Convicts, Ghosts Islands & Caves – Top 45 Things to Do
Delve into Sydney’s dark convict past at Hyde Park Barracks!
Hyde Park Barracks was a place for those that had no place. It was built by a convict for convicts. The barracks was subsequently extended to take care of young orphans and destitute women and renamed the Hyde Park Asylum.
Free Audio Guide
Hyde Park Barracks is a window into Sydney’s unhappy past. There are tours and free audio sets to guide you through Sydney’s tough start in life.
Hyde Park Barracks Cafe
The extremely pleasant Hyde Park Barracks licensed cafe located within these same convict walls might give you food for thought, as well as to eat. Here you can enjoy delights past inmates could not have even imagined including fine wine and Champaign. The cafe is open every day but closes at 3pm.
Even after death no-one wants to leave Sydney. Here are a couple of ghostly places to be scared of. The old Quarantine Station [now renamed Q Station] at North Head (see below) and the historic Rocks area of Sydney. If you’re so inclined you can even sleep with the ghosts – I think I’d sooner take my chances with the Sharks.
Do you have what it takes seek out the ghostly places that lay hidden down cobblestone lanes and behind locked gates? Could you journey through the shadows to hear the scary ghostly tales of murders, hangings and suicides? Sydney used to be a grim place to be for many and for some; it was so bad that they have never truly left. Maybe you will meet one…
The Scary Quarantine Station, now slightly odd Q Station
The Quarantine Station has been leased to a private company which has officially renamed the Quarantine Station, ‘Q Station’. The Q station Ghost Tour forms part of the full listing of the Q Station at No 141. The Q Station is a little odd but please don’t be put off by its relatively low ranking, ghosts are odd to.
Only a couple of the Harbour’s islands are not open to the public. Take a picnic or buy a hamper and explore then relax. Alternatively, go on an organised tour such as at Fort Denison and learn some more about Sydney Harbour. The best islands to visit are listed below:
Take a picnic and watch the boats go by in relative isolation. Don’t forget to take a picture of ‘your Shark Island’ as you arrive. Shark Island is small and you can walk around it in a few minutes – so it’s a great spot if you hate bush walking!
Shark Island Ferry
The cruise company Matilda currently run a Shark Island ferry service. Alternatively there is the more expensive option of hiring a water taxi. If you are feeling active you could hire a canoe and paddle your way across to Shark Island from Rose Bay.
Australia Day Celebrations
Shark Island is an excellent spot to commence your Australia Day celebrations as the Ferry Race goes right around the island – quite impressive to witness what seems like an ‘invasion force’ of small boats heading towards you.
Being so close to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House the view alone makes the trip to Fort Denison worthwhile. The fort was built out of fear of a Russian invasion that never eventuated. Fort Denison was fired upon by a Japanese sub in WW2 by accident.
The World Heritage listed Cockatoo Island is the big island approximately four kilometres west of the Harbour Bridge. In its more recent past it was home to one of the largest shipyards in Australia. Of more interest perhaps is its convict heritage. Cockatoo is increasingly being used as a venue for events and festivals including the arts and popular music. Sign up for the TOP 100 Newsletter for news of any forthcoming events.
The Sydney Harbour National Park’s Goat Island is a small little rocky island just west of the Harbour Bridge on the way to Darling Harbour and Balmain. The reasons it warrants a visit are that it is a good excuse to get on a boat, the Harbour views and the history. The island has served its city as a gunpowder store, a convict stockade, a fire station, a boatyard, a film set and as home to the Water Police. The remnants of Sydney’s convict past bring with them a few stories, of note is the one about Charles “Boney” Anderson who was chained to a rock for two years.
Are there any Goats on Goat Island?
Nobody really knows for sure how Goat Island came by its name. It could have been because goats were seen on the island, it could just be a mistake as, for example, there used to be some confusion between Cockatoo Island and Goat Island. There is also a theory that, if viewed from above, the island bears a passing resemblance to a deformed goat.
Cave in Jenolan
About four hours west of Sydney, Jenolan Caves is well worth journey if you like cool, dark and damp. The jewel like sparkling limestone formations and caverns are well worth climbing into. The major caves are big enough to be visitor friendly. If you are lucky, you might hear one or two stories about the first settlers and bushrangers that came to Jenolan. Whilst there you will probably see the very Blue Lake and it is well worth taking a stroll under the rather Grand Arch.
The Blue Mountains and Great Dividing Range
The caves are doable in a day, just. On the way you should take the opportunity enjoy the splendour of the Blue Mountains and the Great Dividing Range. You will have to travel a fair bit further west to see the desert and the serious outback.
Jenolan’s Caves House
Jenolan’s grand old Caves House is in itself something of an attraction (although I grieve the demise of the pub into a bar) so, if you can, stop and have a look. I’ve always found the Jenolan complex of alpine style buildings quite inviting. The opportunity of a brief stop at Caves House, to chill out, or maybe warm up, should not be missed.
Jenolan Caves Road
The RTA, bless their little road tolls, close the Jenolan Caves Road (the route between Katoomba and Jenolan) to Katoomba / Sydney bound traffic between 11.45am and 1.15pm every day for safety reasons. Poor weather, accidents, rock slides and anything else that makes the RTA nervous will result in barriers across the road. Also pay attention the signs besides the road – if you see falling rocks please don’t stop to take photographs…
A cautionary tale
Whilst Caves House has medical staff, the nearest hospital to Jenolan is in Oberon. The road is now sealed but it’s still a fair old drive if you’re caked in blood. So please watch where you are going even if you think you’ve seen a Rock Wallaby (like I didn’t).
45 Sydney Festival
The Sydney Festival comprises of over a 100 events and many more performances across a broad range of art forms including dance, theatre, music and visual arts.
The popular Festival Bar located in the historic Hyde Park Barracks attracts fun crowds of festival goers eager to enjoy performances by bands and DJs until late. The Sydney Festival offers a smorgasbord of events and activities many of which are free!
Summer in Sydney
Sydney is a great place to be at any time of year but in summer it shines.