In and around Cooktown
Explore | 4WD | camping | history | waterfalls | Far North | Queensland

In and around Cooktown

Things to do and see

by Susie Baber  |  27 August 2022

We dedicated three days to exploring the Cooktown area and based ourselves at the iconic Lion’s Den Hotel. Arriving at the Hotel just after ten and they were happy for us to drop of the van and head off exploring which worked well for us.

The Lions Den Hotel

The Lions Den Hotel just south of Cooktown, is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Queensland. Sitting at the northern end of the Bloomfield and CREB tracks, the timber and iron pub is an iconic stop for weary 4WDers heading to and from the Cape. Memorabilia lines the walls along with signatures from thousands of other ‘pilgrims’ to Cape York dating back to the 1800s. As well as offering good food, cold drinks and live entertainment the Lions Den offers powered and unpowered camping amongst the trees behind the pub.


The last time Andrew and I were in Cooktown was on our honeymoon, longer ago than I care to admit. Back in those day it was strictly 4WD or visit by boat, we did the later, enjoying a day trip from Port Douglas by sea. These days the road is bitumen all the way from Cairns and the town has changed accordingly. We parked at the far end of the main street near the wharf and had an early seafood lunch next to the water. After our seafood feast we wandered through town to see if we recognise anything from our previous visit – the answer was not much. Since access to Cooktown has opened up the town has become a very popular tourist destination.

James Cook was a very busy man in his heyday and we have seen many monuments to his achievements along the NSW and Qld coast. Cooktown is no exception, there are series of monuments in the park along the shoreline including one marking the spot where H.M. Barque Endeavour took refuge on the shores of the Endeavour River in 1770 while the crew made repairs to the ship.

There is evidence of Cooktown’s colourful past all over town, and many places of interest can be seen with a leisurely stroll of the Main Street. Shops, museums, Memorial Park and five pubs – you certainly won’t go thirsty. We walk as far as the IGA and meet the others there to restock the fridge before heading off to our next stop.

Elim Beach and The Coloured Sands

Our original plan was to spend a night or two at Elim Beach but after our windy experience at Chili Beach we decided maybe beach side camping on the east coast could be a little fraught. Researching the alcohol restrictions for the area, and realising we had a stock of drinks that are not permitted, helped us make the decision to stay at the Lion’s Den instead and leave all our supplies in the van.  Hopetown regulations allow no spirits, straight or mixed and no full-strength beer, with a possible $37,500 fine, it wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.

Eddies Camp at Elim Beach looks lovely, white sandy beach surrounded by paperbark trees, but as suspected it was very windy. Day visitors pay $10 a car for beach driving permits which allows you to drive up to the coloured sands. The beach and coloured sands can only be accessed two hours either side of low tide, and as you drive onto the sand rusting evidence can be seen of what might happen if you ignore the warnings. The beach is lined with sand dunes and coloured cliffs in yellows, oranges and reds.

We also explored the area east of Eddies towards Cape Bedford until the sandy tracks started to narrow and we turn back towards camp and the Lions Den Pub for dinner.


We visited three waterfalls in the Cooktown area, the first was near Hope Vale.  A short detour down Battle Camp Road you will find Isabella Falls, the road runs virtually over the top of the falls. There is a small carpark off the road and it is just a short walk to the bottom of the falls where the water cascades into a nice pool with a sandy beach.

Isabella Falls
Bloomfield Falls

The second was Bloomfield Falls , just upstream from the bridge in the community of Wujal Wujal. The road ends at the carpark and a rough track follows the river for about 300m before you can see the falls. As tempting as the water hole looks this is a great spot for a picnic, but is not one for swimming as there have been crocodiles in the area. 

The most impressive though was Trevethan Falls which we learnt about from a fellow camper. These spectacular falls plunge into a large deep swimming hole surrounded by moss covered boulders. You might need a 4WD for this one – 13.5 kms south of Cooktown take the Amos Bay turn off the Mulligan Highway, after about 13km of dirt road you come to a rough carpark and a bush track leading upstream. The walk is about 400m uphill but worth the effort.

4WD the Bloomfield and CREB tracks

After yesterday’s warm up 4WDing, the boys are keen to try something more adventurous, so we decide to have a go at the two iconic 4WD tracks between the Daintree and Cooktown. Running down the coast is the Bloomfield Track and deeper in the rainforest the more adventurous CREB track. Together these two tracks should make a up an exciting day on the road. You can read more details here.

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