James Cook Museum, Cooktown
Housed in a stunning 19th Century convent building, the James Cook Museum in Cooktown is one of Queensland’s best museums, showcasing the fascinating history of this remarkable town. The museum follows the story of Captain James Cook’s enforced seven week stay at the Endeavour River, during which the first meaningful contact between Europeans and Indigenous Australian took place, to the days of the Palmer River gold rush, as well as personal stories and items from Cooktown’s early residents.
What to see
The museum’s exhibits are rich and varied. The Endeavour Gallery gives a fascinating insight into the seven weeks Cook and his crew spent at the site of modern Cooktown repairing their ship after their catastrophic grounding on nearby Endeavour Reef. The highlight of the gallery is the original anchor and cannon from the Endeavour, jettisoned from the ship in 1770 and only retrieved from the reef in the early 1970s. The Endeavour Gallery not only explores the fight for survival Cook and his men faced on the reef, but also documents the many discoveries made by the scientific team during their stay at the Endeavour River. Integral to Australian history and identity is the interaction between Cook and the local Guugu Yimithiir people – the most extensive he experienced in Australia – and this story is told from both perspectives.
Other galleries explore the changing face of Cooktown. The galleries on the first floor – former classrooms and the school hall – house objects from pupils and sisters who called the convent home, tales from the Palmer gold rush and a display dedicated to the rich Chinese heritage of the region. The Nun’s cells and dormitories on the upper floor are home to exhibits detailing the strong maritime history of Cooktown and the personal stories and objects from local families who endured hardship, loneliness and isolation but who nevertheless carved out a life in this remote location. The Indigenous Gallery gives an unmissable insight into the culture and history of the Guugu Yimithiir people.
The museum is surrounded by the Sir Joseph Banks Garden, in which can be found some of the 170 species Banks identified and named in the region in 1770. The shady groves and cool breezes make this an ideal spot to sit back, relax and enjoy unparalleled views across the Endeavour River to the north shore. The breezy verandas also offer a pleasant place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee from our cafe facilities. The museum gift shop offers a range of merchandise including books, Cook memorabilia, collectables, postcards, clothing, and toys.
Opening hours and visitor information
Mon - Fri 9 am – 4 pm
Sat and Sun 9 am - 12.30 pm, 1 pm - 4 pm
Closure may occur during the wet season. Please contact the museum if visiting between October and March to avoid disappointment.
Pension/Health Care Card: $8
National Trust Members: free
Special rates apply to group tours. Please contact museum staff for further information.
On street parking
Tea and coffee
PO Box 103
Cooktown QLD 4895
Tel: +61 (07) 4069 5386
Fax: +61 (07) 4069 6699
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What other visitors had to say about James Cook Museum
“Worth the trip to Cooktown just to visit this museum.”
“A must do when you visit Cooktown.”
“Easy to browse through, even 9 year old boys enjoyed it. Make sure you head out to the balcony upstairs to enjoy the view.”
“Well worth allocating at least two hours to this lovely building and its great contents.”
“Allow a couple of hours. There is so much to see and it’s very interesting. We took our sons there when in their late teens. They didn't want to go, so we said we'd just pop in for a few minutes...hours later we had to drag them out for dinner! We have been many times since as we always take visitors there.”
“Every Australian should be made to come and see this exhibit.”
“Wonderful experience. The best Aboriginal display we have seen anywhere.”