If you’ve visited Sydney, you’ve probably noticed the small islands found in the harbour. The biggest of these is Cockatoo Island.
With its landscaped gardens and views of the harbour, it’s the perfect location for a relaxing Sydney staycation!
Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO world heritage site managed by the Harbour Trust as it was originally a penal colony housing convicts who had re-offended. One of Australia’s biggest shipyards was built here by the convicts and operated between 1857-1991. For anyone interested in shipbuilding, Cockatoo Island houses Australia’s most extensive record with much of the original infrastructure remaining intact.
Cockatoo Island has a range of different options for any budget and is a great way to go camping right in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Starting with the islands glamping accommodation, I’ll give you all the options for camping on Cockatoo Island in part 1. In part 2, I’ll explain the housing options for those who don’t want to spend the night in a tent.
Keep reading all the details and prices for Cockatoo Island.
1. Camping and Glamping on Cockatoo Island
There is a range of different camping options from bringing your own tent to a full Cockatoo Island glamping experience.
No matter which camp you choose, all spots in the waterfront campground have access to a range of basic facilities. I’ll talk about this in more detail a little later on.
For school groups, there are also extra reductions. Teachers and supervisors sleep for free.
TIP: If you are flexible in choice, sites are usually available the week before your planned trip. If you want a specific site or are heading over on school/public holidays, I recommend booking at least 2 weeks in advance.
Deluxe Camping (Glamping)
Deluxe Waterfront Package
For even more luxury, choose the Deluxe Waterfront Package offering a larger, 3m x 3m tent. Along with two raised single beds, all linen and a side table, your chairs are upgraded to sun lounges and you will receive bonus toiletries, as well as a lantern and esky (cooler) to keep your drinks cold while you relax.
COST PER NIGHT: Mon-Thurs, $150. Fri-Sun, $175.
Deluxe Waterfront 2 Bedroom Package
If travelling as a family or in a group, this option is perfect! By purchasing the 2 bedroom package, you will receive everything mentioned in the deluxe camping package, but with 2 separate tents joined by a covered communal area.
COST PER NIGHT: Mon-Thurs, $310. Fri-Sun, $360.
Note: An additional person may be added to any of the deluxe tents for an additional $30 p/n however they must bring their own sleeping bag.
Deluxe Dome Tent Camping Package
For a little more comfort, upgrade to the Deluxe camping package. With the same tent and chairs as the budget option, you are treated with two raised single beds, linen, towels and even a side table.
COST PER NIGHT: Mon-Thurs, $130. Fri-Sun, $155.
Unpowered Campsite BYO Tent
This is the cheapest option and each 4x4m spot can accommodate up to 4 people. You will need to bring your own tent and other camping equipment.
COST PER NIGHT: Mon-Thurs, $45. Fri-Sun, $50
Budget Camping Package
If you don’t own gear but want to save, the budget camping package is for you. You will arrive at a pre-erected, 2.4m x 2.4m tent with sleeping mats and camping chairs for two.
NOTE: You will have to bring your own sleeping bag, pillow and towels with this option.
COST PER NIGHT: Mon-Thurs, $89. Fri-Sun, $99.
Anyone staying at the waterfront campground has access to a range of shared facilities including toilets, hot showers and a communal kitchen with BBQs, microwaves, boiling water, fridges and a vending machine.
PRO TIP: For those needing to charge their phones or store valuables, coin operated lockers which contain electrical outlets can be found near the Visitor Centre at Muster Station. Prices start at $2 for 8 hours.
Cockatoo Island Visitor Centre
The Cockatoo Island Visitor centre sells some basic food items, toiletries as well as renting out extra mattresses ($10 p/n) and sleeping bags.
2. Harbour Trust Holiday Homes and Apartments on Cockatoo Island
If camping really isn’t your thing or you’re travelling with a group of people, there are a couple of options available to rent on Cockatoo Island. As there are a limited number of buildings on the island, I recommend booking at least a month in advance if you wish to secure one.
