There's no shortage of beautiful places to camp near Sydney, but none is quite as evocative as an overnight stay on Cockatoo Island. The largest and most storied of the Sydney Harbor islands, Cockatoo was once an Aboriginal fishing ground, a naval shipyard, a girls' reform school and a gruesome prison. Today, it offers fascinating walking tours, a casual cafe, a pizza-and-cocktail hotspot called the Island Bar, and a number of exciting events from the Biennale of Sydney to the Underbelly Arts Festival. When most visitors line up in the evening to catch the ferry home, those staying on the island are just settling in to dinner at Island Bar or a leisurely sunset stroll. They can watch the city light up from what feels like another world and then retreat to their campsite, canvas "glamping" tent, heritage home, or modern rental like the new Garden Apartment and get a glimpse of Cockatoo Island's past. Wherever travelers stay, they'll wake up to birds and boats, just like residents have for centuries.
Between 1839 and 1869, Cockatoo Island housed convicts. Later, it became one of Australia's biggest shipyards, operating between 1857 and 1991.
Much of the original shipyard features are still present; rusting cranes dominate the outside, and huge turbines and other machinery can be found throughout the sheds of the island. The buildings have been minimally restored, which is great, because so little of the original rawness of the place has been lost.
The photo was taken during the 18th Biennale of Sydney, so there was an abundance of art installations everywhere.
Cockatoo Island is a World Heritage Site that's only a 20-minute ferry ride from Sydney Harbour. This island was a former prisoner camp, turned ship making station, littered with relics of its past. Roam its decaying buildings for hours, you can even stay the night in a tent!
The Sydney Biennial is on! All over the city, art is on display, but nowhere better showcased than on Cockatoo Island. This historic and weathered island turned art gallery for the month is an ideal venue for concept art in a variety of forms: multi-media, film, sculpture, and more. Its history of being a convict work camp adds to its spooky energy. Explore for hours and look in each nook and cranny. Buy $7 ferry tickets in Sydney Harbour, the event is free.