Cockatoo Island: An Overview

History

Cockatoo Island, which is located in Sydney Harbour, has a rich and varied history.

From 1839-69 the island served as a penal colony for convicts.

Most of the prisoners who were shipped to the island were second time offenders. One of the two boatyards currently located on the island was constructed by the prisoners. While there are no longer prisoners on the island, Cockatoo Island is one of the 11 Australian Convict Sites listed with World Heritage.

The history of iron being taken from Cockatoo Island dates all the way back to the 1880s when Pearl Luggers loaded heavy iron rocks onto ships. The rocks were then used for various projects. In the 1920s exploration of the island was officially started, only to draw to close during WWII when Cockatoo Island served as both a refueling center for Catalina flying boats and as a radar station. Shortly after the end of WWII, BHP started mining the island’s rich iron deposits. At the peak of the mining operation, miners collected 2 million tons of 67% Fe Iron Ore annually. At that point, Cockatoo Island was home to 350 people.

The most recent feather in the island’s history is that in 2008 it served as the backdrop for a few scenes in the highly successful, 2008 movie, Wolverine.

Visiting

While the island no longer has any full-time inhabitants, it is a major tourist attraction. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust manages Cockatoo Island and has dedicated a great deal of time and other resources to preserving the structures that were created by both the convicts and mining families who once called the island home. 

Today tourists are invited to explore Cockatoo Island. You can reach the island via Sydney Ferries. You have the option of either spending a day on the island, exploring the old buildings, or you can take advantage of the opportunity to go glamping on Cockatoo Island. No special equipment is needed for your overnight glamping stay. You are able to stay in the pre-pitched army tents or in one of the designated buildings.

Cockatoo Island is often used for festivals and concerts that take place throughout the year.