Top 10 Things to do on Cockatoo Island

If you follow our Facebook or Instagram pages, you will know that Sydney Concierge provided the concierge last week for the launch of the Mercedes Benz Marco Polo campervan on Cockatoo Island. You can check out a few photos from the event here. It was a very exciting, yet full-on, few days. Now, that life is back to normal, we have put together our list of the top 10 things to do on Cockatoo Island:

  1. Stay here for New Year’s Eve! The houses and apartments have been fully booked since April, but those that take their own tent will get prime position and essentially sleep in the same spot as the Mercedes vans (pictured above). There will also be food trucks and pop-up bars on the island for this momentous night. And the best part is that you don’t need to worry about how to get home; as check-out is not until 12pm on 1st January (so, you even get that much-needed lie-in). There are still spots available (valid 15th August), but they are starting to sell out, so don’t hesitate to book.
  2. If you don’t fancy camping and would like to stay on the island before New Year’s, I can highly recommend the Fire Station Studio that I stayed in for 5 nights. To be honest, it is more of a 1 bedroom apartment than studio as its really spacious. The private balcony is huge, with bbq facilities, outdoor furniture and amazing views of the Bridge. If you book and stay before 30th September, Cockatoo Island are currently offering 20% off 2 night stays. This includes the studio, apartments, houses and camping (subject to availability).
  3. The Australian Artisan Cheese & Wine Experience is a short course showcasing the best of Australia’s cheese making talents matched with some great Australian wines. Australia’s premier cheese and wine experience has been showcased out on Fort Denison since 2007 and now has a new home – UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island. It runs most weekends, from 2.30-4pm. Cost normally $125 – Contact us for 10% discount
  4. Every Friday night (6pm-7.30pm and 6.30-8pm) until 15th September, Cockatoo Island is running Haunted History Night Tours. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there’s no question that Cockatoo Island at night can be eerily atmospheric.  Be on the lookout for strange sounds, sights and sensations – people on previous tours have reported seeing spectral figures, feeling sudden gusts of air, and even smelling tobacco smoke! Their experienced tour guides will blend the history with the mystery to help unlock some of Cockatoo Island’s many hidden secrets. For a limited time only – so book now! Cost: $25 adults, $15 children.
  5. If you prefer a daytime or less scary tour, the 45-minute Convict Precinct Guided Tour, is running again on 9th September at 11am, 1.30pm and 3pm. Learn about the fascinating history of Cockatoo Island which was a convict prison between 1839 and 1869. At its peak it was home to 550 men who built their barracks, forged their own prison bars and constructed Fitzroy Dock. Cockatoo Island, together with 10 other historic convict sites, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2010. Cost: $10 adults. Children are free.
  6. Alternatively, if you prefer to explore the island at your own pace, the Audio Tour takes approximately 1.5 hours. With 26 stops, you’ll discover a lot more than meets the eye. Pick up a headset and special map from the Visitor Centre. The island’s many lives are recreated in the tour by professional actors, sound effect design, and real audio clips from those who lived and worked on Cockatoo Island. Cost: $5 for 1 person or $8 for 2.
  7. Ghosts of Biloela is a geo-locative story App you can download on your smartphone to enhance your Cockatoo Island experience. It’s a fictional drama set on the island, inspired by the real-life Biloela Reformatory and Industrial School for Girls from 1871 to 1888. Make sure you turn on “Location Services” in your phone’s settings (otherwise the GPS technology won’t work). Duration: 40-60 minutes. Cost: free.
  8. Each evening, they show 2 free movies on the island; 7pm for the kids’ movie (e.g. Oddball) and 9.15pm for the adults’ movie (e.g. – Unbroken, which was filmed on the island). Don’t forget to take your own popcorn and snacks.
  9. If you would like more information about Unbroken (directed by Angelina Jolie), room B142 in the Industrial Precinct features a number film clips and images from various on-set island locations. See how Cockatoo Island transformed into Japan’s most notorious Prisoner-Of-War camp, Naoetsu, during filming in 2013. It may not be suitable for children under 15. Open 9.30am-5pm. Cost: free.
  10. Last, but by no means least, Cockatoo Island has various food and drink options. It is the perfect place for your own picnic, there are 2 public barbeques, a fully equipped camp kitchen for those camping or glamping, and 2 cafes. Societe Overboard (located near the Visitor Centre and new ferry wharf) and serves basic breakfast items, burgers or fish & chips for lunch, a select kids menu and Nutella & Oreo milkshakes; whilst the Marina Cafe (next to the other ferry wharf) serves pizzas, wraps and nachos. Both are licensed and allow you to purchase drinks to take-away if you are staying on the island. Please note, the cafes both have limited hours in winter (until 31st August).

Please note, the main Ferry Wharf is closed for renovations until 17th August. Until 18th August, all ferries stop on the other side of the island. It is about 8-minute walk from there to the Visitor Centre.


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