Here are 4 accommodation options that I have found for you, all of them have great reviews:
1) Heritage Holiday Homes
Sleeping 8-12 guests each (additional fees apply), there are two heritage holiday homes available. Built around 1913 to house the island’s medical officer and engineer manager, each holiday home comes with a beautiful entertainment area and an outdoor barbecue looking across to Hunters Hill.
COST FOR 8 PEOPLE:
1 night (only available midweek): $825 per night
2 + nights: Mon-Thurs, $625 per night. Fri-Sun, $950 per night.
2) Harbour View Apartments
With options for 2-5 person apartments, these 3 beautifully restored apartments sit high on a hill and offer incredible views over Sydney Harbour from each of their large balconies.
COST PER NIGHT:
1 Bedroom: Mon-Thurs $285, Fri-Sun $345.
2 Bedrooms: Mon-Thurs $390, Fri-Sun $495.
NOTE: There two-night minimum booking on weekends
3) Garden Riverview Apartment
This apartment can accommodate up to 4 people in either a one or two-bedroom configuration. With an outdoor deck, bbq and beautiful enclosed garden, this could be a perfect couples retreat or family getaway.
COST PER NIGHT:
1 Bedroom: $300 (only available Mon-Thurs).
2 Bedrooms: Mon-Thurs, $360 Fri-Sun, $450.
NOTE: There two-night minimum booking for the 2 bedroom configuration on weekends
4) Fire Station Studio
Revived and renovated after its former life as the Island’s Fire station, this modern studio boasts the best panoramic views of Parramatta River, a huge deck and open plan lounge, living and kitchen perfect for a couple.
COST PER NIGHT:
1 night: Mon-Thurs $265, Fri-Sun, $330.
2 + nights: Mon-Thurs, $265. Fri-Sun, $315.
BONUS: Accommodation and Attraction Bundle Offers
For those visiting both Cockatoo Island and Sydney, bundle your booking to receive awesome discounts on some of the cities main attractions. Check out our post on Sydney Accommodation to find great places to stay.
Up to 40% off Attractions
Get up to 40% off your entrance fees to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Sydney Tower Eye and Madame Tussauds Sydney. Book online and select optional extras to find these discounted passes.
20% off Hop-on Hop-Off Sydney Harbour Explorer
Book your hop-on hop-off Flexi pass at the same time as your Cockatoo Island accommodation online to receive 20% off. The Captain Cook cruise ferry circulates Sydney Harbour with 11 stops including Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Manly, Watsons Bay, Luna Park, Shark Island, Barangaroo, the National Maritime Museum.
TIP: Check the Cockatoo Island website for bonus seasonal deals including NYE and the 22nd Biennale.
Practical information about the island
Food on Cockatoo Island
You can also bring your own food and use the facilities available in either the waterfront campground or private apartment. It’s best to do your shopping in Sydney before arriving as there are only limited basics available on the island.
A range of meals and bbq packs are available to pre-order from the visitor centre, for those who don’t want to plan too much. Call +61 2 8969 2100 for more details.
Getting to Cockatoo Island
The island is reached from Circular Quay by ferries F3 or F8 which are part of Sydney’s public transport network. Trips take 20mins and cost $2.80
If the island is a stop on your NSW road trip, don’t forget to check out Newcastle and Wollongong! (We have great posts for you on these places too)
With all that information, I hope I helped you choose the perfect camping site on the beautiful Cockatoo Island, Sydney.
With so much rich history and incredible views of the harbour, Cockatoo Island is a great place for both adults and children to learn something new from the Harbour Trust, take a step back from the city hustle and find maximum relaxation with one of the camping packages on offer.
If you’re looking for other Australian islands to visit, we also have posts on Kangaroo Island and Lord Howe Island.
If you have any questions about Cockatoo Island, the waterfront campground or Australia in general, feel free to leave me a comment.