Cockatoo Island in Sydney is a UNESCO heritage listed island just minutes from the CBD

Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO world-heritage-listed island in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour. Only a short but stunning ferry ride from the city CBD will drop you off at the Sydney Harbour’s largest island and one of Australia’s most fascinating historical sites.

It is a reasonably unknown and not very tourist island, heck I have been living in Sydney for more than 7 years, and I never visited before! I wish I had thought, cause, with its urban and characterful buildings, this place is a photographer’s paradise. But not only that, this place is filled with interesting facts and history, which tourists alike should explore! Here is why…


Cockatoo Island operated as a convict penal establishment from 1839-69, primarily as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who had re-offended in the colonies. The island was off-limits to the public for more than one hundred years.

Now open to the public you can explore many of the buildings on the island, which have been kept in pretty much the original state, giving lots of character.

The visitor center provides a map and where to walk around. It really is self-explanatory. You can hire an audio guide if you like for only $5,-. There is information in each section about the Islands history and in certain places, you can almost feel the inmates around you. The entire walk takes about 1.5 hours.

There are 2 food kiosks on the island. One near the wharf and one on the other side of the island. There are plenty of public toilets everywhere – thank god! haha

GETTING THERE | cockatoo island ferry

Catching a public ferry is the easiest way to visit the island. Harbour City Ferries run regular services to the Island every day of the week, departing from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, and Barangaroo, as well as from wharves along the F3 Parramatta River ferry route.

You can hop on by using your Opal Card and only costs $4.01. I got on at Barangaroo and it took less than 10 minutes to get to the island.


Underneath are just some pictures of this amazing island. It shows you how great this place is and why you should hop on the ferry to take a visit when in Sydney. Wandering around the island I often felt as if I was in the tv show – The Walking Dead!

There are two parts to the island (Upper and Lower) and each taking about 45 minutes to explore. The lower island is where most of the industrial and shipbuilding activity took place. Some cool stops include large workshops in the industrial precinct, two dry docks, and an eerie dog Leg tunnel.

At the upper island is where you will find most of the old sandstone buildings that use to house the convicts. (Which I forgot to photograph, you’d think I know how to blog by now, but nope haha).

Does this not look like something from the Walking Dead! Totally right!


I wanted to do some edits to make the pics look ‘better’ (I don’t know what I am doing, so I like the look, but I am sure the experts will disagree) But underneath are some pictures edited in grey-scales to change the feel of them. Cockatoo Island Sydney

STAYING ON THE ISLAND | Cockatoo Island Camping 

Cockatoo Island Sydney | Glamping with stunning views


I wish I had found out about this earlier, cause I definitely would have stayed here a couple of nights in Summer. But the island is now decked with some awesome camping sites. You can choose from five camping options, catering for a range of budgets, group sizes and occasions, including romantic getaways and family vacations.

For more information and prices click here.

Heritage holiday houses

Occupied, at one time, by Cockatoo Island’s medical officer and engineering manager, the two Federation-style heritage houses each represent an ideal R&R setting, with room to sleep up to 12 people across five bedrooms.

Perched on the island’s upper plateau, these beautifully restored dwellings (built circa 1913) boast lush gardens as well as breathtaking harbor views.

You can book your accommodation on Cockatoo Island Sydney here.



Cockatoo island Sydney | An UNESCO heritage listed Island Just minutes from the CBD

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  1. Ted Horski
    October 8, 2019 / 12:22 pm

    Did not really come across this in any of the travel books so, many thanks for pointing this out. Good job, in my opinion, on the black and white photos. The grittiness forms the image of the penal colony!

    • bonditobasic
      October 8, 2019 / 2:24 pm

      Not a problem Ted 🙂
      I am not sure why this is not a more popular/touristy spot. It is free, filled with history and a UNESCO heritage site! Loved wandering around this little island.

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