The Greater Cooktown Region.
In 1873 a group of sturdy tents were built on the shores of the Endeavour river, this seaside tented village became Cooks Town. Cooktown was later named in the honour of Captain James Cook, who in 1770 beached the HM Bark the Endeavour on the Southern banks. He named the Endeavour River where the crew made repairs after running aground on Endeavour reef located on the same latitude as Mungumby Lodge, this is one of many reefs that fringe this Rainforest & Reef coastline.
More than 100 years after Cook’s visit the area remained as it had always been, a peaceful, tranquil spot inhabited only by nomadic Aboriginals. In 1873 all this came to an abrupt end when James Venture Mulligan discovered gold in the Palmer River. It was decided that the site of Cook’s landing on the Endeavour River would be used as a port for the trek to the Goldfields and would become a busy remote Far Northern seaport.
On October 25th 1873 the steam ship Leichhardt arrived with building materials. Officials and prospectors to establish the township of “Cooks Town”. Prospectors poured in from everywhere and the town grew quickly. The town boasted 65 hotels, 20 eating houses and 32 general stores. By 1885 Cooktown’s population exceeded 35,000 including thousands of Chinese.
Cooktown depended on the mining of gold for its survival, and after the removal of 55 tons of alluvial gold, 8 years later production began to decline. By the turn of the century the population was barely 2,000, but with the growing pearling, tin and cattle industries the town managed to survive with its town status. During the second World War most of the town was evacuated. Cooktown survived once again and today it is a small village that is the Heart of Cape York and slowly increasing interest as a tourist attraction.
The surrounding region south of Cooktown hosts a diverse range of flora & fauna and show cases some of Queensland’s best frontier history. The nature is second to none, the Aboriginal culture of the Quinkan extremely interesting and the regions scenery awesome. The foreshore of Cooktown with its monuments pays tribute to early explorers’ courage and the Cooktown cemetery with history written on the stones and Chinese shrines, with the Miribilli wall telling traditional stories of Aboriginal ancestors. The James Cook Museum, Grassy hill look out and Cherry Tree bay a must.
Located on Shiptons Flat a short 20 minutes south of Cooktown on the Cape York Peninsula around 186m above sea level is the end of the worlds oldest rainforest. A large world heritage rainforest area of great conservation significance. Rainforest giving way to Eucalypt and Schloraphyl Rainforest after Black Mountain the rainforest ends and is only found in small pockets through the rest of Cape York. Black Mountain a 260 million year old ancient rock formations sit in their grandeur overlooking the Lions Den Hotel. The Lions Den Hotel was est. in 1875 by Jack Ross to recruit travelers to work at his Lions Den Mine on the Big Tableland near Mount Amos (846m) just behind Mungumby Lodge. The Helenvale area also hosts the spectacular Annan River gorge where the Mungumby and Wallaby creeks purge the rain from the mountains behind the Lodge. Mungumby Lodge is located here at the foot of the Big Tableland and its world heritage rainforest.
Rossville named after Jack Ross an original Irish miner who established a number of claims with the most famous being the Lions Den on the Big Tableland. In the late 1870’s Rossville was a hive of activity and a hub for tin and timber. Ancient rainforest giants felled by timber getters to support export and national orders as well as wood thirsty Cooktown with its buildings growing at a rapid pace. The fall in price of tin along with new metals arriving on the market the tin miners left their claims and the area slowly rejuvenated its lush world heritage rainforest and the hippies and tree hugger community soon developed. This area hosts world heritage rainforest of great conservation significance. A small community thrives and produces carbon credits to the rest of the world due to its vast areas of rainforest untouched and re-growth, its national parks, mountain peeks and abundant Wallaby Creek. Every September the region hosts the Wallaby Creek Festival a big attraction at Home Rule where around 1000-2000 alternative life style gatherers get together to celebrate music, crafts and the general outdoors. For more details on the Wallaby Creek Festival see www.wallabycreekfestival.org.au
Locals gather at the Rossville markets every second Sunday.
Wujal Wujal & Bloomfield/Ayton
Named after the falls the Aboriginal Community of Wujal Wujal is set in one of the eastern seaboards prettiest settings on the Bloomfield River. A short distance inland from the coast a small community with the store, library, hospital, police station, nice houses and cultural centre. One of the tidiest and well maintained Aboriginal communities on Cape York. Ayton has a IGA Express store and takeaway, Blooms Cafe with quality camping at Bloomfield Beach Camp. Bloomfield has a school and wharf. Wujal Wujal hosts the Bana Yirriji Art and Cultural Centre located on the banks of the Bloomfield River just below the Wujal Wujal waterfall with a cafe over looking the Bloomfield River Open Mon-Fri. Whilst down there don’t miss Weary Bay!
