Cockatoo Island – Sydney, Australia - Atlas Obscura

Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island is a Heritage-listed island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. 


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).

Atlas Obscura Trips

Walking & Wine in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park

Wind your way through Freycinet National Park and Maria Island, experiencing the wildlife, locally sourced foods, and the breathtaking beauty of Wineglass Bay.
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