Coen is a small settlement about half way between Cairns and the tip of Cape York. Like so many Australian towns, Coen owes its existence to a gold rush. Now home to about 400 people, it is second in size on Cape York to Weipa.
Location: Coen is inland on the Peninsula Developmental Road, the main road on the Cape York Peninsula. The locality of Coen is on the eastern side of Cape York Peninsula with the Coral Sea forming its eastern boundary. Part of the northern boundary follows the Archer River, while the Coen River forms part of its western boundary. The Peninsula Developmental Road runs roughly north to south through the locality.
Coen provides services to the region, and is an important supply point on the long unpaved road leading to Weipa and other northern communities. It is a popular stopping point for tourists driving to the tip of Cape York - the northernmost part of the Australian mainland. It has an airstrip at Coen Airport 24 kilometres north of the town, public library, hotel/motel, guest house, two general stores and fuel outlets, hospital, post office, police station, camping grounds, primary school kindergarten, ranger base and more. There is a scheduled air service to Lockhart and Cairns four times a week. Visitors to Coan gain considerable amusement when they first see the Exchange Hotel. Comeone has added a neon "S" in front of the name on the roof.
Coen, like so many small towns, had an excellent albeit small museum in the Old Heritage House which contains many old mining relics including an ore stamper and a steam engine. There are displays on the history of the construction of the Old Telegraph Line, as well as the history of Aboriginal people, gold prospecting and early pastoralists. In the 1800s, the telegraph line was built from the south to the tip of Cape York. It was the only means of communication at the time in this remote part of Australia. You can still see the old posts along the Old Telegraph Track and learn about its history in the Old Heritage House in Coen. This building is in fact the old Mein Telegraph Station that was moved here from its original location north of Archer River Roadhouse.
Coen is an ideal destination for birdwatchers: there are good accommodations and a large and varied bird fauna with representatives from rain forest, monsoon forest and coastal forests.
The Old Coen Track is a great 4WD track in Cape York which begins in the township. Only half of the original stretch remains, as the other half is now the beginning of the road into Port Stewart. The southern end of the track is on the road to Port Stewart. The Old Coen Track begins next to Charlie's Place, a camping ground with some character.
Port Stewart is a small community on the eastern coast of Cape York approximately 229km north of Cooktown. Accessible by a good gravel road, it is not the greatest spot if you want to get out to the bay, unless you have a boat, as the beach area is at the river mouth, and the actual ocean is some distance away.
In 1623, Jan Carstensz, the navigator of the ship Pera of the Dutch East India Company named a river on Cape York Peninsula after Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Today that river is known as the Archer River and the name Coen River is given to one of its tributaries.
Gold was discovered on the Coen River in 1876. Coen came into being first as a small fort built by gold miners and prospectors in May 1877 but this first gold rush quickly came to an end, and the settlement did not recover until 1883. It became a centre for several small goldmines in the region but, in 1893, the rich Great Northern mine boomed and the town became a more substantial place. The Great Northern mine continued operations until 1916 and produced some 52,000 troy ounces (1,617 kg) of gold before it closed.