• 2022.12.02
Cockatoo Island is an island within the huge gulf of Sydney.
In particular, it is the largest island located at the confluence of the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers.
It was formerly one of the largest prisons, today it is a meeting and relaxation point for the inhabitants of our great Australian city.

Before colonization, Cockatoo Island was most likely inhabited by aborigines.
In the nineteenth century it was used as a prison for British inmates transferred there from Norfolk Island, a remote island in the ocean.
The inmates were employed in the construction of a grain warehouse for the colony which was completed in the mid of that century.
Later, they worked inside the island's quarry which provided material for the construction of many sites in the city.
The conditions of the detainees on this island were not the best from what I learnt and even in this century, the hidden body of a prisoner from those times was discovered inside the punishment cells of the prison located in the basement.
The place was chosen to be a prison because escaping from the island was really difficult as few people were able to swim with those currents and the waters were, and probably are, infested with sharks.
In 1869, due to the bad conditions in which the prisoners were found to be, the prison was closed and the inmates were moved to Darlinghurst.

The island was immediately used for other activities, such as an industrial school for girls and a juvenile.
The latter was for girls who had committed a crime, while the school was used as a female only orphanage.
All the girls lived in the terrible cells where the inmates had previously lived therefore having quite a difficult life.

Later, the site became a naval school and then also a shipyard.
In 2010 Cockatoo Island was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
People can visit it now and I like to take friends here whenever they come to Sydney.
As soon as you land on the island, you can immediately breathe the air of immense history that this island is full of.
You can get a map at the dock, so as not to miss a single point of Cockatoo Island.
It can be easily explored on foot.
There are many gardens on the island and Sydney locals come here to enjoy the outdoors rather than to explore its dark past.

Inside the Industrial area, you can visit the inside of the ancient warehouses where the components of the ships were built when the site used to be a shipyard. There are also some machinery left behind from that time.
Characteristic and very interesting point is the Dog Leg Tunnel.
This tunnel, which is quite long, was built at the beginning of the last century to move workers and materials from one end of the island to the other and, during World War II, it was used as an air raid shelter.
The tunnel is open daily and it’s worth the visit.
You can even spend a whole night on the island but I have personally never tried.
Cockatoo Island is, in fact, the only island in Sydney Bay where it is possible to stay overnight as they opened a campsite here.
You can bring your own tent and camp for the night, use the tents made available or stay in apartments or Heritage Houses created from the old homes of the medical officer and chief engineer.
There are numerous legends on this island, the most widespread being those concerning its ghosts and it is quite normal since it was a prison and the place may look eerie indeed.
Many people have reported feeling a strange presence during the night they spent on Cockatoo Island.
According to the legend, it would be the souls of the condemned souls who lost their lives in the confinement cells or in the waters of the Sydney bay trying to escape from the terrible prison.


  • Alberto Ferrando
  • Jobcivil engineer

Hello everyone! I’m originally from Italy and I moved to Sydney, Australia, in 2012 after getting a job as a civil engineer. I love walking my dog along the beach, surfing and taking photos. I used to have a travel blog because I’m passionate about traveling and I love writing about it too. Sydney is my home base now and I wish to share how amazing it is to live here. I love to spend time outdoors and I’m always well informed about local events because my girlfriend works in event management.

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