Imagine staying in the heart of Sydney Harbour, surrounded by water with the ferry’s and pleasure boats sailing by and having prime viewing of the sun setting over the city as the neon lights begin to illuminate the sky scrapers. This is what awaits you on Cockatoo island, as well learning about our early convict and shipyard history while on a UNESCO world heritage site.
We left home, bound for the train station, our packs heavily laden with our camping supplies, food and clothes for the two nights we were staying on the Island. It was the first time Jay and Ivy had traveled with packs and they were troopers, even in the searing heat, and when we sat down we were all grateful for the relief on our backs. Soon enough we were milling our way through the crowds at Circular Quay, pushing our way through the week day commuters, and tourists who were busy heading for their daily activities. Finding the wharf our ferry was to leave from, we again rested, while the other passengers gave us strange looks, perhaps wondering where the hell we were headed.
Upon arrival on the island, we checked in and found a sheltered spot, to pitch the tent. The wind was howling and we had been warned of it getting stronger during the night, I was afraid of blowing away into the harbour like a plastic bag so I tied us down to anything I could find.
We set off to explore the island, checking out the long, dark, cavernous tunnels that transport you from one side of the island to the other, before climbing up along the stairs that take you up to the top for a spectacular view of the harbour with the iconic bridge dominating the scene. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the sailing boats float by, while listening to the crews yell out instructions to each other.
The following day, the strong winds had subsided, and equipped with activity books, we set off to explore the history of the island. The numbered trail that corresponds with the activities kept the kids entertained while explaining the importance of the island to the early settlers and to our ship building history. One of the trails filled in the morning while the other was completed in the afternoon.
Day visitors flock to the island for picnics. At lunch a group of older Middle Eastern woman took pity on us when my pancaking skills on the bbq failed miserably, feeding us some beautiful breads that filled our bellies, and even though they spoke limited English they knew that we were very grateful. School groups also use the island for educational camps, and my kid’s antics became entertainment for a group of girls who were trying to figure out how they were going to cook their dinner.
Another night listening to the sounds of the harbour and the squawks of the thousands of sea gulls that populate the island led us to the morning of our departure. Packing up and heading to the ferry, that was to take us back to reality, we were all very tired but had so many stories to tell, some that were shared with a young family who were curious of our adventure…. At least not everyone in the city thought we were loonies!
Where?: Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia
Bookings: Online or by phone (02) 89692111
How much?: Bring your own tent$ 45 – 50 per night ( think they have a 10% off deal at the moment) they also have different levels of glamping packages right up to staying in one of the apartment’s they have on site, it that’s more your style.
Need to know: They have a great set up for cooking with large fridges, microwave, instant hot water system and bbq’s. Get activity books at entrance gate. You can’t bring alcohol onto the island, but they do have licenced cafes, The security on the island is great, pre-program the phone number onto your phone when you get there, I accidently rang them and they answered straight away, gave me peace of mind!