Cooktown and Cape York Expo: June 2021

Visit Cooktown in June for a festival of live music, Indigenous culture and the annual re-enactment of James Cook’s landing and peaceful interaction with the local Guugu Yimithirr people.
By AG STAFF May 17, 2021 Reading Time: 4 Minutes Print this page

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Tropical North Queensland then June is the month to do it. For 10 days the streets of Cooktown will be filled with song, dance and storytelling in celebration of the region’s rich Indigenous and European heritage.

Join the Waymburr Warra traditional owners in Waymburr, now known as Cooktown, from 11–20 June, for the Cooktown & Cape York Expo 2021.

Waymburr is the place of the first recorded act of reconciliation in Australia. Captain James Cook, his crew and the Guugu Yimithirr people, the Traditional Owners of Waymburr, spent 48 days together on the banks of Waalmbaal Birri, the Endeavour River, in 1770 while the HMS Endeavour was being repaired after hitting a reef. 

It was the most significant exchange of culture, language and science in early Australian history. Both James Cook and botanist Joseph Banks recorded the first act of reconciliation between Europeans and Australia’s First Nations people in their journals.

As well as a re-enactment of this event, visitors will be treated to a showcase of incredible Indigenous culture from communities across Cape York.

Don’t miss these key events

Reconciliation Rocks Music Festival 11–13 June
The Expo’s official opening on 11 June will include a welcome to Country, a re-enactment of the first recorded act of reconciliation and the start of Ngutha-Ngutha, a journey into the cultural heritage of First Nations people throughout Tropical North Queensland.

Busby Marou, Troy Cassar-Daley and Mau Power will headline a free live music concert on 12 June. Children from across Cape York Peninsula will bring to life the traditional Endeavour River creation story in Warrma, a multi-media production by Tamara Pearson on 13 June.

Busby Marou

Cooktown Discovery Festival 18–20 June
Now in its 62nd year, this festival’s centrepiece is the beloved annual re-enactment of James Cook’s landing on the banks of the Endeavour River and his interaction with the Guugu Yimithirr people during their seven weeks in Waymburr. The Sails of Light Lantern Parade, a demonstration of gold panning and gold delivery, and Chinese Lion Dancers are among the free events.

Re-enactment of Cook’s landing on the banks of the Endeavour River.

Ngutha-Ngutha
Children from across Cape York Peninsula will bring to life the traditional Endeavour River creation story in a multi-media production.

Cook Shire Council Indigenous Projects Officer Sha-lane Gibson said the Ngutha-Ngutha Indigenous Precinct will be an integral part of the festivities with a traditional village to be constructed alongside the Endeavour River and open to the public from 12–18 June. 

“Ngutha-Ngutha means ‘back in time’ in Guugu Yimithirr language and that is what visitors will experience,” she said. “There will be Indigenous workshops, food, cultural practices and storytelling showcasing the centuries-old traditions of the oldest living culture on earth. Local involvement already planned includes the Hope Vale Arts and Culture Centre’s art stall with Elders teaching weaving and showing how to make and throw spears.

“Ngutha-Ngutha will feature Indigenous communities from across Cape York and their varied cultural offerings with workshops on traditional fire making, Indigenous language, cooking in a gurrma (an underground oven), painting, dance, bush foods and medicines and hunting.

“Local Dreamtime stories will be shared and the market stalls will have a variety of traditionally-inspired foods from different language groups.”

A traditional village constructed alongside the Endeavour River.

Warrma
Children from across Cape York Peninsula will bring to life the traditional Endeavour River creation story in a multi-media production by Tamara Pearson. The Warrma will be performed on 13 June as part of the free Reconciliation Rocks Music Festival and again on 20 June during the Cooktown Discovery Festival weekend. The Endeavour River story was passed down by the late Hope Vale Elder, grandfather Tulo Gordon and his great grandchildren will be among those performing.

Part of the re-enactment festivities.

Event highlights by date

11–20 June

Fun fair and village markets – Art and craft stalls, workshops, entertainment and rides

Open garden tours – Join Professor Darren Crayn for a guided walk through the heritage-listed Botanic Gardens featuring the Banks and Solander plant collection. 

11 June Official Opening of Cooktown & Cape York Expo 2021 and Reconciliation Rocks

12 June Reconciliation Rocks concert

12–18 June Ngutha-Ngutha showcase of Indigenous culture from communities across Cape York.

13 June Warrma – Children from across Cape York Peninsula will bring to life the traditional Endeavour River creation story in a multi-media production 

15–16 June Tall ship and pearl lugger tours of the Endeavour River

17 June Commemorative re-enactment of Cook’s landing and interaction with the Guugu Yimithirr people

17–19 June Cooktown Cantata – A specially commissioned musical poem about Guugu Yimithirr stories and botanical illustrator Vera Scarth-Johnson at the Botanic Gardens.

18 June Cooktown Seafood Extravaganza on the waterfront (ticketed)

19 June Endeavour Ball featuring period costumes (ticketed)

20 June Warrma – Children from across Cape York Peninsula will bring to life the traditional Endeavour River creation story in a multi-media production. 

Visitors

Cooktown has a range of accommodation from camping and caravan parks to motels and guest houses. To cater for the crowds expected to attend Cooktown & Cape York Expo 2021, there will be a tent city and RV grounds accommodating more than 10,000 visitors.

Find out more at Cooktown & Cape York Expo 2021.