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Cockatoo Island
Travel Guide – New South Wales

Cockatoo Island Travel Guide

Cockatoo Island is a popular holiday destination among history buffs, urbanites and backpackers. This 18-hectare island is situated at the confluence of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers in Sydney Harbour. Admire the fascinating views of Sydney as you walk along the historic grounds of Cockatoo Island. Cockatoo Island has been an important site for thousands of years prior to European settlement, and it is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Take some time to learn about the interesting historical events that occurred on Cockatoo Island.

Things to do and see on Cockatoo Island

Learn about the events and past people of Cockatoo Island by touring the prison and shipyard. You may enjoy a self-guided tour, or you can listen to an informative audio tour as you walk across the island. You will feel as if you are alive in a different era when you encounter the island’s cells, work sites, and shipyard.

Cockatoo Island is also a popular camping destination with permanent tents along the water available for booking. Camping on Cockatoo Island is a unique experience that combines the excitement of Sydney with the serenity of sleeping by the water.


Cockatoo Island – Sydney NSW

People walking into the visitor information centre on Cockatoo Island. The largest island in Sydney Harbour, it once served as a convict prison and shipyard.

Cockatoo Island weather this week

Now15ºCshower rain
  • Fri 20/10heavy intensity rain
  • Sat 21/10light rain
  • Sun 22/10moderate rain
  • Mon 23/10light rain
  • Tue 24/10light rain


Cockatoo Island was the site of a major prison during the 19th century. While this prison was not as brutal as Fremantle in Western Australia, it has become an important historical destination. The prison on Cockatoo Island was dedicated to punishing repeat offenders who had already been released from another prison. This prison was in operation from 1839 to 1869. The prisoners of Cockatoo Island constructed a large portion of the area’s technical infrastructure.

In 1857, Cockatoo Island became the site of Sydney’s largest shipyard. This major shipyard constructed marine parts and vessels for civilians, but it also constructed ships for Australia’s naval fleets. The shipyard played an important role in Australia’s mobilisation efforts during World War I and World War II. After over 100 years of producing ships, the shipyard finally closed in 1991. If you are interested in learning about the history of ships and industrialisation in Australia, you should comb through Cockatoo Island’s records at the shipyard’s museum.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in New South Wales, Cockatoo Island was an important location for the local Aboriginal people. Many scholars believe that the indigenous people of the area used Cockatoo Island as a fishing base. Since Cockatoo Island is located at the junction of two major rivers, it would have given the Aborigines valuable access to marine resources.