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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

Carmen on Cockatoo Island

  • Classical and opera

After having to scratch great swathes of its planned program this year and last, Opera Australia (OA) will come back in a big way in 2022. Not only has the company announced that the music of the night is coming to the harbour with The Phantom of the Opera, it will also showcase one of the world’s most famous tragedies in a brand-new light. OA's latest take on Georges Bizet’s celebrated opera Carmen will help transport us to a tobacco factory in Seville in the 19th century by taking over the evocatively industrial surrounds of Cockatoo Island. Opening in November 2022, it promises to offer an unforgettable fresh look at a much-loved favourite. And if you’re feeling fancy, OA is also offering a super rah-rah way of watching the show, with private berths available to book for boats. Liesel Badorrek will direct in collaboration with choreographer Shannon Burns, who handled the smooth moves for La Traviata in the brief but brilliant moment of arts venues unlocking earlier this year. Tahu Matheson will conduct the Opera Australia Orchestra. OA’s artistic director Lyndon Terracini says the 2022 season will be a brilliant celebration of Sydney’s return to live performance. “These two events represent a tremendous opportunity for audiences to enjoy unique Sydney experiences. We’ll be bringing together some of the finest singers, musicians and creatives in the world to present these productions under the starry southern skies.” OA will deploy swish, purpose-built wining and dining opt

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