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  • Writer's pictureJenna van Bentum

Cockatoo Island, Sydney

There is something about learning the history of your local surrounds. Sydney, although young, has a rich history full of stories of convicts, colonial development and the establishment of the city we see today.

Cockatoo Island holds many key pieces of our rich history and we set out for a day to find out more about them.

I’ve lived in Sydney for 24 years and this was the first time I had been to Cockatoo Island. I’m sure many of you could say the same. It found itself on my list of ‘Things To Do Soon’ and finally I ticked it off. I must say though, it was much more exciting and interesting than I thought.

I pre-booked a car parking space on Kent St, Sydney to save money and ensure we had a spot as the Vivid Sydney festival was also on. We then walked from Kent St down to Darling Harbour and caught the ferry from Barangaroo Wharf 1 to Cockatoo Island Wharf. You can purchase a single use Opal card at the ferry terminal or use your pre-loaded Open card.

We zoomed across the harbour and, in no time at all, we had arrived at Cockatoo Island.

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

First stop was the visitors centre to collect an audio guide and we were welcomed by two very friendly volunteers. The kids grabbed their free kids activity books that sent them hunting for clues to work out the history of the island.

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

We set off on our island adventure and first came across the tents available for hire. Yes, you can camp out on Cockatoo Island and now I’ve added a new thing to my bucket list! For more information on camping and other accommodation available on Cockatoo Island – click here.

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

We followed our audio guide around the island and learned of the rough living conditions the convicts had and explored the old shipyards that played a huge part in our city’s history.

We thought the best way to show you around was with photos, so here you go…

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

Watching a ‘Pirate’ ship go by

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

Exploring the Convict quarters.

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

The old shipyard

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

What a view!

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

Inside the sheds

Cockatoo Island by The World And Kids

As you can see, there is loads to explore and plenty of space for the kids to run. My kids really enjoyed the tunnels that go through the hill in the middle of the island too.

It is possible to get around the island with a pram or wheelchair but be aware that the ground can be uneven at times and there is a steep incline to get to the upper island. We watched a few kids riding their scooters around which looked fun! Just keep an eye on the kids near the waters edge. BYO picnic is an option with public BBQs available (no alcohol though). If a cafe lunch and hot coffee is what you are after then there are a couple of options for that.

I hope we have inspired you to visit our very own UNESCO World Heritage listed Cockatoo Island right here in Sydney Harbour. If you are visiting Sydney then this is a great attraction to add to your list of things to do and see.

For more information or to answer any questions you may have about Cockatoo Island then simply head to their website or send us an email to

We hope you enjoy being a local tourist as much as we do!

Safe travels,

Jen x

Planning a trip to Sydney? Let us help you. Check out our popular Family Travel Planning Service here.

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