While we’re notoriously light packers, packing the kids scooters when we’re heading on a road trip is something that’s not negotiable. Our kids have quite literally dragged theirs from one end of Australia to the other. Until, that is, Raffles’ rickety old scooter shuffled off this mortal coil and Sugarpuff grew too tall for hers.
It appeared their days of scooting about the country were all but over when the lovely folk at Micro Scooters offered to surprise them with them a couple of shiny new ones, sized to fit!
When Raffles and Sugarpuff first set eyes on the new Micro scooters, they immediately decide that they need to accessorise them with a weekend away, “to give them a proper road test”. And where better to do that than scooter friendly Cockatoo Island?
The largest island in Sydney Harbour, it has a history just as big and a stunning location at the sparkling blue junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers in Sydney Harbour.
While we visit the island frequently, Cockatoo Island is one of the only city-centre campsites in the world and this time we’ve decided to make a weekend of it and snooze under shadow of the island’s rusting cranes. So, after Sugarpuff wastes an hour or so changing into a thousand outfits to find “the one” that best matches her new “Elsa Blue” Micro Sprite, we hop on the ferry to Cockatoo Island and our digs for the weekend.
Now I have to admit that while I like the idea of camping, I’m not quite as keen on the reality of lugging all the necessary equipment, assembling a tent, pumping up air mattresses and then building a campfire, whilst juggling the demands of two young kids.
What can I say, other than I’m a lazy cow? But Glamping at Cockatoo Island with kids is a whole different story. It offers the fun of sleeping under canvas only with comfort and convenience. And nowhere does it better than Cockatoo Island.
We expect a tent but are met with what appears to be a canvas Taj Mahal. The enormous two-bedroom Glamping tent is positively palatial and, located directly on the waterfront, comes with million dollar views to match. Inside is a communal area complete with dining table and two, two-person rooms with raised camp beds, linen, quilts and pillows.
There are even fluffy towels and gorgeous toiletries from Appelles Apothecary for us to use in the clean and modern communal shower block, that’s just a hop, skip and a scoot away.
To take advantage of that glorious view, the tent also has its own covered deck where we can stretch out on our sun lounges and watch life go by on the busy harbour.
But the kids soon remind us that we’re here to scoot and, as there’s only a little daylight left and an abundance of space and plenty of hills and tunnels to scoot up, down, around and through, we need to get out of the comfy seat and get moving.
We unfold Sugarpuff’s Micro Sprite and Raffles’ punky, flame strewn, fat wheeled Micro Rocket (they fold up surprisingly small which makes packing them in the car and toting them on transport a breeze) and they don their matching adjustable Micro helmets. I too have been lucky enough to receive a scooter of my very own and I’m sure I would absolutely love it if the newly scoot-addicted Mr Eats World would let me anywhere near the thing!
Locked and loaded, we scoot off along the waterfront to explore.
Australia’s answer to Alcatraz, sun drenched Cockatoo Island was a former imperial prison, industrial school, reformatory and gaol, and the site of one of Australia’s biggest shipyards during the twentieth century. The island has retained many of the remnants of its industrial past with well-preserved, convict-built sandstone buildings, old workshops, sandstone slipways, giant cranes, silos and chimneys – earning it a recent UNESCO World Heritage listing.
It was here in the early 1800’s convicts quarried stone for projects around the colony including their own prison barracks, the granary silos and official residences on the island. The conditions were dire, with prisoners stuffed three deep into cells like battery hens, with rats and snakes for extra company.
Alternately, if a prisoner felt like a little “me time” there was always the option of misbehaving and being sent to an airless underground punishment cell or being isolated and tied to a rock on a rocky outcrop. Good times.
Despite the conditions, the shark-infested waters of Sydney Harbour were an effective deterrent against escape. One of the few prisoners that succeeded was Fred Ward who would go on to become the bushranger Thunderbolt, at least until he was shot!
When the prisoners were later transferred to Darlinghurst Gaol, the island became an industrial school and reformatory for girls – and by reformatory read barbaric detention centre where orphaned and neglected girls were housed with petty criminals in horrendous conditions.
