1. Shark Island
Shark Island, or Boowambillee, named after the high number of sharks in the area at the time (uh, thankfully not the case anymore!) sits in the harbour just off the exclusive eastern suburb of Point Piper. However, access doesn’t require a black Amex. To get there, ferries leave from Circular Quay or kayaks (our recommended mode of transport) are available for hire from Point Piper for $20 per hour plus a $7 landing fee. Grass carpets the island, and the on-site facilities (tables, toilets, water, check!) make a great picnic spot on the weekend.
The harbour views would be a bit of a waste if they weren’t used for a party or two. For one night a year, New Year’s Eve, the island transforms into the perfect platform for firework gawking with a fraction of the foreshore crowds. In 2016, the party was choc-full of Caribbean flavoured tunes from Triple J Unearthed darling LUEN and eats courtesy of Sydney’s Butter and Thievery. Stay tuned for this year’s details.
2. Goat Island
Moving across to the west side of the Harbour Bridge, you’ll find Goat Island, or Me-mel, an exclusive island that’s only open to the public for tours (such as the Convicts, Castles and Champagne) and other major events. There aren’t many other places in the harbour this rich in history and beauty.
The island served as a home for convict work gangs assigned to build a sturdy gunpowder storage depot in the 1830s (the rugged old gunpowder and explosives storage facility, the Queen’s Magazine is still visible today). Conditions were horrendous – 3m x 2m boxes held up to 20 convicts at a time. Look out for Convict Rock; Charles ‘Boney’ Anderson was sentenced to be chained there for two years after receiving 1200 lashes for attempted escape in 1835.
Grim past aside, Goat Island’s location is almost the closest you can get to the Harbour Bridge and city views for an event. NYE events regularly sell out, and the annual Goat Island Sounds sees 6 electronic artists perform across 2 stages along with the Triple J Hottest 100 Countdown streaming all day and night.
3. Clark Island
Exceptional vistas and historic surroundings with your best mates and minimal crowds? Clark Island, or Billong-Olo-Lah is practically your own private island that lies between Shark Island and the bridge. It was initially used as a vegetable garden in 1789 by Lieutenant Ralph Clark, who quickly found out that placing an easily-accessible garden in the middle of a convict colony wasn’t the wisest of moves. Despite continual theft of his vegetables, the name stuck for this diminutive island.
The only way to get there is via a 10 minute water taxi from Circular Quay. The views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House offer a hell of a backdrop for the setting sun, and an even better one for the fireworks on NYE as part of the NYE Clark Island Garden Party. And that’s not all you get. You’ll arrive to a welcome cocktail and legit 3-course meal in a stunner of an uncrowded garden themed oasis, all to the soundtrack of live music. Talk about an unbeatable atmosphere! Keep an eye out for 2017 event information.
These three islands offer a place to refresh your view of Sydney and lap up incredible views. Check them out and remind yourself just how good Sydney really is.