Sydney Harbour National Park encompasses parts of Sydney Harbour, its foreshores and various islands and has plenty to offer for those wishing to get away from Australia’s biggest and busiest city for the day. During the summer there are regular ferry services operating from Circular Quay and the national park attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Sydney Harbour represents one of the most stunning and environmentally diverse attractions in the world. It features cliffs, beaches and inlets of magnificent beauty unique to the region. The attractions listed below highlight some of the experiences residents and visitors can enjoy by exploring the beautiful areas of Sydney Harbour.
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Recently added to the World Heritage list, Cockatoo Island is Sydney’s largest island, reachable by ferry from Circular Quay. The island was once a convict prison, then a girl’s school and finally Australia’s biggest shipyard; today it is one of Sydney Harbour’s most popular island destinations.
Cockatoo Island is open to the public every day; offering major events, exhibitions, venue hire, accommodation, tours, barbecues, picnic areas, a waterfront bar, licensed kiosk and business tenancy. It is managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, a self-sufficient agency created by the Australian Government to improve public access to former defence and Commonwealth sites.
2010 saw Cockatoo Island granted World Heritage status by UNESCO, who deemed it an excellent example of “The colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts”.
Like Cockatoo, Denison Island has had previous uses- it has been used as a fishing spot, defence structure, navigational guide, tide gauge station, weather station, time marker and now a restaurant, events space and historic museum.
Previously known as Pinchgut, the island has been restored extensively over the last couple of decades, today the museum is a popular tourist attraction giving visitors valuable information on Sydney’s maritime history. Fort Denison also has the only Marteloo tower in Australia and the last one ever constructed by the British Empire.
Bigger than Shark Island at 400m by 200m, Goat Island is located to the west of Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was previously known as ‘Me-mel’ by the local Cadigal people and was later the headquarters of both the harbour fire brigade and the Sydney Water Police, whose role it was to watch for potential escaped convicts and smugglers.
Named for its shape rather than its native wildlife, Shark Island is a relaxing spot to have a picnic but make sure to bring everything you need with you because the only facilities on site are toilets and drinking water. The island itself is only very small measuring some 100m by 250m and is accessible by ferry daily; due to its location Shark Island is an extremely popular spot to watch the New Year’s fireworks.