Trip report: private guide to Cooktown, Queensland

Sep 2nd, 2010, 08:18 PM
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Posts: 418
Trip report: private guide to Cooktown, Queensland

Herewith, my burnt offering to you, dear reader(s), who may be contemplating such an adventure:

TRIP REPORT: Day trip to Cooktown, far North Queensland November 2009

First, I would like to thank the one person who answered my plea for information on the possibility of a day trip to this place, from my base in sunny down town Atherton. Your advice “Don’t bother”, was not very helpful, I must say, and not in keeping with the usual FODOR community efforts. Well, it takes all kinds, but, I’ve got your number GRUMBLEBUM007. Just you wait until you want some information. And, I’ve got friends who are watching too!

I would like to provide a little historical background to the settlement of Cooktown. That’s exactly what you’re going to get: a little bit. My deep research threw up this fascinating information:

In August, 1768, Elizabeth Cook noticed that her spouse Capt. James Cook, whom she fondly called “Cappy”, was getting a tad restive. So, she wasn’t entirely surprised when one evening after their usual dinner of small beer (what the heck IS small beer?), mutton and toad-in-the-hole, he turned to her and the brood of kiddies clustered at his knee, and said “I’m just going down to the corner store .. I’m out of cigarettes.” Well, that would be the last she saw or heard from him until July 1771. And, of course, he left his mobile phone at home, so who knows where he was, or got up to? He had slipped the GPS into his Capt Cook Coat, so she couldn’t even get a clue from that. Well, as now can be revealed, he was roving the high and low seas, bumping into places like Tahiti, New Zealand and the east coast of Oz. This is a critical phase of my story, because, as he was cruising around the Great Barrier Reef, with his snorkeling gear at the ready, darned if he didn’t smack into a great dirty piece of coral. Oh, not him personally, the boat or ship or whatever you call those big things that float on water. (No, not a duck, silly.) Anyhoo, this required him to get serious and find a place to heave into, to fix the great, dirty hole in the ship. Oh, another tid-bit of this jigsaw puzzle. The boat/ship was named the Endeavour, neat name, eh? And, you’ll never guess … the place he found to hove in happened to be the mouth of the Endeavour River. Talk about your coincidences!! Sort of makes you go all funny, I reckon. But wait, you’re probably ‘way ahead of me! Yes, that place, with no one there but Cooky and his merry men , just happened to be Cooktown. I just go all gaga at this. I mean, he could have landed at the Derwent River, near Launceston, and his whole story would not have been anywhere near as fascinating.

Ok, I know you’re anxiously waiting for the action part of this report, but I have to go chase some of those pesky cane toads. So, I’ll be back to tell you about the riveting trip TO Cooktown. Bye for now.
YvonneT is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 08:21 PM
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Here we go, the long awaited 2nd part of this epic adventure:

Trip Report: day Trip to Cooktown, Part 2

Arrangements had been made for a private driver/tour guide for the day trip to Cooktown. I was a little put out to find I had to get myself from my accommodations in sunny, downtown Atherton (Chez Yvonne : review to follow) to Mareeba, a town about 30 minutes to the north. Luckily, I had access to a vehicle, so with some rather vague directions from the tour guide, I left Atherton behind. The drive to Mareeba was nothing short of boring, with dried cane fields alternating with potato and banana fields. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open! After several false attempts, and the help of some Mareeba natives, I finally found the office of the tour guide. She was sitting under a cassia tree, dragging heavily on a cigarette, and looked mildly annoyed that I had actually found her. I discovered later that she moonlights WITH the Commonwealth government, but doesn’t like people to know this. That explained the Government vehicle we used to get to Cooktown, her endless expense account ….. But, hey, the air conditioner worked efficiently, and I only had to kick aside a heap of Government brochures to take my place in the passenger seat.

It was now half past lunch time, but apparently M. the driver wasn’t going to let a little thing like my hypoglycaemia worry her, no sirree!!! Off we went, on the road to adventure. Past Lake Mitchell to our left, through Mount Malloy, and Mount Carbine. We actually had a stop at Bob’s Lookout, but only because M’s nicotine level was dangerously low. It was so rewarding to gaze out at the acres of …, well, acres. Into the car again, up the Mulligan Highway to Palmer River Roadhouse. I could easily write a whole sentence about this establishment. Yay! Food??? Well, maybe I should go on a diet, after all. Keep in mind it was now around 40 degrees (that’s Celsius, you guys in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, to convert that to your funny scale, take the birth year of your mother, divide by the date of the full moon in November, 2001, multiply by the age of your favorite movie star and there you go: hot, eh?) And, there’s no sissy thing like air conditioning in Palmer River Roadhouse, and the aroma of the bacon that was fried for breakfasts past was hanging heavily in the air. M. went to the toilet, I was so nicely dehydrated, I didn’t bother.

