CamperMate

Camping in Sydney on Cockatoo Island

Finding a peaceful, well-equipped campsite in the middle of Sydney with uninterrupted views across the harbour is, some might believe, impossible. Yet using my CamperMate app I managed to locate the less well known Cockatoo Island an old industrial shipyard, which offers just that. A 30-minute picturesque ferry ride from Circular Quay, this is the nearest campground to the city centre and offers a clean, affordable and unique location to stay the night in Sydney. There is just one catch, that being it’s an island and therefore no direct way to drive to the campsite. However we easily found free residential parking in the suburb of Woolwich, a mere three minute ferry ride linking you to the island. There’s also free parking in Greenwich with access to a wharf and ferry ride over as well. Cockatoo island The campsite on Cockatoo Island is unbelievably peaceful. There are a variety of ‘Glamping’ tents available right on the water’s edge which include camping beds, mattresses and camping chairs meaning you won’t have to lug everything over from your vehicle! You can choose from one or two bedroomed Glamping tents ranging in price from $150-360 depending on the number of people and day of booking.  If you have your own tent you can pitch up at an unpowered site for only $45/pn on a weekday ($50/pn weekends) and have full use of the camp kitchen including the barbecues, fridges and washing facilities. My partner and I had a tent we opted for the BYO camping site for five nights. 20160429_115701 Cockatoo Island has several restaurants and cafes dotted around the old shipyards and the visitors’ centre sells a small selection of toiletries, camping sets and sleeping bags. There is plenty to see around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed island, such as exploring the convict history and learning all about the horrible conditions previous inmates were faced with. The island was chosen as an overflow gaol for secondary offenders. Cockatoo Island was Australia’s first naval dockyard for the Royal Australian Navy and continued to build ships until its closure in 1991. [caption id="attachment_2757" align="alignnone" width="900"]View from Cockatoo Island Convict precinct View from Cockatoo Island Convict precinct[/caption] We had an interesting walk around the Industrial precinct and the Docks and, without intending to, had timed our arrival halfway through the ‘Biennale of Sydney 20th Anniversary’ art installation. The exhibitions were featured throughout the whole island, with video, still imagery and sculptures presented in old workrooms, huge shipping factories and in underground tunnels. It is a brilliant experience and really gets you interacting with the space around you and with the art in front of you. The exhibition, titled ‘The future is already here - it’s just not evenly distributed’, is running until June 5th. Of course there’s plenty to see off the island as well. The best way to travel around Sydney is to buy an Opal card, top it up and use it on any of the buses, trains or ferries transporting you around the city. A ferry from Cockatoo Island to Circular Quay costs just over $5 on Opal however on Sundays there is unlimited travel for just $2.50 all day using your card! Arriving into Circular Quay we found ourselves in the middle of all the iconic sites we had heard and read about. We passed under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge on our journey to the docks and were awestruck by it’s sheer size and craftsmanship. You could see some brave souls climbing the bridge however from where we were they looked like little dots they were so high up! The Opera House lies opposite the bridge and is even more beautiful in real life. If possible, I would really recommend hearing a performance inside one of the halls just so you can experience the acoustics and design inside as well as out – in my opinion, it has to be more memorable than just taking a tour. [caption id="attachment_2759" align="alignnone" width="900"]Sydney Harbour Bridge Sydney Harbour Bridge[/caption] There are plenty of museums to visit within this area of the city as well, including the Australian Museum which is currently running the David Attenborough virtual reality experience  - a must see! The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest area with old cobbled streets and wooden beamed small pubs. There’s regular markets every weekend selling local crafts, fresh food and souvenirs. We spent a long time just wandering around soaking up the atmosphere and trying different food stalls! There is so much to see in Sydney it’s hard to fit it all into one post. The best way to discover the city is just to have some comfy shoes on and spend a few days walking around and finding places to  explore. We found basing ourselves on Cockatoo Island cost us a fraction of the price of one of the hotels or hostels in the city, yet allowed us to still access the city centre easily and quickly. It was the perfect solution.