Cockatoo Island Glamping

I sat in the middle of Sydney Harbour with a chilled glass of white wine in my hand and a plate of gourmet meat and cheese on a table between me and my sister. ‘If this is camping,’ I thought to myself, ‘I could camp every day for the rest of my life!’

Sydney had graced us with a glorious day when my sister and I got up and made our way to Circular Quay to take a short ferry to Cockatoo Island. Part of my Sydney bucket list had been to do the ‘glamping’ on offer from the Sydney Parks and Recreation service on the island. You show up with some food, and they take care of the rest.

After we had checked in, we found our way to our tent, if you can call it that. It felt like a much more permanent and sturdy structure than the tents of camping trips past, usually precariously set up in the dark. It was roomy enough for me to stand up straight in the middle, and was already set up with two twin cots, two lounge chairs for the front porch (yes, it had a porch), and a cooler that doubled as a bedside table. We unzipped windows and doors to let in the breeze, gave the cots a comfort test (they passed with flying colors), and set out to explore the island.

My previous experience with Cockatoo Island had only been a couple of day trips to the Island Bar for day drinking adventures with friends. I didn’t realize that the island had a rich history of it’s own. It’s the funny thing about being an expat instead of a traveller – you tend to miss out on the local history, usually because you aren’t always actively seeking it out in your day to day life. So we learned about the shipbuilding history of the island, the role it played in WWII, and snuck in a beer from the bar made out of a converted Airstream trailer.

In true glamping form, Beth and I had visited the gourmet grocery near my house and picked up cheese and charcuterie fit for a queen as our meal for dinner. Cockatoo Island forbids bringing booze onto the island (though you probably could get away with it if it isn’t a busy weekend), but they do sell it for a pretty hefty price at the bar/kiosk near the information center. We picked up a bottle of white and a bottle of red, cracked it open and began to hoe into the cheese and meat, much to the delight of fellow glampers who passed by and made friendly conversation about what a posh spread we’d organized for ourselves.

After a shower in what have to be the nicest public showers I’ve ever experienced on a campground, Beth and I tucked ourselved into our comfortable cots and drifted off with the sound of the Harbour on the rocks a few feet from our tent lullabying us to sleep.

My advice: If you plan a trip to Sydney in the summer, make sure you book at least one or two nights glamping on Cockatoo Island – it is probably the most unique way to experience the city and it will cost you less than most hotels! Beth and I didn’t want to leave the next day, but our road trip to Melbourne was beckoning.



Cost: $150/night for twin share oceanfront glamping
Booking advice: Book at least 6 weeks in advance in order to secure your dates, and aim for weeknights vs. weekends. If you will be in Sydney over a holiday, book 4 – 6 months in advance, possibly 12 if your heart is set on a New Year’s Eve date. It’s VERY popular!

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