 90 minutes north east of Cooktown along the Battle Camp Road (usually easy 4WD). It’s a eucalypt woodland but gets flooded during the Wet Season, because of the large number of large rivers. During the Dry Season the water levels drop back and the marine floodplains become grasslands, but all the permanent waterholes and lily lagoons remain, attracting many birds and other wildlife. Lake Emma, Horseshoe Lagoon and Welcome Waterhole all lie close to the Battle Camp Road and offer fantastic remote scenery and wildlife. The park is a very popular fishing and camping destination with over 20 camp grounds across a diverse range of country. Visit the Queensland Parks website for more information and bookings.