With beaches and dramatic coastline aplenty, we Sydneysiders are a tough crowd to impress. But step off the mainland and onto one of these stunning islands and you’ll see Sydney in a whole new way. Trust us, they are worth the boat ride. Our advice, pack a picnic or indulge at one of the restaurants and make a day of it because you will never tire of the views.
Loved by snorkelers and divers, Bare Island is a haven for sea-life and offers stunning views of La Perouse and Botany Bay. Joined to the mainland by a footbridge, Bare Island was used as a military fort and still has tunnels that can be visited by a guided tour. The reefs stretching around the island are home to big belly sea horses, sea dragons, red Indian fish and hundreds of other intriguing gilled creatures. For those who aren’t divers or keen snorkelers, the island is a favourite location for picnics with plenty of grass space to lounge about for hours on end.
Bare Island, La Perouse, Botany Bay
The iconic little fort just off Kirribilli and the Royal Botanic Gardens holds a colourful history, as one of the state’s first prisons and then military fortress. With jaw-dropping views at every turn, you will want to byo a picnic and linger for awhile soaking up the views. Note, the restaurant has closed on the island and is looking to be reopened in 2018. So bring any refreshments you will need with you.
Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour
This all-rounder offers the best of Sydney’s lifestyle in its own little microcosm of activity. Sitting between Hunters Hill and Balmain on the Parramatta River, Cockatoo Island was reopened to the public in 2007. Now offering year-round activities including ghost tours, kayaking, glamping and art exhibitions, you can stay for the entire weekend and take in spectacular harbour views. With two cafes open for breakfast and lunch your visit will be a breeze. Ferry services to Cockatoo Island run throughout the day.
Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour
Situated in the Pittwater estuary in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, this beautiful island boasts extensive views of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and Pittwater, walking trails, and playgrounds with picnic facilities. With a strong community of permanent residences and weekenders, Scotland Island can either be a day trip (byo picnic) or a weekend getaway. Stock up on supplies in Mona Vale and catch a ferry from Church Point.
Scotland Island, Pittwater
A little further north in the Hawkesbury River, lies the secluded Dangar Island. An idyllic place that sees visitors return year on year, Dangar Island is serviced by a ferry running from Brooklyn wharf and private vessels. Permanent abodes and a handful of holiday homes line the waterfront and are occasionally available for holiday rental – just be quick. The island has a bowling club serving meals (and most of the entertainment the island has to offer).
Dangar Island, Hawkesbury River
Rose Bay’s Shark Island is just 250 metres by 100 metres – a tiny place to visit but well worth an afternoon trip. Picnic shelters, toilets, drinking water and electricity are available on the island. Captain Cook Cruises run services from Circular Quay to the island throughout the day (as long as the Island is not booked exclusively). So long as the name doesn’t get to you, the spot really is an oasis right in the middle of the Harbour’s action.
Shark Island, Sydney Harbour
Situated in Sydney Harbour just off Double Bay in Sydney’s East, the lush Clark Island is a favourite for sun-lovers looking for an adventure during summer. Although small, the island has toilets, drinking water and electric power available, and transport is only available through private transfer or water taxi as ferries don’t operate to the island. Incredibly picturesque, Clark Island is a favourite for wedding receptions and offers unrivalled views of the harbour in every direction – especially come sunset.
Clark Island, Sydney Harbour
The curious little island sitting pretty in the middle of Iron Cove off the Parramatta River provides walkers on the Bay Run with a gorgeous distraction. Pretty gazebos dot the island’s foreshore amongst lush gardens, making it a favourite wedding venue and function place. Bookings can be made for visits to the island, and access must be arranged through a NPWS-licensed transport operator. Private vessels need to gain permission prior to arrival.
Rodd Island, Iron Cove
Goat Island was once used as a home for convict work gangs and gunpowder storage, water police stations, harbour fire brigades and shipyard works. Today, the island offers uninterrupted views of the entire city skyline from the Anzac Bridge to North Sydney. Heritage tours provide a comprehensive explanation of the Island’s role in Sydney’s early days. Booking a guided tour will include the transport to and from the island as private vessels are not permitted to dock.
Simmons Street, Balmain East Sydney Harbour
Adjacent to Drummoyne in the Parramatta River, Spectacle Island is a must for those interested in maritime history. Holding artefacts from over 100 years of the Royal Australian Navy’s History, the island holds 48 buildings over five acres of land, and as it is still used by the Royal Australian Navy, public access is restricted to special events and tours. Find out about tour dates and book ahead on the official website.
Spectacle Island, Parramatta River