Cockatoo island, the largest in Sydney Harbour, has been used as a prison (for those already transported to the Australian penal colony in the 19th century) and as a large shipyard, where Australian and other allied naval vessels were serviced during World War II. It operated as a shipyard until the 1990s.
Many of the old buildings are still standing, both from the convict era and the industrial period. These remaining old buildings give the feel of a hideout for a James Bond villain that you can explore with impunity.
The island is easily accessible by Sydney Ferries, and is in continuous use today as a venue for concerts and art exhibitions (including the Biennale of Sydney), and as a historical site. It is popular on New Year’s Eve as a place to watch the fireworks but tickets are hard to come by as they’re offered for sale 6 months in advance!
Onsite accommodation is available in pre-pitched tents, BYO camping equipment, or some of the remaining timber cottages with outstanding views of the harbor.
Know Before You Go
Take Sydney Ferries on the Woolwich/Balmain route (Opal Card required).