4 Islands in Sydney

4 Islands in Sydney Harbour (2024)

Sydney Harbour is home to numerous enchanting hidden gems, with its islands being among the most captivating. Explore the enchanting beauty with this guide to the top 4 islands in Sydney Harbour. From the historic charm of Cockatoo Island to the natural splendor of Shark Island, discover the unique allure each island holds.

These secluded spots are perfect for picnics, snorkeling, and relishing a day surrounded by breathtaking views. Beyond their natural beauty, Sydney’s islands carry cultural and historical significance, playing a crucial role in shaping the city’s rich narrative. Uncover these secret havens for an immersive experience in Sydney’s maritime and historical heritage.

PIN for later reference – 4 Islands in Sydney Harbour

4 Islands in Sydney Harbour
PIN for later reference – 4 islands in Sydney Harbour

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4 Islands in Sydney Harbour

While this post specifically highlights four islands, it’s worth noting that Sydney boasts a total of 13 islands, each contributing to the rich tapestry of naval and Aboriginal history in the region. Explore the diverse stories and heritage embodied by these islands for a comprehensive understanding of Sydney’s cultural and historical roots.

Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island stands as the largest among Sydney Harbour’s islands, earning the distinction as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Australian Convict Sites. Initially employed for holding convicts in its early history, this island underwent a transformative shift to become a prominent hub for the shipbuilding industry. Explore the layers of history on this remarkable island that has played a significant role in Australia’s convict past and maritime heritage.

Cockatoo Island earned its name from the British due to the abundance of noisy and visually striking parrots that once flocked the area. Despite its name, the island no longer hosts its native birds cockatoos today, mainly due to the lack of vegetation. However, the island is now home to numerous seagulls, adding a distinctive touch to its natural ambiance.

How to Get to Cockatoo Island?

Regular ferries operate between Cockatoo Island and Circular Quay/Greenwich/Barangaroo Wharf/Parramatta Wharf, managed by Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), running from 6 AM to 9 PM.

For seamless travel, the Opal card serves as the preferred transportation card for public transit in Sydney. The fare for a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island is approximately AUD 6.12.

Admission Fee for Cockatoo Island

Entry to the island is free of charge.

Things To Do at Cockatoo Island

  1. Fiztroy Dock and Sutherland Dock – Open to the public, wander around these docks to witness the historical ship repair sites. The factory and slipway are also accessible.
  2. Lookouts and Convict’s Mess – Enjoy numerous lookouts offering breathtaking views of the harbor, perfect for capturing photos with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background.
  3. Grass Tennis Courts – Play a round of tennis on the grass courts, available for hire at AUD 10 per hour.
  4. Camping – Experience a night on Cockatoo Island with various accommodation options, including camping, ranging from AUD 45 to AUD 360.
  5. Seagull Chicks – Keep an eye out for adorable fluffy seagull chicks, but exercise caution around protective mother seagulls.
  6. Cafes – Relax at the island’s cafes, sipping coffee while enjoying fantastic harbour views.
  7. Art Installations – During specific periods, the Biennale of Sydney hosts global artists’ installations on the island. Witness captivating works, such as those by Laure Prouvost.
  8. Walk Around the Island – Explore the island by taking a leisurely 1.5-kilometer, 2-hour walk. Discover key buildings and immerse yourself in the island’s history and beauty.


Fort Denison/Pinchgut Island

Fort Denison, commonly known as Pinchgut Island, stands as a heritage fort in the harbor. This small island, once subjected to friendly fire during WWII, is now a premier tourist attraction, offering panoramic 360-degree views.

Closed for maintenance!

How to Get to Fort Denison/Pinchgut Island?

Regrettably, the island is presently closed.

Admission Fee for Fort Denison/Pinchgut Island

Entry to the island is free of charge.

Things To Do in Fort Denison/Pinchgut Island

  1. Fort Denison Museum – Explore the Fort Denison Museum.
  2. Martello Tower – Australia’s sole Martello tower, built in the 1840s, boasting a captivating winding staircase.
  3. Cafe – Indulge in a quick snack or a delectable lunch at the island’s café. Please be aware that the food options can be relatively pricey.
  4. Firing of 1 PM Cannon – Witness the historical tradition of the 1 PM cannon firing, adding an extra layer of excitement to your visit.


Goat Island/Port Jackson

Goat Island holds the distinction of being a heritage-listed site, originally utilized for storing gunpowder. Throughout its history, it has served various purposes, functioning as a quarry and a convict stockade. Additionally, it is recognized as Memel or Me-Mel in the Aboriginal language, signifying “the eye.”

How to Get to Goat Island/Port Jackson?

  • Ferries – There are ferries between Circular Quay and Goat Island.
  • Guided Tours – Reserved through the tour provider; bookings are also available with discounted deals on Groupon. The cost is approximately AUD 40 per adult.

Admission Fee for Goat Island/Port Jackson

For Guided Tours, the admission of the island is incuded in the tour.

Things To Do in Goat Island/Port Jackson

  1. Heritage Convict Tour – Experience the heritage and convict tour offering insights into the island’s history. Book your tour on the National Parks website to delve into the intriguing stories of the convicts who once resided on the island.


Shark Island

Situated approximately 1 kilometer opposite Rose Bay, Shark Island, known as Boambilly in Aboriginal language, holds a historical reputation as a perilous location for both swimmers and ships. The island has witnessed numerous shipwrecks and drownings throughout its history.

How to Get to Shark Island?

Captain Cook-operated ferries connect Shark Island with Circular Quay during weekends and school holidays. The round trip fare, which includes the admission fee, is approximately AUD 20 per adult.

Admission Fee for Shark Island

There is a per-person admission fee of AUD 7.

Things To Do in Shark Island

  1. Picnic Spot – Certainly, pack your lunch and make your way to the island to enjoy a delightful meal with a scenic view.


Are These 4 Islands in Sydney Harbour Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Sydney is exceptionally safe for solo female travelers, and the islands in Sydney Harbour maintain the same level of safety as the city. Nevertheless, exercise caution, particularly during the night, as you would in any urban area. Additionally, if you’re venturing to these islands, make sure to check ferry timings to ensure a timely return to Circular Quay.

Closing Notes

Investing a few weekends in exploring these breathtaking islands is undeniably worthwhile. I highly recommend visiting them, and if feasible, consider taking the convict tour at Goat Island. This tour offers valuable insights into the conditions and punishments endured by convicts, providing a profound historical perspective.

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    PIN for later reference – 4 Islands in Sydney Harbour

    4 Islands in Sydney Harbour
    PIN for later reference – 4 Islands in Sydney Harbour

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