Cooktown, on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula, is 1600 km north of Brisbane and 650 km from Torres Strait. Cooktown grew rapidly as the nearest port for the Palmer River gold rush in the 1870s. By the 1880s, its population peak, one-fifth of its residents were Chinese. The town declined rapidly in the first two decades of the twentieth century and by the 1950s it was almost a ghost town. Tourism gradually came to its rescue. Its relative isolation and its spectacular setting on Cape York drew increasing numbers from the 1980s.

Further Reading: 

Frank Dempsey, Old mining towns of North Queensland, Adelaide, Rigby, 1980

Hector Holthouse, River of gold: the story of the Palmer River gold rush, Sydney Angus and Robertson, 1967

J.W. Knowles, The Cooktown railway, Brisbane Australian Railway Historical Society, Queensland Division, 1966, 1984

Glenville Pike, Queen of the north: a pictorial history of Cooktown and Cape York Peninsula, Mareeba, Pinevale, 1979

S.E. Stephens, Introduction to Cooktown and district, Cooktown, National Trust of Queensland in association with the James Cook Historical Museum and Joseph Banks Garden, various editions


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