It seemed like forever since we had left Mareeba, but we sure weren’t there yet. One highlight of the next leg was whizzing past the turn off to LAURA!!! At least, I think that’s what the sign said, although it might have read LOLA, perhaps?? Another Lookout loomed, this one nameless, but it suited M’s need for more nicotine. She urged me to take some photos, which I listlessly did. How exciting are dead trees, dead grass, dead kangaroos??

Whoo hoo, we slithered down Annan Gorge, through Black Mountain National Park, all blurs, since M. is another budding Formula One driver, and arrived in great triumph in Cooktown. We were booked into the Seaview Motel (Review posted; see Rest Of The World). For now I can tell you, it was not only basic, but also basic. Yes, the government spares no expense for its employees, let me tell you. At least, there was an air conditioner, TG.

M. did the tour guide bit, “To the left is the Endeavour River, here we go up to the Lookout, so I can have another cigarette, gee you sure sweat a lot, enjoy the view, because that’s it for today, what did you think you’d get for the price you paid?”

Recognising that she could have a corpse on her hand, and things to explain to my son, who is to be notified in emergencies, M. decided we’d look for a place for our evening feast. She bypassed Chop Suey Louies, Gilled and Gutted Fish and Chips, (I am NOT making this up!) and settled on the Little Venice Pizza and Pasta Take Away. Hey, the owner is a real Italian, talks the talk and everything!! So, with my bucket of Fettucine Amatriciana clutched in my happy little hand, back we went to the Seaview, to have our meal at a little picnic table, squinting into the sun setting over the river. How happy I was that I had thought to bring a bottle of Chianti and a corkscrew with me. How happy M was, also!

All this relentless activity had left me ready to have a quiet read, but M found some fellow Government employees with whom to network. So, she took the rest of the wine, managing somehow to spill some on the white trousers I was planning to wear next day. She giggled, flicked some ash on the stain and went out to have a good time!! Boy, I’ll check out my tour guide more closely with TA next time!!

So, I’ll leave this for now, and finish the report of the next day, later. Maybe.
YvonneT is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 10:41 PM
Join Date: Aug 2010
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As someone who has been to Australia twice--but never to Cooktown--I thought I would give this trip report a glance.

I devoured every word. It is hilarious.

I so want to go "to the top" someday so I can deal with cane toads.

Thus, far I've covered Fraser Island to Byron Bay and all points in between, Lamington National Park, Toowoomba, Dalby (the closest I got to the outback) and Sydney. That was trip one.

On trip two, from which I returned a little over two weeks ago, I "did" Melbourne and the surrounding area. Additionally I spent 4 nights in Tasmania and visited the ruined prison historical site at Port Arthur.

I hope your report gets more attention than most TR's on this board. Americans, who make up the majority of the people on fodors, get all worked up about Europe but never consider down under. With the air fares to Europe skyrocketing, an air fare to Australia is not necessarily more expensive.

The length of the flight to Australia is, of course, something else.
yentakvetch is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 11:01 PM
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It is indeed hilarious, Yvonne, please do continue. All I can say is you were lucky to escape dining at Chop Suey Louie's, I wasn't so fortunate.
pat_woolford is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 11:22 PM
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yentakvetch, if you ever get back to Oz, M and I will be sure to show you a good time, as only we of the deep North can do! I'll make sure to nurture some of the cane toads for you.

At least you've seen some of our fabulous country .. it's so blasted big, though.

pat, I reckon I've screeched to a dead stop with my report, although the fun did continue the next morning when we sought a likely place to have brekkie. I'm glad we avoided Chop Suey Louie's!!
YvonneT is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 04:58 AM
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And thank you SO much for elucidating us on some of those little known facts about Capt. Cook (& his GPS) -- and for finally detailing that elusive formula for converting celsius to fahrenheit ;-).

Brilliant writing!
Songdoc is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 05:35 AM
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Pat's put me onto your report - she was right - you're hysterical, and I can't tell you how sorry I am that you haven't finished by the time I take off for Australia tonight, as I'll shortly be headed to....Cooktown.

I too, have a guide, but a good one, as I've put clients with him; this will be my first time out with him and I'm looking forward to that part. But, we'll see about my accommodation = there was some mis-communication with my contacts and a scramble just last week when we all realized nothing had been booked for me. Would you believe nearly everything in Cooktown's booked up because of a FILM CREW in town?? I KNOW! Think of me in several days as I check in for one night at Pam's Place Motel/Hostel.

Best regards,

Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 09:49 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 28
Hi to Yvonne and Melodie

My o/h and arrived back this morning after 6 weeks of touring Queensland, Darwin and Top End, ending with a stop over in Singapore.

