Cockatoo Island

Our recent Sundays have been spent making the most of Transport NSW’s generous offer of unlimited travel all day for just $2.50 (£1.60). This includes all trains, buses as well as Sydney’s extensive ferry network, making it a great, cost effective way to explore more of the State.

Cockatoo Island, the largest of the seven islands situated within Sydney Harbour, is just a short ferry journey from Circular Quay, and seemed a great place to spend a Sunday morning, ensuring we took the early ferry to avoid the crowds.


A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Island has a lengthy history (for Australia anyway), and was opened to tourists only as recently as 2007. Much to Rachael’s excitement, after the colonisation of Australia, the island was originally used as a prison, housing convicts transferred from the overcrowded Norfolk Island.

Cockatoo Island also has a rich history in ship building and repairs, and played an important role in supporting the Australian Navy during and after WWII. Despite the dockyard closing in 1992, many of the workshops and cranes remain and have been expertly restored to their former glory.


After disembarking from the ferry, our first stop was at the island’s one and only coffee shop, which happened to sell some of the best muffins we have ever tried. Fully refreshed after our caffeine hit, we next wandered around the lower section of the island. This took us past dry docks, through the vast workshops and several of the tunnels built to move workers around the island, including the 180m long Dog Leg tunnel.


The upper section of the Island is reached by climbing a steep staircase, and is home to the former convict precinct, where you can view the old buildings that once housed up to 500 convicts.

Cockatoo Island is also the only harbour island where you can stay overnight, with options including the houses formally occupied by the Island’s officers, as well as rows of pre-erected tents for those on a slightly lower budget. With amazing harbour views, and facilities including BBQ’s and hot showers, glamping is probably a more accurate term, and it is understandable why it has become very popular with visitors to Sydney.


The views of the Harbour Bridge alone are reason enough to visit Cockatoo Island, but it was also great to spend some time exploring, and learning more about its interesting history. It was an ideal way to spend half a day, and we would love to return in the future and try out the unique camping experience!

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