Rockin’ Cockatoo Island with kids

Raff scooting by the rusting hulk of a crane on Cockatoo Island

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!

The kids love riding their new Micro Scooters - Cockatoo Island with kids

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.

Cockatoo Island with kids

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.

Cockatoo Island on the Parramatta River

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.

Camping capers on Cockatoo Island with kids

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.

Raffles relaxing on our Glamping lounge at Cockatoo Island

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.

Kicking back in our double glamping tent - Cockatoo Island with kids

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!

Cockatoo Island on our Micro Scooters - Cockatoo Island with kids

Locked and loaded, we scoot off along the waterfront to explore.

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,  giant cranes, silos and chimneys – earning it a recent UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Rusting remnants of Cockatoo Island's Shipbuilding past - Cockatoo Island with kids

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 old barracks at Cockatoo Island

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 and converted into a dockyard.

Cockatoo Island with Kids

The rusting hulks of the dockyard’s giant cranes and machinery still dot the island.

Cockatoo 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.

Raffles momkeying around - Cockatoo Island with kids

As night falls the sky takes on a moody hue that only adds to the atmosphere of the island.

Sunset over Cockatoo Island's Industrial landscape
Raffles shows of his barbecue prowess preparing our dinner in the excellent camp kitchen facilities.

Raffles gets his barbecue on at Cockatoo Island's camp kitchen

As night falls the kids are still way too excited to settle.

Crazy antics at Cockatoo Island with kids

Sugaring them up with roasted marshmallows at the island’s campfire probably doesn’t help all that much.

Cockatoo Island campfire

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.

COckatoo 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.

Raffles in the tunnels - Cockatoo Island with kids

And overly dramatic…

Raffles in the tunnels at Cockatoo Island

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.

Biting into breakfast at Cockatoo ISland

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.

Exploring Cockatoo island on a Micro Rocket

At the top of the island  the stunt scooting antics of Raffles and downhill daredevilry of Sugarpuff has me holding my breath!

Raffles loves his Micro Rocket scooter with its phat wheels - Cockatoo Island with kids

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.

Spring flowers at Cockatoos Island

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.

Convict capers at Cockatoo Island with kids

There’s more exploring to be done around the cool and curious industrial landscape surrounding it.

Raffles loves the industrial landscape - Cockatoo Island with kids

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.

Relaxing by our canvas castle - Cockatoo Island with kids

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.

The Turbine Shed at Cockatoo Island

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.

Death match chess at Cockatoo ISlandLuckily 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.

13 Comments on Rockin’ Cockatoo Island with kids

  1. Lisa
    November 21, 2016 at 9:45 pm (4 years ago)

    Wow looks like a great weekend. Fred Ward was an interesting man. My mother’s cousin is a direct descendant!!

      November 23, 2016 at 2:12 pm (4 years ago)

      Wow really. We are convict stock too but can’t claim to be related to anyone as famous as Thunderbolt!

  2. Hugzilla
    November 22, 2016 at 7:59 am (4 years ago)

    Seriously, your pictures are always so amazing, and this looks like a kick-ass day out. I’m really glad that the old convict precinct was preserved – Sydney has a very bad habit of demolishing its heritage…

      November 23, 2016 at 2:13 pm (4 years ago)

      IT does. I’m so glad they’ve kept this the way it was. It’s really awesome for the kids to see how things used to be.

  3. Haidee
    November 22, 2016 at 12:51 pm (4 years ago)

    Seriously, that looks like an awesome day out and a tent with a wooden floor! In my dreams! We’ve just taken up camping and I’m still struggling! Haha. #TeamIBOT

      November 23, 2016 at 2:14 pm (4 years ago)

      AHaha. Yeah, I was keen on those too. Sounds like you need a glamp!

  4. Kylie Purtell
    November 22, 2016 at 5:07 pm (4 years ago)

    I love Cockatoo Island and I’m so keen to go camping there. We’ve been talking about it with friends for so long but everyone keeps having babies or getting divorced so the plans get pushed back! But I’m hoping most of us are done with those shenanigans now (I know I’m done with babies! Lol!) so hopefully we can definitely get this o the agenda for next year. And failing that, I think we are definitely going to do this for Dave’s birthday next year!

    P.S. Raffles video is super cool, I love it!

      November 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm (4 years ago)

      DO it! DOn’t wait for the right time, just book it. It’s so much fun.

  5. Tash @ Gift Grapevine
    November 23, 2016 at 12:30 am (4 years ago)

    What an amazing place to camp! We’ve started camping with our tornadoes up and down the coast of WA and you’re right – the worst part is all of the packing! Our Micro scooters have received a good workout but they are the mini micro variety. It’s great to know there are some fantastic options when we’re ready to upgrade.

      November 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm (4 years ago)

      They are fantastic. We loved the micro but the new ones are height adjustable so the kids can ease into them and while Sugarpuff was a little apprehensive about giving up the security and added balance of two front wheels, she got used to her Sprite in no time and now wants one in “every colour” LOL

  6. Mr Eatsworld
    November 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm (4 years ago)

    I love my, er, I mean our scooter.

  7. Steven Lockstone
    May 28, 2017 at 10:50 pm (4 years ago)

    I am so inspired to visit the Cackatoo Island, my 2 boys will surely love this adventure. Is there any lodge available in there? We don’t have camping tent but love the idea of going around during daytime.

      May 29, 2017 at 9:32 am (4 years ago)

      yes, they have several cottages on the island as well as pre-erected tents.


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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