The region was developed by volcanic activity and is a large volcanic basin containing very rich volcanic soil. Formerly called “Butchers Hill” in late 1800’s supplying meat to the goldfields. In the mid 1950’s farms changed hands, irrigation lakes were built and the site renamed Lakeland Downs. Located on the Mulligan Highway Lakeland hosts a small school, pub, camp ground, two road houses one with a Coffee roasting house and really nice café. A gateway to Laura and Cooktown. A number of the farms are large scale employers especially Swiss Farms.
Laura & the Quinkan Country
Quinkan Country extends some 6,000sq Km of the South East Cape York Peninsula. Incorporated in this area is Lakeland National Park and Quinkan reserve, which extends from Laura to the coastline of Princess Charlotte Bay. This rugged terrain contains sandstone escarpments, open eucalyptus woodlands and a network of river systems all easily accessible from Mungumby Lodge.
Sandstone was layered down in cretaceous era as the bed of a shallow coastal lake, weathering and erosion over 100 million years created today’s Sandstone Plateau and escarpments. These provided rock shelters suitable for Aboriginal people to occupy during the wet season. Aboriginal people were living a traditional hunter-gathering way of life up until the Palmer River gold rush of the 1870s. The oldest known human occupation of rock shelters in the Quinkan area is dated to be 32,000 years ago. The importance of this was recognised in 1959 by Captain Percy Trezise, at the time an airline pilot. author\artist (formerly an acknowledged rock art authority, now deceased) when he read a report of a road gang discovering Aboriginal paintings on a large slab near Laura.
After visiting the site he realised that this must be one of many located in the area and began a program of exploration and recording of the Quinkan art. Following the discovery of the Split Rock gallery in 1959, some 34 sites with 1500 images were recorded by Percy Trezise over the last 30 years on canvas. Theses Canvases are now held in the archives of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra and some at the Quinkan Region Cultural Centre. In order to protect the extensive body of rock art in the Laura district Percy Trezise strives to have the area declared a Reserve, this he achieved in 1975, ensuring the preservation of these ancient drawings for the Traditional Owners and future generations.
Pay your walk entry fees at the Quinkan Cultural Centre prior to entering the reserve or visiting the sites. The Quinkan Region Cultural Centre offers guided tours to a number of other sites.The Aboriginal Rock art of this region is the best Aboriginal Rock Art in Queensland. Alternatively hop aboard the “Great Northern Safari” or the “Cooktown, Rock Art & Rainforest Expedition” which depart from Cairns to enhance your experience. We thoroughly recommend a visit to the Laura area as it provides a fascinating insight into these prehistoric sites and the Aboriginal way of life in this region.
Hope Vale & the Endeavour Valley
North of Cooktown this region is shaped by time and very scenic. The road to Hopevale is slowly improving and access to the coast is strictly by paid permit. Roads here are extremely rough going for any vehicle. Coloured sands and Elim beach are accessible from Hope Vale. This scenic remote coastline is scenic yet void of any facilities, take your mozzie cream and winch as the going gets unreasonably rugged. A delight fully setting at Elim beach where camping is available with limited facilities. The Battle camp road to Laura is scenic in places but also at times unreasonably rough.
The Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a huge area of largely undeveloped land located in Far Tropical North Queensland, Australia. It is a wilderness area of incredible contrasts, dusty tracks, abundant river systems, crystal clear creeks and spectacular waterfalls. There are breathtaking beaches, rich rainforest areas supporting varied fauna and flora, from the wild untamed bush to the friendliness of the people of the Torres Strait, Cape York will surprise and delight any visitor. At this time Cape York is untouched, providing a valuable insight into this unique land mass that is steeped in beauty and history.
The distance from Cooktown to the tip of Australia is about 700 km where the finger of the Cape York Peninsula points to New Guinea, which lies beyond the islands of the Torres Strait. On the Eastern side of the Peninsula from Cairns to Cooktown steep mountains clad in rainforest slope gently down to the ocean, this is where the rainforest meets the reef and the views over the Great Barrier Reef combined with the rich rainforest colours has to be one of the most spectacular sights you could ever see and is one of the most scenic areas in Australia.
Further north the country becomes much drier with sandstone & granite areas and hundreds of kilometres of wind swept beaches where time and tide have eroded cliffs into fascinating shapes. A belt of Limestone outcrops, which were once coral reefs, extends from Chillago to the North of the Palmer River. To the west rivers flow and emerge amongst the mangroves and join the grey waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The many National Parks are wide and varied, each having an unique value of its own.
There are only two seasons on Cape York Peninsula the “wet” and the “dry”. The wet is by far the most spectacular, from the end of November thunderstorms herald the beginning of the monsoonal rain. The parched land is replenished and the once dry rivers and creeks again flow. It is from January until April that the roads north of Cooktown will become impassable and the only way to visit the Cape York region is be by aircraft. At the end of the wet season the South East trade winds return drying the land, The once parched land is now green & lush and the wild flowers flourish. Mungumby Lodge is accessible all year round.