Cook Shire

About the area

Key Statistics


Cook Shire is located in Far North Queensland, about 330 kilometres north of the Cairns CBD and 650 kilometres north of the Townsville CBD. Cook Shire is bounded by Torres Shire and the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council area in the north, the Coral Sea, Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire and Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire in the east, Douglas Shire, Mareeba Shire and Carpentaria Shire in the south, and Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire, Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire, Aurukun Shire, Napranum Aboriginal Shire, Mapoon Aboriginal Shire and the Gulf of Carpentaria in the west. Cook Shire occupies 80% of Cape York Peninsula.

Included Areas

Cook Shire includes the localities of Archer River, Bloomfield (part), Coen, Cooktown, Dixie, Edward River, Holroyd River, Hope Vale (part), Iron Range, Jardine River (part), Lakefield, Lakeland, Laura, Lizard, Lockhart River (part), Mapoon (part), Mission River, Palmer, Rossville, Shelburne, Starcke, Wenlock and Yarraden.

Land Use

Cook Shire includes significant areas of national park and state forest, rural areas and urban areas. The Shire encompasses a total land area of about 106,000 square kilometres. The main township is Cooktown (with about half of the population), with smaller population centres at Ayton, Coen, Lakeland, Laura, Lizard Island, Marton, Portland Roads and Rossville. Urban areas include residential, commercial, entertainment and tourist land uses. Rural land is used largely for pastoral purposes (bananas, coffee, maize, melons, peanuts, sorghum, tea and tropical fruit growing and cattle grazing) and mining. Tourism is also an important industry.

Name Origin

Cook Shire is named after Captain James Cook, who landed in the area in 1770.

Indigenous Meaning

The original inhabitants of Cook Shire were the Guugu Yimithirr Aboriginal people.


European settlement dates from 1770 when James Cook beached his ship The Endeavour at Cooktown for repair for seven weeks. Population was minimal until the 1870s. Rapid growth took place from the 1870s into the 1890s, largely due to gold mining. Several townships were established in the late 1800s, with the largest, Cooktown, developing as the principal port for Far North Queensland. Gold mining halted in the early 1900s, land then became used more for cattle grazing, timber-getting and sugarcane growing, with fishing and mining also being important industries. Some growth took place between the 1960s and the 1980s, aided by tourism. The population of the Shire generally increased gradually from the 1990s, rising to nearly 6,300 people in 2016.

Major Features

Major features of Cook Shire include the Great Barrier Reef, numerous National Parks (Annan River/Yuku Baja-Muliku, Black Mountain/Kalkajaka, Cape Melville, Endeavour River, Flinders Group, Hope Islands, Howick Group, Jardine River, Kutini-Payamu/Iron Range, Lizard Island, Mount Cook, Mount Webb, Mangkalba/Ngalba Bulal, Oyala Thumotang, Rinyirru/Lakefield, Starcke, Three Islands Group and Turtle Group), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Haggerstone Island, Lizard Island, Keatings Lagoon Conservation Park, James Cook Museum, Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre, Giant Horse Aboriginal Rock Art Gallery, Mushroom Rock Aboriginal Rock Art Gallery, Quinkan Aboriginal Rock Art Galleries, Split Rock Aboriginal Rock Art Gallery, Nature’s Powerhouse Environment Interpretive Centre, Cooktown Botanic Gardens, RAAF Base Scherger, Lizard Island Research Station, the Cooktown CBD, Bicentennial National Trail, several beaches and waterfalls, numerous small islands, various resorts and the Bloomfield River.


Cook Shire is served by the Mulligan Highway, Peninsula Developmental Road and the Coen and Cooktown Airports.

Cook Shire Council

economic profile