Five Creepy Islands in Sydney Harbour

Five Creepy Islands in Sydney Harbour

Sydney has some nefarious and idiosyncratic history. Nowadays it’s presented with a shiny, modern patina of progress. Although little more than a century ago the story was less chirpy and cheerful and more like a bad episode of Survivor.

1. Cockatoo Island

This island has a somewhat grim intriguing history, matched by its demeanor – a menacing and spooky looking naval outpost. Originally there was a prison here, then a reformatory school for girls, a naval college for boys, and finally a shipbuilding facility. Nowadays, Cockatoo Island has undergone a cultural renaissance and is home to regular cultural events including the Sydney Biennial and Film Festival. Photos below courtesy of Hasitha Tudugalle.

2. Fort Denison

Before white settlement, this place was known by the Eora people as Matewanye. Fort Denison was once a creepy marooning point for convicts, left to fend for themselves with little water or food. Known as Pinchgut by convicts, the story of struggle was showcased in a 1959 film Four Desperate Men, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Fort Denison has well and truly moved on though, and is now a swanky reception venue.

fort denison

Image Source

3. Bare Island

This barren island has always struggled with its identity. Located 30 metres from the coast of La Perouse; predictably Captain Cook christened this place Bare Island because of its dry soil. He then used it as a sentry point for ward off invaders. The crumbling old fort on the island was decommissioned a century later in 1902. After this Bare Island was briefly a retirement home for war veterans, before being handed over to the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service. Nowadays its known for the great snorkelling on the surrounding reefs.


Image Source

4. Rodd Island

Formerly a factory, scientific research facility and training base for the US Army during WWII. Nowadays Rodd Island can be hired out exclusively for functions at $1,250 per day or non-exclusively for $7 per person.

rodd island

Image Source

5. Goat Island

This island was originally used as a naval storage facility. Then as a sandstone quarry manned by convicts. One unfortunate convict Charles Anderson aka the ‘Tattooed Seaman’, was chained to a rock on Goat Island and had to fish from there in order to survive. More recently the island was used as a set for the Australian TV series Water Rats.

Choice Charters blog_1

Walsh Bay looking towards Goat Island, no date. Image Source

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

12 thoughts on “Five Creepy Islands in Sydney Harbour

    1. Hi there, so glad you’re going there, you will enjoy the place. It’s so odd to be in an industrial environment with art everywhere…so odd yet so beautiful and fitting.


  1. Very nice post.

    Cockatoo Island, Fort Denison and Bare Island seem particularly interesting. I plan to look them up on the internet for more info. Perhaps some version of them will show up in one of my stories or pictures.

    You never know…


  2. Love the B&W Bare Island photo. Makes Sydney much more enticing as a destination for me. Not just the cliched images..
    Thanks for following my posts! Look forward to seeing more of your work.


    1. Hi Candia
      Yes it’s nice when we the readers are offering something more quirky and strange to sink our teeth into instead of the usual sunny tourism stuff. I like your blog too by the way, I’ve been checking it out 😀


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