Are you like me? I’d been meaning to take the kids to Cockatoo Island for ages and ages.
Friends had told me about it, some had even been camping there.
But I had a little mental block about quite how to get there from our place in the northern suburbs of Sydney. I knew it would be a BIG DAY OUT and I wanted it to go well for us all.
Do you know that feeling? When you just need the right info and to chat it through with a friend who’s been there?
Anyway, I talked to friends, checked the Cockatoo Island website and got a grip.
Then I gathered four 9 year olds (my twins plus a friend each) and off we set on our Sydney Harbour island adventure.
Getting to Cockatoo Island
Well, you can swim or kayak. But most people take a ferry to get to Cockatoo Island. These leave from Circular Quay, of course, and from many other wharves around the Harbour.
To find the easiest ferry for you, check out the links on the Getting There section of the website.
For those coming from the north, the ferry from Greenwich only takes 8 minutes and we easily found a parking spot near the ferry.
(PS Do you know Greenwich Baths, click here to read all about this gorgeous spot for kids, maybe good to combine with a visit to Cockatoo Island.
(It was a hair-raising eight minutes for me though as the kids were excited and running around all over the place. On the return trip I had them on a tighter leash.)
NB You should get tickets before or use an Opal card. Tickets weren’t sold on the ferry we got.
On Arrival At Cockatoo Island
When you get off ferry there is a visitor centre and a kiosk with lots of picnic tables around it.
We ate some sandwiches and had a drink and enjoyed the stunning views. Then we had an ice cream and set off to explore.
The visitor centre is very good. We picked up booklets to use and also maps and set off on our adventure.
Things To Do On Cockatoo Island
Once on the island, there are many things to do. We choose to do the Convict Trail and that kept us busy for a few hours.
The kids had booklets to fill in. We had to find various places and do rubbings in the books and read the information boards. We all learned heaps and the kids were a great age for this, being pretty independent.
I’d love to go one day and see the movie screenings and do an audio tour.
The kids would love to do one of the holiday workshops that can be done on the island,
Cockatoo Island is NOT the sort of place you will cover in a day. You could easily have two or three visits or stay for a few days before feeling you had seen and read and listened to everything there is to enjoy.
PS We are not the best map readers and got quite confused a couple of times. We didn’t manage to follow the convict trail totally succesfuly.
We went down a cliffside on the world’s steepest steps, and ended up at the Marina cafe. But we found out way back OK and followed the trail onwards.
Cafes and Kiosks on Cockatoo Island
There are heaps of picnic places on the island and some areas where you can BBQ too. There’s also the kiosk/cafe called Societe Overboard near the wharf where ferries come in, plus another The Marina Cafe on the opposite side of the island, plus there’s a proper bar called The Island Bar.
Since opening times vary by season, please do check out this page on the Cockatoo Island website for current info.
We did take food as I didn’t want to spend a fortune. We had ice cream when we first arrived and then drinks and hot chips at The Marina Cafe.
So no-one will starve… and everyone will enjoy the fab views from every eatery.
Our Cockatoo Island Highlights
- Running through the amazing Dog Leg Tunnel.
- Looking at all the huge mechanical structures.
- Reading about convict life on the island – poor souls.
- The views! The views!!
- The huge amounts of space to run and play – my wild kids and friends had a wonderful time.
Cockatoo Island Drawbacks
There are few fences alongside the water, and many places where kids could jump or fall in. You really need to keep an eye out on younger children.
Some steps are very steep. I had heart failure many times as kids jumped around, leaned over fences and played by the sea.
Prams and Strollers
There are clearly marked accessible paths shown in the map and lots of flat space down on the levels by the sea and in the industrial areas. But there are many places strollers can’t access easily too due to rough ground and steep steps.
Camping and Other Accommodation on Cockatoo Island
There are lots of different accommodation options on Cockatoo Island. You can camp or glamp in the different tents which are permanently erected.
You do need to bring your own food or buy it from the cafes on the island. It’s possible to hire all the camping equipment you need, or you can bring your own.
There are apartments and heritage houses for rent too. Best thing is to check out the Cockatoo Island website here.
If you’d like to ask more questions or chat through the options call the Accommodation Enquiries number on (02) 8969 2111
Monday – Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day Trip To Cockatoo Island – Last Advice
Myself and the kids stayed for 4 or 5 hours on Cockatoo Island. We live in Sydney and so can easily visit again, and we will.
If you’re visiting Sydney then you’ll probably want to stay a bit longer, depending on the ages of the children.
I managed fine with the nine year olds. I wouldn’t have gone with so many younger children unless there were other adults around to help – and make sure they didn’t throw themselves in for a swim.
So who’s planning a trip to Cockatoo Island?
Have you camped there? Your top tips?
Happy exploring this beautiful city of Sydney.