The government of the day built an elaborate fort on this island 30 metres off the coast of La Perouse in the early 1880s, seeing the land Cook had described a century earlier as "a small bare island" as a good place to ward off invaders. But from the moment it opened in 1885, there were problems: an 1890 Royal Commission found that inferior concrete had been used and the crumbling fort was decommissioned by 1902. It was next used as a retirement home for war vets before coming under the jurisdiction of the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service. Later, it would cameo in Mission Impossible II.
Island hop? You can tour the historical island Sundays at 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm (1300 072 757, $10-$15). The surrounding reefs are a hot spot for local divers.