We continued south through Lakefield NP and saw the result of the big storm clouds we had seen last night – in some sections the road was almost underwater and the edges – as we found out as we attempted a U-turn at the ranger station – were very soft and boggy. There was a very big rain dump (for the apparent dry season anyway!).
We had a break at Old Laura homestead which was once a bustling place but now is a set of abandoned buildings – the butchers hook and massive chopping block in the meat safe building was a highlight.
We stopped at Isabella Falls for lunch and could tell from the tannin stained water that the rain had extended this far as well. Shortly after we pulled into Cooktown and cruised the main street down to the waterfront. A beautiful town with incredible views across the Endeavour River to steep green hills.
Captain Cook would’ve loved the view as he arrived back around 1770 except he was preoccupied with finding a good spot to beach his ship and fix the big hole he’d cracked open when he stacked it into the reef. What is of interest out of that is that this is one of the only places on land where Cook actually stopped for any length of time – 7 weeks in fact – otherwise he was offshore focused on mapping the east coast.
What a spot for Joseph Banks to have time to explore the botanical diversity of north Queensland! The botanic gardens, on that note, are pretty good for a stroll around as well and they have a display of botanical paintings by Vera Scarth-Johnson which are incredible in their fine-scale brushwork and attention to detail.
The gardens have some good sections with the orchids and diversity of palms a highlight but the butterflies – huge birdwing butterflies – take the cake. The foreshore walk is very similar to walking at The Entrance and there is a lot of work going on with a new kids water park and new bbqs and picnic tables.
On the ocean side is Finch Bay which is a beautiful spot to wander along the deserted beach. The wharf is very popular with locals fishing and there are rumours of good size fish around brought in through the deep water channel maintained for the larger game fishing boats and luxury super-yachts that call in here. On the right tide, the giant gropers come in to be hand fed by anyone brave enough to risk losing a hand.
We watched as a small, discreet police operation cleared the wharf to allow a non-descript van with no windows to reverse up to one of the very expensive cruisers – the Lady Audrey – to remove someone who didn’t survive the cruise. Josh has already started writing his first crime novel because this situation had it all.
Alongside the three-levels of luxury with the tinted windows and the sun-drenched decks and the team of on-board servants was berthed the “Little Audrey” – a huge game-fishing boat which travelled alongside the mothership chasing marlin and other monsters off the reef. A policeman sitting on the deck having fish and chips with the staff and being served iced water in a martini glass made it all very suspicious.
The lookout up at Grassy Hill is an amazing view in every direction. Cook and Banks stood up here trying to find a course through the reef to sail the repaired HMS Endeavour back out to open seas.