Although now quite heavily forested, Grassy Hill is so known because local aboriginals deliberately burnt the forest on the hill to encourage re-growth of vegetation and draw animals to the area for hunting.
The landscape you see today from the top of the hill has changed little since Captain James Cook and the crew of the HM Barque Endeavour climbed Grassy Hill in 1770 to view the surrounding reefs enabling him to navigate a safe passage.
He wrote in his diary on 30 June 1770:
“And went myself upon a hill which lies over the south point to take a view of the sea.
At this time it was low water, and I saw, with great concern, innumerable sand banks and shoals lying all along the coast in every direction.”
The views today, especially at sunset and sunrise, are still as spectacular as in 1770 making Grassy Hill one of Cooktown's most popular attractions.
In 1987 residents of Cooktown were threatened with Government decommissioning of the lighthouse. Determined to save the historical facility and amid great media attention, a successful petition and public outcry led to the lighthouse and the area around it being ‘sold’ to the Cooktown people for $100 in 1988.
Thomas Carter was the last lighthouse keeper at Cooktown. He died on Christmas Eve 1918 and he wrote of living on Grassy Hill:
“An ideal spot – 500 feet above sea level – got every breeze that blew; being so far north that was an asset. We had a glorious view towards Mount Cook…. The Endeavour flats for miles, and up to 25 miles to seaward. On clear days with the telescope it was possible to see the surf breaking on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef.”
Grassy Hill Radar Station
Cooktown Maritime Radio commenced operations from Grassy Hill in 1913. Established by the Shaw radio Company then taken over by Amalgamated Wireless A’Asia the radio had the call sign VIC and was located east of the lighthouse. It was a large brick and concrete structure with a 200 foot timber antenna supported with guy wires. The outbreal of WW2 saw the radio station become an important part of the local war effort. Cooktown radio closed in 1945 and the tower was destroyed by fire but the buildings were salvaged and are now part of a private residence.
How the Endeavour River was made - An Indigenous story
Mungurru screamed with pain and slithered from the hill. He decided to head out to sea to bathe his wounds. As he dragged himself his body formed the river as we know it today. Reaching the sea, he swam east as far as Walmba muulaarr (the Great Barrier Reef) and the salt water healed his wounds.
Three days later and growing cold, Mungurru drifted with the wind and the tides north west until he reached shore. He crawled out and found a nice sunny spot and fell asleep. When he awoke he could not move, he had slept too long in the open and had turned into a rock which is called Dyiirrii (Nob Point). You can still see him there today, from a boat close to the northern side of the point he can be seen within the shape of the rocks gazing north.
In 2010 an exciting redevelopment of Grassy Hill is being undertaken
Photos of Grassy Hill