Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A tourist in my own town: Cockatoo Island.

I don't love Sydney. In fact, one could be excused for believing that I hate it.

In eight weeks we are moving to Canberra. When we lived in Canberra everything was so easy. Everyone constantly reminded us that there was nothing to do there, yet we source adventures and our days were full of zoos, museums, lakes, road trips, picnics, and the likes.

Everyone keeps telling me how busy Sydney is, I keep seeing how busy this place is. Everyone must be going somewhere. We have been to the Zoo, the aquarium, museums, eateries ect. but I have grown weary of the hussle and bussle.

No more!

I have decided that one day a week until we leave this town I am going to be a tourist; bum bag wheeling, camera rocking, map reading tourist, in my own town.

I decided this yesterday whilst falling a little bit in love with this city.

Yesterday a girlfriend and I headed into the CBD to see the Christmas windows. It was a short bus trip from our homes, and lets face it transport in Sydney is pretty good. We found ourselves at the David Jones (Pitt st) windows and they were pretty great.

Being a Melbourne girl the Christmas windows always played a big part of the holiday season and I was determined to go. Oliver and Sophie (5) LOVED them! Oliver pointed to the animals and Sophie explained them to him. They bopped along to the songs and seemed to really enjoy them. But there are only five windows so they don't really hold the attention of a five year old or a one year old for longer than about 10-15 minutes.

It's worth while seeing. It really does light that christmas flame inside. The best bit, it's free (apart from the transport to the city)!

Oliver and Sophie enjoying the David Jones Christmas window.
After the windows we headed towards the Quay to get the ferry to Cockatoo Island. We decided to walk and get lunch on the way. The walk was pretty quick, we stopped for lunch on the way and had a quick look at the Christmas tree in Martin Place. It was nice to see, I'd love to see it at night.

The ferry to Cockatoo Island is around $11.50 return. The trip itself is an adventure, as we sailed under the Harbour bridge Sophie exclaimed, "I'm going to touch the bridge!" Oliver did a lot of pointing and daboodaboodaaa'ing. We sailed passed Luna Park, Balmain, and even James' navy base. I loved pointing out his ship to Sophie. At the very end of the trip I unleashed Oliver and he ran around the ferry. He seemed to love this.

I believe the ferry ride only took 15-20 minutes, but I was very preoccupied with the sights and sounds to notice the timing of it all. 

Oliver and Sophie on the ferry, Oliver about to make a great escape.
In classic Mummy style we arrived to Cockatoo Island with full bladders and nappies. We raced off to the toilet and then decided just to wonder around for a while.

Sophie and Oliver upon arrival at Cockatoo Island.
Cockatoo Island, an UNESCO World Heritage Site,[4] is an island located at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Coverivers, in Sydney HarbourSydneyNew South WalesAustraliaAt 17.9 hectares (44 acres) it is the largest of several islands that were, in their original state, heavily timbered sandstoneknolls. Cockatoo Island rose to 18 metres (59 ft) above sea level and is now cleared of most vegetation. Called Wa-rea-mahby the Indigenous Australians who traditionally inhabited the land prior to European settlement, the island may have been used as a fishing base, although physical evidence of Aboriginal heritage has not been found on the island.[5]Between 1839 and 1869, Cockatoo Island operated as a convict penal establishment, primarily as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who had re-offended in the colonies.[6][7][8]It was also the site of one of Australia's biggest shipyards, operating between 1857 and 1991. The first of its two dry docks was built by convicts. Listed on the National Heritage List, the place is significant for its demonstration of the characteristics of a long-running dockyard and shipbuilding complex, including evidence of key functions, structures and operational layout. Cockatoo Island contains the nation's most extensive and varied record of shipbuilding and has the potential to enhance our understanding of maritime and heavy industrial processes in Australia from the mid-19th century.[8]In July 2010, UNESCO proclaimed Cockatoo Island as a World Heritage Site,[4] and has been managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust since 2001.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockatoo_Island_(New_South_Wales) [accessed 05/12/12] 

I strongly recommend grabbing a map and if you are solo/ with older kids I would recommend getting the spoken tour. It's not very well signed so you really have no idea what you are looking at.

We did a lap of the island and Oliver unleashed. He ran wild through the warehouses and the open grounds. He chased birds and pointed at the water. We tried to guess what everything was and got pretty hot and bothered.

After one lap of the island we went to get a map and fix the kids hats. We dumped the pram and walked up the 11 metres of stairs to the convict quarter. 

It was good to see but we were all exhausted by this point. We had been on the island for about an hour and half in the hot sun. We saw parts of the convict quarter and then decided to go down to the cafe and get some ice blocks. We then found a ramp to the convict quarter, which would have allowed us to take the pram. Next time.

The cafe was a very welcomed relief, and much to our joy we discovered they sold cider. It was glorious, we sat with a distant view of the harbour bridge, the breeze in our hair, surrounded by history, friends and drinking cider whilst the kids ate ice blocks. This was most definitely the highlight of the day, it was truly a "Yeah life" moment. 

We sat at the cafe until the ferry came. When it arrived we realised we were a little further from the wharf than we original anticipated, but after a brisk walk/jog we found ourselves on the ferry headed back to the Quay.

Oliver fell asleep on the ferry home and we were very weary passengers. But very satisfied.

Over all, I would say Cockatoo island is not really for kids. If you are going to take kids I would perhaps find an event (which they often run) that is child friendly.

They also do camping which I think would be a LOT of fun, but very hot as the island provide little respite from the heat. 

It's a fun, cheap day out for the older kids and adults. I would love to go back over the christmas break solo and do a tour. I think it's something every Sydney-sider should see, and a whole day can really be spent here. 

Next time I would bring a picnic, a bigger hat and remember to reapply the sunscreen. I would also keep my eyes pealed for events as I know they hold many here. But I most definitely hope there is a next time.

I am really glad I spent this day out in Sydney, it has inspired me to see more. This place really does hold a lot of history!

To find out more about Cockatoo Island go [here]

Otherwise, happy holidaying.

-Mama J.

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