4 Islands in Sydney

4 Islands in Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour is home to many beautiful secret places. And few such secret places are the islands in Sydney harbour. They are great spots to have picnics, snorkel and spend a day enjoying the spectacular views. These islands in Sydney have cultural and historical significance in shaping this city.

Even though in this post I have mentioned only the 4 island, there are totally 13 islands that showcase the naval and aboriginal history of Sydney.

PIN for later reference

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

Cockatoo Island

History

Cockatoo island is the biggest island of all the islands that reside in Sydney Harbour. It is one of the sites that have been declared by UNESCO World Heritage as Australian Convict Sites. This island was used for keeping the convicts in the early days, but was later converted into shipbuilding industry.

The reason it was initially called as Cockatoo Island by the British was because of the huge flocks of the noisy and beautiful looking parrots. Contrary to the name, there are no Cockatoos on the island today. This is because of no vegetation on the island. However, there are plenty of sea gulls.

How to reach?

  • Frequent ferries run between Cockatoo Island and Circular Quay/Greenwich/Barrangaroo Wharf/Parramatta Wharf. These are operated by the New South Wales (NSW) Transport and they run between 6 AM till 9 PM.
    • Opal card is the transportation card that is used on the public transports in Sydney.
    • The fare to get from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island by ferry is around AUD 6.12.

Admission fee

No admission fee to the island.

What to do?

  1. Fiztroy Dock and Sutherland Dock – Both these docks are open for public to walk around and see where the ships were repaired. The factory and slipway are open too.
  2. Lookouts and Convict’s mess – There are plenty of lookouts to view the breathtaking views of the harbour. Definitely take a picture with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background!
  3. Grass tennis courts – There are grass tennis courts and they can be hired for AUD 10 per hour.
  4. Camping – One can spend a night at the Cockatoo Island camping. They have a variety of options for stay and it ranges from AUD 45 to AUD 360.
  5. Seagull chicks – Look out for the cute fluffy seagull chicks. They are absolutely adorable. Beware of the mother seagulls as they are extremely protective of their babies.
  6. Cafes – There are a few cafes on the island where one can enjoy a coffee with some great views of the harbour.
  7. Art installations – During a certain period of the year, Biennale of Sydney organises art installations on the island by various artists around the globe. I saw the art installations by Laure Prouvost during my recent visit to Cockatoo Island.
  8. Walk around the island – Just 1.5 kilometres and taking only 2 hours, walking around the island is an awesome way to explore and see the important buildings on the island.

Gallery

Fort Denison/Pinchgut Island

History

Fort Denison, also known as Pinchgut island, is a heritage fort in the harbour. It is a small island which was once under attack from US friendly fire in WWII. It is definitely a top tourist attraction and it provides 360 degrees views.

How to reach?

Unfortunately, the island is closed currently.

Closed for maintenance and is scheduled to open in late 2019.

Admission fee

No admission fee to the island.

What to do?

  1. Fort Denison museum.
  2. Martello Tower – It is Australia’s only Martello tower and don’t forget the winding staircase to the tower. It is said to have been built in 1840s.
  3. Cafe – It is a great place for a quick snack and tasty lunch. Note: The food is expensive.
  4. Firing of 1 PM cannon.

Gallery

Goat Island/Port Jackson

History

Goat island is an heritage listed site. It was used for storing gunpowder. Over the years, the Goat Island served as a quarry and a convict stockade. It is also known as Memel or Me-Mel in aboriginal language, and it means the eye.

How to reach?

  • Booked through the tour. There are tours with deals available on Groupon.
  • Costs about AUD 40 per adult.

Admission fee

Inclusion in the tour.

What to do?

  1. Heritage Convict Tour – There is a heritage/convict tour that was run to provide insights and history about the convicts that stayed on the island. The tours can be booked on the National Parks website or one can find deals on Groupon.

Gallery

Shark Island

History

Shark island is the island, just about 1 kilometre opposite to Rose Bay. The aboriginal name for Shark Island is Boambilly. This island has a history of being a dangerous island for both swimmers and ships. There have been a number of shipwrecks and drownings.

How to reach?

  • Ferries operated by Captain Cook run between Shark Island and Circular Quay. They are run on weekends and school holidays.
  • The cost to get there by ferry is around AUD 20 round trip per adult (includes the admission fee).

Admission fee

There is an admission fee of AUD 7 per person.

What to do?

  1. Picnic spot – Definitely, grab your lunch and head to the island to have a delicious lunch with a view.

Gallery

Safety for Solo female travelers

Sydney is extremely safe for solo female travelers. And hence these islands in the Sydney Harbour are as safe as the city. However, like any other city be cautious especially at nights. Also if traveling to these islands, ensure to check the ferry timings so you can be back into the Circular Quay well in time.

Closing notes

Spending a few weekends exploring these spectacular islands is totally worth it. I would highly recommend visiting these islands and if possible taking the convict tour at the Goat Island. That tour provides a lot of insight into the way convicts were kept and punished.

PIN for later reference

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

Also read

19 comments

    • Australia is my husbands fav and much wanting holiday destination. We were waiting for our kids to grow a bit so we can enjoy with them. Thanks to such a beautiful introduction to some nice islands which I will pin so I remember wen we plan our visit.

  1. I so wanna travel and the urge becomes more after reading beautiful travel post.
    Hope, Covid19 eradicates soon and we get to travel again.
    Australia is beautiful and in my wish list.

  2. wow I had no idea there is so much to see around Sydney! Seems like very interesting city! I am dreaming to visit Australia one day and this is very helpful post! Great photos

  3. The islands look really beautiful. I love the galleries in here and the itinery is lovely.

  4. Wow! These islands look so lovely! I would love to visit Australia some day. Hopefully, some time next year if Covid regulations relax a bit.

  5. I did not really know there were 4 islands to visit from Sydney. Definitely something to remember for my next visit. Good to know that some of the islands are accessible by the ferry. We did love using the ferries to move along the shore. Great to see Sydney from different perspectives.

  6. I enjoyed reading this article! I love history and enjoyed learning about each place. This would be amazing to visit!

  7. I was in Sydney for 1 month around but missed these places. It would be great to see these lovely islands at Sydney harbour. Cockatoo island looks historical and good to know it is UNESCO listed island which is interesting. Shark island looks adventurous types as it has witnessed many shipwrecks and not advisable for swimmers too.

  8. Sydney does looks fascinating and charming . My aunt stays there and have been asking me to pay a visit. Now if feel i have more than one reason to make it to Sydney soon . Such prettyness

  9. Sydney is a dream destination and for good reasons. Thanks for this lovely comprehensive coverage of the islands around and the tips. Goat island looks special. I love the fact that there are not too many people and the serenity of the islands.

  10. I never knew there are small islands around Sydney Harbour until I read your post. Seems like both Fort Denison and Goat Island are great destinations for taking the kids to learn pieces of Australian history. And I would like to sleep in a tent in Cockatoo Island just for a night. Looks like a nice things to do.

  11. It was good to learn about the Sydney harbour, as I have not visited Australia yet. The Cockatoo looks interesting. I would love to go for the Fort Denison. Hoping for times to get better when we can all start exploring places like before, better prepared and more cautious.

I would love to hear your thoughts, please drop a comment!

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