Cruise ships are not able to dock here, you will be tendered ashore.
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Cooktown is named after Captain James Cook, who landed here in 1770 when his ship, the Endeavour, needed repair. (Today a statue of Cook stands in the harbor near the spot where his ship landed.) It wasn't until the end of the 19th century that the town was established after gold was discovered nearby. The town quickly grew to become one of Queensland's largest settlements, but as mining flourished, so did the crime.
Miners from China raced to the area in search of fortune, but they faced great prejudice, resulting in violent riots. Problems also arose between the gold miners and the Aborigines, who attempted to halt what they believed was the destruction of their land and the natural resources of Queensland. During the mining days, Cooktown was said to have dozens of pubs and brothels, and the streets were unsafe. Today this town is a peaceful place and offers visitors a chance to visit Cook's Lookout or explore the past in the Museum or the bush, where the Aborigines once lived.
Grassy Hill lookout (162m) has spectacular 360-degree views, and its 1.5km walking trail (45 minutes) leads from the summit down to the beach at Cherry Tree Bay. Charlotte St and Bicentennial Park have a number of interesting monuments, including the much-photographed bronze Captain Cook statue.
James Cook Museum, Daily 9AM-4PM from 1 May to 30 September except during public holidays and extreme weather events. Documents Cook's voyages, Aboriginal and natural history, the gold rush and the legacy of the Chinese miners. The museum is housed in a former convent school that was built in 1888 and run by Irish nuns.
The township itself is easily traversed by foot, and there are a few interesting walks to the national park and beaches that start right at the edge of town.
Several river cruises are available at the dock. Expect to see a croc or two, large varieties of mangroves, birdlife, and maybe a snake.
Shops and services are generally open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and until lunchtime on Saturday. In cities and larger towns, many shops stay open late on Thursday or Friday evening - usually until 9pm - and all day on Saturday. Shopping malls are often open on Sundays as well.
In remote country areas, roadhouses provide all the essential services for the traveler and, on the major highways, are generally open 24 hours a day. In tourist areas, even ones well off the beaten track, tourist offices are often open every day or at least through the week plus weekend mornings; urban information centers are more likely to conform to normal shopping hours.
Tourist attractions such as museums, galleries and attended historic monuments, are often open daily, though those in rural communities may have erratic opening hours.
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