Eventually, the island was taken over by the Royal Navy, converted into a dockyard and became the main ship repair facility in the southwest Pacific during World War II.
The rusting hulks of the dockyard’s giant cranes and machinery still dot the island.
As always the island holds the kids in its thrall as they scoot and explore. The setting sun lending a golden glow to the island and they’re happy faces.
As night falls the sky takes on a moody hue that only adds to the atmosphere of the island.
Raffles shows of his barbecue prowess preparing our dinner in the excellent camp kitchen facilities.
As night falls the kids are still way too excited to settle.
Sugaring them up with roasted marshmallows at the island’s campfire probably doesn’t help all that much.
Despite the darkness, the kids insist there is more exploring to be done and they light up their scooters with lanterns to scoot through some of the island’s tunnels.
With such a complex past, it’s no surprise that Cockatoo Island is said to be haunted and while it is certainly a tad eerie in the tunnels at night, on this occasion all the spooks we bump into are BYO.
And overly dramatic…
Though I admit there are moments when I look over my shoulder… and wonder if I have company of the ghoulish variety. Never more so than when I am woken in the middle of the night by a constant tap, tap, tapping on the wall of our canvas castle, I am not too proud to admit that I practically soil myself and am preparing to speed dial the Ghostbusters when the sky opens and the tapping is joined by the thunderous sound of rain on canvas.
At this point I realise that my spooky visitor is just a storm. And as thunder claps and lightning strikes join the cacophony, I’m less concerned by the fact that there’s only a piece of canvas separating us from the elements than I am relieved by the thought that no self-respecting ghost would be out haunting in this weather. Phew. Comforted that our tent appears to be both ectoplasm and waterproof, I fall back into a happy sleep.
The kids, and Mr Eats World, wake up completely oblivious to mother nature’s midnight temper tantrum and my ghoulish imaginings and we all head to the camp kitchen to feast on the supplied breakfast pack.
Fuelled up by sausages, bacon and eggs the kids are eager to explore a little more, so we don our headphones for an audio tour of the island.
One of the great activities on Cockatoo Island with kids is the Convict Clues activity trail and Ships Ahoy discovery trails. As Raffles and Sugarpuff explore the island for clues of the past, they are able to discover what life was like in Cockatoo Island’s notorious convict prison and ooh and ahh over the rusting remnants of the islands shipbuilding past.
At the top of the island the stunt scooting antics of Raffles and downhill daredevilry of Sugarpuff has me holding my breath!
I am much more at ease when my stunt kids slow down to stroll past the pretty Jacaranda trees in bloom and through the remains of the convict buildings.
Raffles and Sugarpuff are particularly intrigued by the old convict precinct and are uncharacteristically quiet as they explore it and take in the views over the island and harbour.
There’s more exploring to be done around the cool and curious industrial landscape surrounding it.
Scooters at the ready, the kids and my scooter pilfering husband race each other down the windy hill back to the campsite, where we chill out for a while on the sun lounges and enjoy a bite of lunch undercover in the canvas castle’s dining quarter.
Post lunch, they ride underground through the Dog Leg Tunnel to the old sheds. As always we take extra time in the massive Turbine Shed, the kids favourite.
This is mostly due its out of this world lighting which lends such a Death Star vibe that it almost immediately has the kids channelling Luke and Leia.
They scoot with intent around the great expanse of space in front of the sheds until they spy a giant chessboard and decide to stop for a game, though neither appears to have much of a clue how to play.
Luckily it is right by a café so Mr Eats World and I grab a bevvy while they take each other on. As the battle progresses it appears to be turning into a death match – either that or they’ve changed the rules of chess since I last played – and as I sip on my tea I can’t help wonder if they’ll take up chess cage fighting next.
Check out Raffles first ever Quik video with he highlights of our weekend of camping and carousing below!
Disclosure: We’d like to thank Micro for generously gifting us our fabulous new scooters but all experiences with and opinions of them are our own.