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Cockatoo Island

  • Things to do
  • Sydney
Cockatoo Island Aerial view
Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

The largest island in Sydney's harbour and set at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers, Cockatoo Island is 18 hectares in size and named for the presence of sulphur-crested cockatoos. Before 1839, when a prison was built to house convicts from Norfolk Island, it was covered with red gums and was almost certainly an Aboriginal fishing spot.

The convicts eventually relocated to Darlinghurst Gaol and the island had a brief stint hosting an industrial school for girls and a naval training ship for boys (but due to ‘unseemly and unscheduled meetings' the girls moved to Parramatta). However, the island was mostly used for shipbuilding and repairs; its several docks serviced the Royal Navy during WWII and was the construction site of Australia's first steel warship. The island's maritime industrial activity ceased in 1992, and Cockatoo Island only opened to the public in 2007.

Today, the island is run by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and remains commercial free, although there are talks of reintroducing boat building on a smaller scale. The trust run different types of tours – visitors can opt for a self-guided audio tour (90 mins; $5-$8), on-demand guided tour (60 or 90 mins; $16) or a pensioner tour (60 or 90 mins; $12). Those who want to stay on a bit longer also have options – there are camp sites, glamping packages, apartments or heritage holiday houses.

Mon-Fri 6.15am-11.37pm; Sat-Sun 6.45am-11.37pm. Camping: (02 8898 9774). $45 per site, $75 per site with tent, sleeping mat, chair & lantern hire.


Cockatoo Island
Sydney Harbour

What’s on

Sunset Sessions at Cockatoo Island

It’s summer and we’re ready to put out some picnic blankets, graze on some antipasto and bask in the good vibes of live music while the sun sets over Sydney Harbour.  Sunset Sessions is a series of family-friendly outdoor gigs on Cockatoo Island running from January 21 to April 1. Performers will be playing on the lawn of the Biloela House, where there will be grazing boxes and refreshments aplenty.  There's a broad range of talents to take in, with artists hailing from all over Australia, and many of them belonging to the First Nations and LGBTQIA+ communities. If you’re ready for a mellow evening, explore the heartfelt ballads of Carla Geneve, Lee Sullivan and Lucy Parle, or the R&B suave of Ashli and Kyoshi. If you’re after a funkier indie atmosphere, you can see Big Wheels, Huck Hastings, June Jones, Punko or Aodhan. For some rocker vibrations, come for Teddie or Ainsley Farrell.  You can catch Sunset Sessions on Saturdays from 5pm to 8pm. Tickets are $35 and children under 12 can attend for free. If you find yourself wanting more of Cockatoo Island’s out of this world views, you can turn your Sunset Session into a sunrise by booking a night at the island’s heritage listed lodgings or the waterfront campground.  Need some more bangin’ tunes? Check our list of the best live music venues in Sydney.

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