As the Cockatoo Island ferry takes you away from Circular Quay, the Opera House and corporate skyline shrink from view and the rounded edges of waterside backyards and jetties appear. It’s a quick scenic ferry ride to the harbour’s largest and most industrious island. A gateway to several vibrant chapters in Sydney’s history.
The corrugated iron sheds, checkered dockyard floors and rich colours of the sandstone convict walls are Cockatoo Island’s textured past and present.
Here is a list of things you should know before you go to Cockatoo Island:
1| Sleeping at Cockatoo
There are a bunch of army green tent if you want to try a truly harbour-side glampingsite. The tents are positioned perfectly for watching the ferry lights flicker on, and watch the sunset!
You can cook your own meals at the communal camp kitchen, have a comfy beds, access to hot showers and fridges.
If glamping is not for you, you can also stay at the Harbourview Apartments.
2 | Get to know convicts and ghosts
You can either do a guided tour or unguided one. There’s plenty of information about the Convicts History that will give you a good understanding of what happened at Cockatoo Island this days, and discover the heritage of the island and uncover from the top layers through to beneath the surface of this fascinating chapter in Sydney’s convict and early settlement history.
For the curious and brave, there are evening ghost tours full of spooky stories: Haunted History Night tours!!!
3 | The hidden convicts
You’d hardly notice walking through the flourishing gardens, but a line of solitary confinement cells carved into the exposed sandstone foothill still reminds you of the trodden path of the weary convict inhabitants.
4 | The eerie Dog Leg tunnel
One hundred years ago the Dog Leg tunnel was carved into the belly of a Cockatoo island, an island that’s said to be haunted. Would you dare step inside?
At 180m long, this dark tunnel weaves its way through the belly of Cockatoo Island. Built in 1915 to move workers and materials from one side of the island to the other, when World War II broke out the tunnels were used as air-raid shelters. One of them was even kitted out with an infirmary located in an annex to the main tunnel.
5 | The legend of Thunderbolt
The most famous legend about Cockatoo Island is a story of the one that got away. Captain Thunderbolt (A.K.A. Frederick Ward) escaped captivity on the Island in the mid-1860s, only to return to his bushranger ways; riding and pillaging across New South Wales. His escape route was a quick swim across the harbour to Woolwich with another inmate, so the unverified story goes.
6 | Where are all the cockatoos?
The British apparently gave the island the name after seeing gregarious flocks of Sulphur-crested cockatoos that were attracted to the rich native flora of the island including the once prolific Sydney red gum.
7| Cockatoo Island nowadays
Cockatoo Island nowadays is a UNESCO world-heritage-listed island in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour. It is now a location for many trendy events, such as fashion shows and art exhibitions.
Keen to get there?
Access to the Cockatoo Island is by ferry, tak half an hour from Wharf 5 at Circular Quay (every 30 minutes). The island’s Visitor Centre is open from 10am to 4pm every day. Here you can find useful tourist information such as a tour map and some interesting facts about the island’s past, the convict’s history and creepy ghost stories.