Day 7: Cockatoo Island and Watson’s Bay

On our last day in Sydney, we scheduled a trip to Cockatoo Island – previously a convict island – filled with buildings that the convicts themselves built. The prisoners came mostly from England (if you’ve read regency books, when they threaten someone with “transportation”, it usually means he’ll be transported to Australia and will become a prisoner-slave), but some also came from nearby countries.

The first part of our trip was exciting for me because this time we’re crossing directly underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge! We’ve previously crossed it by shuttle, train, and on foot, and now we’re crossing it via Sydney’s ferry.

View of Cockatoo Island from the ferry

We went around 9am, and there were very few people on board the boat. When we arrived at Cockatoo, there were still plenty of campers who had stayed overnight to watch Sydney’s NYE fireworks because Cockatoo is one of the vantage points for watching the spectacular display.

Using a coupon we found in one of the free Sydney booklets from the airport, ate Koku and I got the Cockatoo Island brochure (valued at $5) for free. Through this brochure, we read more about the place and got a map that helped us determine our way about the island.

Cockatoo has a free mobile app so you can listen to the tidbits about the buildings in case you don’t avail of the brochure or the paid guided tour. We didn’t download the app anymore because of the brochure and because there were a lot of information on certain buildings around the island.

We had allotted 3 hours for this activity but finished it in 2, including taking a lot of pictures.

Cockatoo Island was one of the most extreme prisons in Australia. It was what they call the home for the “worse of the worst”.

Isolation building in Cockatoo Island but bears no trace of the horrible stand-up cells on the floor
More info about these isolation cells

However, this part of the island’s history is barely apparent now because after the prison was closed, it was turned into an industrial school for girls then a prison again and lastly a shipyard, so traces of the old isolation cells weren’t creepy. In fact, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t much to see aside from the buildings and informative photos. I studied AP Australia, and I particularly remembered that about Australia’s history so going here for its convict history was a big draw for me. (For movie buffs, X-men Origins: Wolverine was shot here.)

Today, it stands as a museum and glamping grounds with great shower facilities and a few food stalls. Cockatoo Island is also particularly popular during New Year’s Eve.

During the WWII, several ships were built here that went to combat. However, now there are only buildings and no actual equipment left, so you’ll only really be walking through the structures and reading what they were used for.

The shipbuilding history is now more evident

Nowadays, it seems you can also host gatherings/parties in select buildings. One room even seemed like a place where they host movie nights. There’s also a hotel and about two beautiful houses that we were not allowed to enter because someone was currently renting them.

Ate Koku and I just kept roaming around and found a great vantage point for taking photos with the bridge as the backdrop.

I miss this view!

On the way back, there were more people on the boat because the boat goes to several ports before it docks at Cockatoo Island. We dropped people off at Barangaroo Wharf then back to Circular Quay. (You can take the ferry from Barangaroo to Cockatoo Island if you’re situated there because the fare is cheaper than if you’re coming from Circular Quay.)

Since ate Mako and I still had an hour before lunch, we walked to the Sydney Opera House. We’ve been in Sydney for a week and haven’t stepped foot there yet! This area gets so crowded. From the ferry, people looked like ants swarming the cafes that lined the wharf leading up to the Opera House.

We had hoped to watch an opera, but unfortunately there was nothing scheduled at that moment that we would have enjoyed (or understood) watching. You are not allowed to enter the opera unless you’re going to watch a performance or take the (out-of-my-budget) guided tour. I guess this is just another incentive for me to go back to Sydney!? However, if you want to bask in the Opera feeling, they do have a cafe.

A closer look at the Opera House’s roof


I’ve read that they sometimes display culturally significant photos on the roof, but we didn’t get to see any while we were there.

We met up with our friends for lunch at Chat Thai, which served the best Thai dishes I’ve ever had (outside of Thailand). Ate Mako and I couldn’t stop raving about it! I do recommend checking it out. The portions are good enough to share and most of the dishes were also within our $20/meal budget.

After lunch and gelato, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. However, ate Mako’s migraine became too painful and we had to rush off back to the wharf to buy some medicine for her. When she was feeling better, we went to Watson’s Bay, which is one of Lianne and Maloy’s favorite spots in Sydney.

When we arrived, I certainly got the appeal! It’s certainly another one of those places that I’ll revisit once I go back to this beautiful city. Some people actually extend the coastal walk from Bondi up to here, but I don’t think I’ll ever do that.

Watsons Bay is so peaceful and beautiful. If you go straight up from the harbour to the hill, you will see The Gap, which is, interestingly, where the northernmost and southernmost points of Sydney face each other.

The Gap, Watsons Bay – where the northernmost and southernmost point of Sydney face each other. You can walk up to that end point, but we didn’t make the trek.

However, this place has also earned a reputation because of the numerous suicides that have happened (or almost happened) here, that’s why there are numerous suicide prevention hotline posters along the high railing.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please please please seek out help.

You are not alone.

And it may be taboo in the Philippines – and this will hopefully change in the very near future – but I know some friends who are going or have gone through therapy for depression, so professional help does exist in our country.

I am not endorsing these personally and haven’t used these, but I have included some suicide prevention websites that will hopefully get you the help you need. (Chosen countries based from my blog’s visitor stats)

Philippines (hopefully it works now):

USA: or




From Watson’s Bay, we took the bus to Bondi Junction Station because we had planned to shop at Target. I’m not lithe and slender so shopping for swimwear in the Philippines is a nightmare. It’s difficult to enjoy swimming when you’re expecting a wardrobe malfunction any moment. While I do wear a rash guard to stave off potential embarrassing moments, it gets too hot during the day if I’m out of the water.

After almost two hours of shopping – in which I entered Target to buy a swimsuit and came out with a swimsuit, lingerie, and a dress (and I only stopped because I didn’t bring enough cash with me) – we went to have dinner at Guzman Y Gomez, which served really delicious Mexican food. We also loved the ambiance – especially the foosball table! Mark arrived from work just before we finished eating, but we all couldn’t bear to part yet so we had a nightcap at Max Brenner.

When ate Koku and I got home, we decided to start packing all our clothes so we wouldn’t rush the next day for our flight. The next morning was spent lazily in bed while wistfully looking at all the pictures we took the past seven days.

Sydney, you have been wonderful! Someday, I really hope I get to go back. Red Heart on Google Android 8.1

Day’s cost (in AUD):
Opal top-up: $10
Snack: $2
Ice cream: $10.60
Shopping: $81
Dinner: $17.50
Max Brenner: $8.80

Total: $129.90

Our trip to Watson’s Bay was unexpected so we needed to top-up. Breakfast was care of the food we bought from the grocery on our first day.

Read the other posts in my Sydney series!

4 Replies to “Day 7: Cockatoo Island and Watson’s Bay”

  1. Yes, I agree. Watson’s Bay is a place to come back to and have a picnic. Maybe someday? 🙂

    1. Promise??? And Manly Beach!

  2. […] Sydney day 7: Cockatoo Island and Watson’s Bay […]

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