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Cockatoo Island

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Cost

Free Admission

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Hours
  • Cockatoo Island is open seven days a week
  • Visitor Centre closed indefinitely 
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Transport
  • Ferry
  • Water taxi
  • Private boat
  • Kayak
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Location

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, NSW

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Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage listed sanctuary in the heart of Sydney Harbour...

Known in the Dharug language as Wareamah, meaning ‘women’s land’, the island has emerged as an iconic contemporary arts venue, having hosted everything from the Biennale of Sydney (since 2008) and SailGP (2019) and live performances by the likes of Lorde and John Farnham. Formerly a convict penal establishment, reformatory school and naval ship dockyard, Cockatoo Island also offers heritage accommodation, a waterfront campground, a program of tours, family-friendly cafés and tranquil picnic spots with panoramic harbour views. Located at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cover Rivers, Cockatoo Island is just a ferry ride away.

Plan ahead

Getting here arrow

The easiest way to get to Cockatoo Island is by Public ferry. The F3 and F8 services operate to Cockatoo Island daily, departing from Circular Quay and Barangaroo as well as from wharves along Parramatta River. For further information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website. You can also visit Cockatoo Island by water taxi, private boat or kayak.

Private transport

Sydney Event Cruises offer private transport to and from Cockatoo Island for small and large groups. A luxury limousine and large charge vessel hire can be arranged for up to 300 people, enabling your group to arrive in style to Cockatoo Island via Camber wharf. Call Sydney Event Cruises directly on 0407 973 508.

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Boat mooring: Private vessels may use Camber Marina on the south side of Cockatoo Island. Pay for casual berthing at the Marina Café & Bar at the top of the gangway. Overnight berths must be booked in advance by calling 9940 0172 or emailing info@cockatoomarine.com.au. Most boats to 42' can be accommodated but there are restrictions above 30' length and 10m height so please call ahead to enquire about availability. Fees are $15 for 4 hours for a boat to 29'. Please visit cockatoomarine.com.au for further details and overnight bookings.

Car parking: Street parking is available near the ferry wharves at Woolwich, Greenwich, Chiswick, Huntleys Point, Drummoyne, Birchgrove and Balmain. Check signage for any restrictions. 

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Closures (06/04/2020): The visitor centre, campground, heritage accommodation and cafés are all currently closed on Cockatoo Island. Access to public amenities such as toilets is limited until further notice. If you are visiting, please follow rules around social distancing and, ahead of your visit, check for updates about this situation.

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Island amenities: Cockatoo Island has wheelchair access, toilet facilities (including accessible toilets), vending machines, barbeques, showers, an Opal card top-up machine, a kitchen (for exclusive use by campers), free Wi-Fi (enquire at the Visitor Centre) and gold coin operated lockers. Located in the Muster Station, each locker contains power outlets for charging devices. Small lockers (20cm x 20cm x 40cm) are available $2 for eight hours or $4 for 24 hours. Medium lockers (30cm x 40cm x 60cm) are available for $4 for eight hours or $8 for 24 hours. Large lockers (55cm x 60cm x 90cm) are available for $8 for eight hours or $12 for 24 hours.

Island conditions: Most areas of the island are wheelchair accessible; however, there is a steep incline from the lower island to the upper plateau, and – owing to the island’s industrial heritage –  there are uneven surfaces as well as some buildings not accessible by wheelchair.

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Cockatoo Island is patrolled by rangers from 8am to 4pm and by security personnel from 4pm and 8am. In the event of an emergency, dial 000 or 112 if mobile reception is poor. To contact a ranger during an emergency, call 0434 652 153 (8am to 4pm). Alternatively, to contact a security officer, call 0433 632 791 (4 pm to 8 am).          

Visitor guidelines arrow

Help ensure the safety and enjoyment of all visitors, by observing the following rules, enforceable by our rangers:

Conditions of entry: Do not fish, skateboard and roller-blade; do not bring pets (except guide dogs) onto the island; do not smoke within buildings or within five metres of a café; do not littering or dump rubbish; do not erect gazebos or marquees (without a permit); do not operate remote-controlled vehicles (including drones); do not play amplified music (without a permit) or create excessive noise; do not undertake commercial activities (without a permit); do not hold private functions (without a permit); and do not climb cliffs or on historical structures.

Alcohol consumption: To prevent unsafe alcohol consumption and curb anti-social behaviour, alcohol rules are enforced on the island. Visitors (with the exception of apartment and heritage house guests) are not permitted to bring alcohol onto the island. Alcohol consumption is permitted at the island’s two licensed venues, Societé Overboard and the Marina Café & Bar. For further details, see: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).      

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Can't find what you're looking for? Our FAQs page contains further visitor information. Topics include the consumption of alcohol, our bag check and photography policies, guide animals and the island's amenities. 

 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) arrow

In recent weeks, the Harbour Trust has followed advice from the NSW Department of Health and the World Health Organisation and implemented measures to ensure the health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff.

Full details

Things to do

Stay for the day, overnight or longer!

Join a historic tour

Cockatoo Island offers regular program of tours for people of all ages and interests, including our all-ages Haunted History, Crooked Character and Convict Precinct tours as well as on-demand audio tours and our adults-only paranormal tour, Ghostyard.