During this time we stopped over in Cooktown for 2 nights and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We stopped at Pam's Place Motel/Hostel (we are 50+ YHA members). We got a self-containd motel room, which had air con, cooking, was clean (if basic), quiet, with car parking, and was very, very cheap (when compared to the Seaview etc in Cooktown).

We drove up the Bloomfield Track ourselves, after a stop in Cape Trib for 2 nights on route to get to Cooktown.

On arriving there at about 1.00pm we had to quickly get ready to head out on our first activity, which was to go on Willie Gordon's Guurrbi Great Emu Rock Art tour. Willie is a fantastic, charismatic person who is very inspiring. This is more than a Rock Art Tour, a must for visiting Cooktown.

After that we walked up to the Grassy Hill Lookout for the fantastic sunset, we walked because part of the road is being developed and closed off at the top (you climb through building site protection to get access!!

The end of our first evening in Cooktown was spent over dinner at the Restaurant 1770 at the wharf, were we had great service and a fantastic one pot casserole. This is a relatively new restaurant in a lovely water front setting.

The next day, a Sunday, we went to the museum (excellent on Cook, and insight into the hard life and times of Cooktown and its history), walked along the waterfront walk of life, and visited all the Cook monuments.

Our interest in Cooktown was related to Capt Cook, who was born, grew up and went to school near where we live. My o/h has had his photo taken at our own local Cooks Monument, as well as Cook monuments in New Zealand and others in Australia. Our Cooktown visit allowed him to add another monument photo to his Cook collection.

Our second evening was spent having Sunday roast at the Bowls Club, where we signed in as visitors (something we learned about when in Aus before - anybody can go along and sign into Sport Clubs and RSL's as visitors). We had an excellent roast lamb dinner for $12 each, excellent value.

The next day we visited the old Bank, again giving you a great insight into the hard life people endured and the gold prospecting history of the area. We then headed back by the inland road to Palm Cove for a few nights, stopping off at the Palmer River Roadhouse on the way (see my complete trip report - to be written after a good nights sleep as we only landed at 6.00am today from Singapore). I definately would not recommend the accomodation at the Roadhouse, but may be maligning it as we only looked on from the exterior. I was doubtful about the potential quality of the food, but need not have worried at my steak sandwich was actually cooked perfectly!! Roadhouses in the remote areas of Aus play an important part in giving areas facilities and allowing travel, they are all unique with their own personality.

I hope this helps for anyone planning on visiting Cooktown, or in a small way helps you to decide to visit.
Kasyorks is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 01:43 PM
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Good morning!

Songdoc, it is amazing what you can find on the ever to be trusted! I have many other formulae which have proved to be of extreme value to my children as they went through high school. Strangely, none of them followed a scientific career.

wizmatilda, buon viaggio, have a wonderful time in Australia, remember to get into as many scenes as you can with that Film Crew in town. By the way, when you say you are a "Certified" Aussie expert, how should we take that? Just wondering, in case our paths cross.

Kasyorks, if I didn't know better, I'd say that was real advice you were offering! How cool to have that connection with Cookie. That museum is a corker, not your usual boring old place. You're making me want to give M. a call to see when she's going up there again.
YvonneT is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Melodie, if going up to Iron Range don't let him sit you under the Smuggler's Tree.
AlanJG is offline  
Sep 20th, 2010, 05:31 PM
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Posts: 195
Thanks for the entertaining trip "report", timely as I just said "we are going to Cooktown" earlier today and you show up. However, we are staying at Daintree Wilderness Lodge which is much closer. Thanks for creating the conversation about where to eat, and where not to. 30 days to go.
ShellCat is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 04:24 PM
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Very , very funny. Loved the bit about Captain Cook!
KERRYAJS1 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 08:14 PM
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If you have childen they have Cane Toad Adventure World at Gordonvale south of Cairns. A childrens playground monument to a poisonous pest. Only in the Far north.!
Kriol is offline  
Oct 12th, 2010, 10:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi Kasyorks & Yvonne,

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, but I didn't get back until Sept. 22, and I've been digging out ever since. Also, I did learn of my friend Neil's passing while in Australia, and frankly, I tried to read the postings, and add my own, but I just got so emotional; so I've been avoiding the Forum.

Yvonne, well, I've been "cerfified" by the Australia Tourism government; although I'm sure there are days when I actually am...certifieable.......

Kasyorks -- we could have run into each other! The reason I went to Cooktown was to take Willie's tour -- I've been sending clients for years, but never experienced it myself. I too, stayed at Pam's Place and of course, went to see the Museum the following day.
wlzmatilida is offline  
Oct 15th, 2010, 03:36 AM
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Hey, wizmatilda

Not many folks can so proudly say they are "certified". Good on ya for coming out with that. So, will I get to see you on our tourism ads, like the famous "Where the B..... h... are we"? Sophisticated lot we are.

What were they filming at Cooktown? Here I am, about 5 hours away, and don't know!
YvonneT is offline  

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