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!
In this post, I will show you the best things to do on Cockatoo Island in Sydney.
BASIC INFORMATION ON COCKATOO ISLAND
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.
EXPLORING THE ISLAND | THINGS TO DO
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 activities took place.
Some cool stops include large workshops in the industrial precinct, two dry docks, and an eerie Dog Leg Tunnel.
This Dog Leg Tunnel is an underground passageway to the other side of the island. It is 187 meters long and just three meters wide, the tunnel was originally used as a more convenient means for workers and materials to commute from one side of the island to the other. Today, it served as an appropriate beginning to our adventurous journey around the island. It is a great location to capture some cool photos and Instagram pics.
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 accommodation
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 harbour views.
cockatoo island tours
There are a couple of amazing tours you take whilst on the island. This is great when you would like more background information on the island. Underneath a list with possible options:
- Haunted History Tour | Discover for yourself with our all-ages Haunted History Tour, running Saturday evenings! From $25,-
- Audio Tour | journey through Cockatoo Island’s complex and layered history at your own pace with our engaging audio tour. From $5,-
- Ghostyard – A Paranormal Tour (18+) | The Sixth Sense. Paranormal Activity. The Conjuring. Ghosts continue to captivate the public imagination, satisfying our primeval desire for a good scare… but the supernatural isn’t just the stuff of Hollywood. From $45,-
- Overnight Fright Experience (18+) | Make each Friday a ‘Fright Day’ with our adults-only Overnight Fright Experience! $185,-
Cockatoo Island events
There are quite a few events on at Cockatoo Island throughout the year. If you are interested in attending on, then check out What’s on. Lots of information about upcoming events can be founds there.
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