Cockatoo Island, located at the junction between Parramatta and Lane Cove River, is the largest island to be found on Sydney Harbour at a size of 17.9 hectares. With a history both rich and varied, today Cockatoo Island is on our National Heritage List as well as being a proclaimed World Heritage site. It has been managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust since 2001.
Cockatoo Island, a site for culture, art and history enthusiasts located on Sydney Harbour.
My friends and I began our trip to Cockatoo Island at Circular Quay, where we caught a ferry. This is the most popular method for reaching the island, though private vessels and water taxis can also be used for transport. It took only a few minutes to reach Cockatoo Island, and I was immediately struck by the haunting beauty by the antiquated industrial remains scattered across the island.
The Art Biennale of Sydney has used Cockatoo Island as a major venue since 2008. Installations are scattered across the island and attract many visitors. Entry is free.
We visited mainly for the purpose of seeing the 19th Art Biennale of Sydney and were not disappointed by the variety of installations, multi-media exhibits and sculptures we saw.
A variety of installations, multimedia exhibits and sculptures are shown across the island. This image is of a short stop-motion horror film.
This video installation titled ‘I am the River’ by Eva Koch is set in one of the older industrial buildings.
Bringing the idea of interactive art to a whole new level
Aside from its merits as a site for showcasing art, Cockatoo Island is also worth visiting on the basis of its historical value. The island was used as a convict settlement from 1939-1869 and then as an industrial shipyard, in fact becoming one of Australia’s largest shipyards from 1857-1991.
From 1839-1869, Cockatoo Island was used as a convict settlement; a place of ‘secondary punishment’ for reoffending convicts.
Cockatoo Island was the site for one of Australia’s largest shipyards from 1857-1991
You will find plenty of old machinery in the disused industrial buildings
If you become hungry while exploring this island, food and drinks are available at eateries including the Societe Overboard Café, Marine Café, The Island Bar, Bamboo Dumpling Bar and Yerling Station Wine Bar. You are can also bring your own picnic, but BBQ facilities are limited in number so calling ahead is recommended.
Seats outside the Island Bar
Cockatoo Island is open daily and entry is free, ferry costs aside. The island hosts a variety of art events as well as festivals. Guided and audio tours are available, though you can always grab a map and explore the island in your own time if you prefer. If you wish for a longer experience of Cockatoo Island, camping, ‘glamping’ (glamour camping) and overnight stays in accommodation are available. The camp ground which lies before Sydney Harbour is like no other, attracting around 20,000 campers a year. The campsite has also proved to be a popular spot for watching the New Year fireworks in Sydney. Holiday accommodation includes houses and apartments, also with stunning views of the harbour and city.
The campsite lies before Sydney Harbour and spectacular city views
After being off-limits for more than a century, the island has now become a centre for culture, art and history and as such is certainly well worth a visit.
Where: Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour
Why: to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site revealing a slice of Australian history, or for the Art Biennale of Sydney.
Cost: Free, excepting the ferry trip to reach the island.
When: open 10am - 5pm daily, though overnight stays can also be arranged.
Good for kids: Yes
The Imagination Station on Cockatoo Island. Workshops are run on weekends and during school holidays
Official website http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/
Art Biennale of Sydney website http://www.biennaleofsydney.com.au/19bos/venues/cockatoo-island/