Cockatoo Island, NSW: Destination Guide

Cockatoo Island is undoubtedly one of Sydney Harbour's best kept secrets. The island is a world-heritage listed site and is Australia's most extensive historical record of 19th century ship building.The surprisingly large island has been has been managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust since 2001 and has been open for camping for many years. Accommodation includes camping and two dwellings in a beautiful big Queen Anne-style.

Read on to discover the unmissable things to do and see on Cockatoo Island.

Cockatoo Island Travel Guides

Cockatoo Island attractions

Maritime Trail

Relics of Cockatoo Island's shipbuilding past abound. There are almost 50 cranes to be seen, and massive docks which saw hundreds of ships built and repaired during the world wars. To give you an idea of just how much of a shipbuilding hub Cockatoo Island was, its WWI job-list makes for impressive reading. Over 250 ships were refitted as wartime troop carriers, 500 ships docked for maintenance and 22 large ships (and many more smaller ones) were built here by a workforce of 4000. Incredible! As for WWII, 750 ships received maintenance or torpedo repairs in the largest dock alone, Sutherland Dock. The last ship built on Cockatoo was HMAS Success, which was launched in 1986 and is still in service today.

Convict Trail

Cockatoo Island reeks of history. Its past life includes convicts, something many are not aware of. Some 500 convicts, withdrawn from Norfolk Island, were housed here in the 18th century. The only known prisoner to have escaped was Frederick Ward - Captain Thunderbolt - who, in 1863, swam to the mainland, where his Aboriginal mistress was waiting for him with clothes and a horse, how romantic! Once the prisoners were relocated, the island's higher areas became a girl's reformatory. The boy's version, a training ship named Vernon, was anchored just offshore. As the glossy visitor's guide outlines, there were many "unseemly and unscheduled meetings" between the boys and girls.

Cockatoo Island events

Throughout the year Cockatoo Island plays host to many events and festivals. The island is a popular destination on New Years Eve and provides a spectacular vantage point for the world famous New Years Eve firework display in Sydney Harbour. The island is also home to a range of film, arts and extreme sports festivals so be sure to check out what's on.

Cockatoo Island weather: when to visit

Sydney is blessed with great weather year-round. Temperatures rarely dropping below 10 degrees even in the height of winter. However, August on Cockatoo Island is notoriously windy. The tents provided on the Cockatoo Island campsites are so tough they can withstand even the most blustery of Sydney nights. Check out the mean monthly temperature and mean monthly rainfall for Sydney here.