Stay a night (or longer)

Surrounded by landscaped gardens with sweeping views, our apartments and holiday houses marry heritage character and with modern amenities. Meanwhile, our campground represents an opportunity to sleep under the stars in the heart of the world’s best harbour.

Enjoy a picnic or barbeque

Pack a meal and ascend to Biloela Lawn in the Historic Residence Precinct for unspoilt vistas. Alternatively, take advantage of the lower island’s barbeque facilities, shaded seating and sprawling green space.

Pick up a kids activity book

Visiting with kids? Head to the Visitor Centre for a free activity book. Suitable for kids aged 12 and under, the book includes challenges such as Convict Clues and Ship Shape, which encourage interaction with the island's rich history. 

Discover Shipyard Stories

Located in Biloela House on the upper plateau, Shipyard Stories is an exhibition of archival imagery celebrating the island’s storied maritime history.

Note: Shipyard Stories will be closed from Friday 21 February 2020 to allow for Biloela House to be transformed into a learning space for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney

Shoot some hoops

Play a game of basketball at our harbour-side court, a short distance from the ferry wharf. Basketballs can be hired from the Visitor Centre for $5.

Exercise your brain

What’s better than playing a game of chess in your living room? Playing a game on our giant, outdoor chess board, surrounded by Sydney Harbour! Head to the island’s eastern apron, it’s your move! 

Watch movies

Located in the historic Convict Precinct, our Campground Cinema is an opportunity for campers to kick back in a plush bean bag and enjoy a free selection of films. The cinema can comfortably accommodate up to 30 people. Group cinematic experiences can be arranged through the Accommodation Team ($5 per person – includes popcorn).

Share campfire stories

As night falls, gravitate to the warmth of our campground firepit and share stories, both spooky and funny, as you enjoy flame-roasted marshmallows. Note: Marshmallow bags (including sticks) are available for $5 from the Visitor Centre.

Play vintage lawn games

A true test of hand-eye coordination and depth perception, corn hole is a game where players take turns attempting to throw beanbags into a raised hole. We also offer highly addictive variations on the classic ring toss game (Finska, Quoits and Hoopla) and Frescobal – a paddle ball game popular in Brazil. All games are available from the Visitor Centre.

Go kayaking

Make a grand entrance by kayak at Slipway Number 2 where the historic ships were once built. Kayaks can be left at this slipway, but please remember that items are left at your own risk so take any valuables with you. Kayaks are not available for hire on Cockatoo Island.

Special events

In addition to offering regular tours, Cockatoo Island hosts seasonal events...

Featured event : The 22nd Biennale of Sydney

Cockatoo Island is being reimagined as an immersive contemporary art space for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney. Between 14 March and 8 June, visitors to the island are invited to engage with a series of public artworks – and participate in free and tickets events – anchored in this year’s theme: NIRIN.

Image credit: Lisa Reihana, In Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015–17, (detail) ultra HD video, colour, 7.1 sound, 64 mins, Courtesy the artist and New Zealand at Venice

What's on directory

Cockatoo Island hosts a range of free and ticketed seasonal events including live music performances, school holiday activities, historic crane demonstrations, New Year's Eve celebrations and more. Check out our what's on directory to see what's coming up... 

Feeling peckish?

Our family-friendly cafés are both licensed to serve alcohol...

Marina Café & Bar

Update (30/03/2020): Commencing Monday 30 March 2020, Marina Café & Bar will not be trading until further notice.

Located alongside Camber Wharf, this harbour-side hangout exudes country-style pub charm. Relax with an alcoholic beverage or coffee in the beer garden and take advantage of a diverse menu that includes gluten free, dairy free and vegan options. To celebrate the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, Marina will host a pop-up barbeque (Thursday to Sunday) and live acoustic music (Fridays) during the contemporary art festival. Learn more

Trading hours

  • Monday to Thursday – 9am to 4pm
  • Friday and Saturday – 9am to 9pm
  • Sunday – 9am to 5pm
  • Public holidays – 9am to 4pm 

Café menu available every day. Food truck and kitchen menus available Thursday to Sunday. Last food and alcohol orders are 30 minutes prior to close time. For more info, email enquiries@cockatooisland.cafe, call 1300 228 326 or visit the venue's website.

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Societé Overboard

Update (24/03/2020): Commencing Tuesday 24 March 2020, Societé Overboard will not be trading until further notice.

Just a short stroll from the ferry wharf, Societé is an opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner – as well as a selection of hot, cold and alcoholic refreshments – as you take in an incredible harbour view. To celebrate the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, Societé will host a Bird in Hand tapas wine bar and an interactive art event during the contemporary art festival. Learn more

Trading hours

  • Monday to Thursday – 8:30am to 5pm
  • Friday – 8:30am to 7pm
  • Saturday–​ 8:30am to 9pm
  • Sunday –​ 8:30am to 7pm

Note: Kitchen closes 45 minutes prior to the end of the trading day. Dinner menu only available on Saturday night. For more info, call (02) 9555 5586 or 0434 372 260, or email societecatering@bigpond.com. ​

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Island history

Cockatoo Island’s heritage buildings and distinctive terrain offer insights into the complex and layered history of this former convict penal establishment, naval ship dockyard, industrial school for girls and reformatory. The island also has strong continued ties to the First Nations, having served as a meeting place for the Eora People prior to colonisation.

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