We had been told Cooktown was a very RV friendly town, but we were surprised with how unfriendly it was. Don’t get me wrong the people were lovely, it was other things that got my back up. In all the information we had read it said there was a bush camp right in the middle of the town, great we thought. No, there were so many restrictions on the campground it made it almost impossible for anyone to stay there. We thought we might just be able to pass the rules so went to have a look at the sight. We found the signs leading to the camp well enough but when we arrived, there were “No Camping” signs all over the place. Ok it had been moved but there was no further signage to say where the new campground had moved to. Not happy. We had also been told there was lots of van parking around the town and at the different museums and at the botanical gardens. For us it didn’t seem to be that convenient and we couldn’t find the van parking area it in the town. So all in all I don’t find the town especial RV friendly.
Now that I have had my little whine about the town I can move on. (I guess my lack of sleep the night before made me cross with everything.) I did enjoy the town. We stayed at a farmstay about 15ks out of the town. It may have seemed a little far out but no other accommodation nearer was as cheap. We paid $25 a night for a non-powered site. (The camp was an eco park so no power at all.) It was almost half the price of anything we looked at in the town itself.
The farm grew red passionfruit. The farmer told us with pride he was classified as having the best red passionfruit in the industry. The camping was only a side business and the tourist season only lasted for about 2 months of the year although he did get the odd people through during the rest of the year.
The camp was very basic. The hot water for the showers was solar but at nightfall they lit a fire under a large water tank, plenty of hot water then. Each day the farmer would bring a tub of passionfruit and leave it in the camp kitchen. Each bag was $5 for 10. Yes I did grab a bag. The farmer had told us the red passionfruit was the sweetest of the passionfruit line.
The sites were very large areas set amongst the forest. It felt as if you were on your own. It was a bit of a walk to the showers but when you walked though the door you were greeted with a lovely little garden, something different.
On our first day we visited the botanical gardens. It was a fun morning, as we had to dodge the sprinklers. It seemed like half the gardens were being watered. I saw one woman get hit by a shot of water as she was taking a photo. I tried not to laugh as she jumped and squealed in fright. I attempted to look sympathetic to her discomfort. I don’t know if I was successful or not, she gave me a look and said ‘you would think they would water before the gardens were opened” I had to agree with her. I did see the funny side of it and I was almost drenched several times myself.
The gardens have several different sections to it. We started with the Orchid part. Cooktown has it’s own orchid which also happens to be Queensland’s State floral Emblem. They were once very common in the area but not so these days. The lack of orchids in the wild has been put down to unscrupulous collectors. For that reason the orchids in the gardens are now kept locked up, I had to almost push my camera though the bars to get a photo of one.
We saw another orchid, which blew me away. The Vanilla Orchid, which originally comes from Mexico. I didn’t know that vanilla comes from an orchid, ok I never really thought about where vanilla did come from but if I did; an orchid would not have been on the top of my list. Once pollinated the flower develops into a pod. This is where we get the vanilla bean. The flowers hang in racemes of about 20 flowers, usually only one flower will open at a time. Each flower, when open will only last for about a day. If you are growing the orchid to get the vanilla beans then the flower must be pollinated manually during the morning. Why manually? Only the Melipone bee, which is very small, can pollinate the flower and they do not survive outside of Mexico. The pods will take about five months to mature. Then there is a lengthy time to process it, which involves fermenting and drying it while trying not to lose the essential oils. All this, makes the vanilla one of the most expensive spices in the world. Wow, I see vanilla in a whole new light now.
I could only imagine how lovely the gardens would be when everything was in flower. There were some flowers but not many. Even so, I loved the gardens and enjoyed looking around them. We keep on missing the flower seasons.
We strolled along the tourist strip of the town. There were statues and monuments scattered along the way, one was a tribute to the Chinese miners. In the late 1870’s there were four Chinese to every one European in the area. Gold was discovered in 1872 later, tin was discovered as well. The Chinese made up most of the miners.
A little further towards town was a tribute to European miners. The statue also marks the spot when on the 24th of October 1983 the vessel Leichhardt landed brimming with cargo and government officials along with horses and supplies and of course miners to start the great “Palmer River Goldrush.”
There is also a plaque beside the water to honour where Captain Cook beached the Endeavour for some repairs to her hull in 1770 and a statue of him a little further on. (They had struck the Great Barrier Reef about 40km south of Cooktown.)
Along the water’s edge is a park with the statues and plaques. What caught my eye was the musical boat sorry it was a ship. Both Adrian and I had fun making music. Well that is what I called the noise we made. We were having so much fun we didn’t realize we were the only adults playing with the ship, the rest were children. Ok time to leave.
There really is only one tourist street to walk down in the town. We came back the next day to do the walk, looking in at all the different tourist shops. About halfway down the street is the Anzac memorial Park. It has been decked out with two tanks. I am happy to say the Leopard tanks have never fired a shot in anger. They were used at Puckapunyal (which is a training base in Victoria for the military) and in the rainforests of north Queensland. When the tanks were retired in 2007 they were donated to Cooktown.
We went all out and had lunch at the Sovereign Hotel. It was only $9.90 each and we both chose the calamari. We were surprised with how big of a feed we got for our money. Fun fact about the Sovereign Hotel, at one time half of the hotel was destroyed in a cyclone and the hotel was then known as the Half Sovereign until it was rebuilt.
After our lunch we made it up to the lighthouse. It was a bit of a hike up the last bit of the hill to the top but the view was worth it. The story goes that on June 30th 1770 Captain Cook stood on the very spot I was standing on and looked down on the river below. He saw a vast new land filled with wonders and promises. I saw a river filled with boats and the land covered with progress.
We did some washing at the camp in the morning before heading out to the Captain Cook Museum. The washing machine was free to use, you just needed to supply the power yourself. That’s right we had to supply the power by plugging the machine into our generator. It worked well and I think it is a great idea.