ellaslist Reviews Glamping on Cockatoo Island

  • Preschoolers
    Mums & Bubs

By Sarah Stores, ellaslist explorer

I am not a camper but I do love an adventure and I especially love one on my doorstep in Sydney.

Cockatoo Island is almost a hidden gem in Sydney. There is so much to see and do on the island. We had an international visitor and wanted to do something a bit unique in Sydney so we decided to spend a day exploring Cockatoo Island and a night glamping right in the centre of our very own city.

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Getting There

We caught the ferry over in the early afternoon. My kids love a ferry ride and so they were primed and ready for a big adventure. It was my kids first time camping (well, okay, glamping – they still haven’t camped!) and they were very curious about the fact we would be spending the night on this island. We spotted the tents from the ferry and the kids were bemused and amazed.

Wow! What a View!

Getting off the ferry we seamlessly checked in and got the keys to our tent (along with some lamps). We had gone all out and hired a two bedroom tent. This is essentially two large tents with a covered section in the middle big enough for a table and chairs. It was perfect for a family but they also had many single tents available. Before we even unlocked the tent we were amazed by the camp ground. We were right on the water’s edge perfectly positioned for sunset. The view was breathtaking. Of course, the kids didn’t care about the view – they just wanted to know where they would be sleeping. What was in this giant cave like thing?

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Camping in Comfort

We unlocked the tents and the adults were just as amazed as the kids. The tents were perfectly set up – one had a double bed with lots of blankets and bedding. The other had two single beds for the kids. The beds were amazingly comfortable. There was a bed side table that doubled as an esky and some beautiful toiletry products to use. They even included hot water bottles. The tents were tall enough to stand up in and the tent that had the double bed set up also left room for a portacot (which we brought from home). In the middle was a large table with chairs and then some separate deck chairs. It was the perfect set up. The bathroom facilities were also clean and had everything that you needed.
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Discovering Cockatoo

We finally managed to convince the kids that we needed to explore the Island as well. We spent a few hours exploring the tunnels, the seagull spot, the old buildings, the swimming bit, the old boats and even playing a game of chess. We were there on a Sunday afternoon and the place was virtually deserted. The island has a very unique feeling. It is clearly full of history and sometimes has an eerie feeling to it – especially when you realise that you are still right in the middle of Sydney harbour. But it is also very beautiful and somewhat peaceful – in the two seconds the kids are quiet while they catch their breath!

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Our 4 year old was mesmerised by the island and the fact that people lived there building boats. We spent a long time doing some imaginative play based around what it would have been like to live on the island and even to catch ‘baddies’ on the island.


Close to sunset we headed back to our tents to enjoy some more drinks and cheese and watch the sunset. After sunset we headed over to the very well provisioned and very clean kitchen. It had BBQs, fridges, microwaves, kettles and vending machines all for the use of guests. We cooked up some delicious dinner and ate it at the many benches provided.

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After some more exploring and a team game of hide and seek in the dark we settled into our very comfortable beds. We all slept very well. The tents were virtually black out so we weren’t woken by the sun but by the gentle noise of the ferries cruising past and the not so gentle noise of the seagulls waking up. You get the sense that the seagulls would take over this island if all humans left it for a bit!

Island Brekkie

In the morning we played more hide and seek, cooked up bacon and eggs on the BBQ and packed up the tent. We then caught the ferry and I was sitting at my desk at work by 9am. It felt amazing that we had such a great adventure right on the doorstep of our city.

We loved it so much we are going back again later in the year and I can highly recommend that you check it out!

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Some hot tips:

  • If you already have your own tent and are a true camper (unlike me) then there is a section where you can pitch your own tents as well.

  • When heading out to Cockatoo Island we drove to Greenwich and parked there overnight. This meant we only had two stops on the ferry (with all our food and essentials for the night) and didn’t have to hassle about going through Circular Quay.

  • You cannot bring alcohol onto the island but you can buy it there. Just note that the shop that sells it closes at 5pm which felt early when you are having a full day exploring the island. If you don’t want to miss out just watch the time.

All the information is available here: http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/stay/glamping


I’m Sarah. A Mum of two over-active boys and a self-confessed Sydney tragic. I love living in, exploring, discovering and experiencing all Sydney has to offer. Having lived in Sydney most of my life I have loved exploring it as a grown up but now as a Mum I’m relishing re-discovering my passion for Sydney through the eyes of my boys. I love planning and executing our regular family outings to explore new things in Sydney. As a working Mum, it is a great way for our family to stay connected and have fun together. I would love to spend all my time travelling the world but given I live in the real world of mortgages and jobs we see exploring Sydney as tourists as the next best thing. You can follow our adventures on Instagram at SarahStores






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