More ‘Cocka-too’ do in Sydney..!

Our last couple of days in Sydney were spent in the city itself, making the most of its local attractions such as the Australian Museum, Darling Harbour and Cockatoo Island!

The Australian Museum is in College Street opposite Hyde Park and is absolutely brilliant! We spent about two and a half hours there but could easily have stretched that to four. One of the best exhibitions is ‘Indigenous Australia’, which is full of information on Aboriginal history, culture and the current efforts to provide them with equal rights. This section of the museum kept us occupied for over an hour as we read about aboriginal legends & teachings, the struggle to gain land rights and the ‘Stolen Generations’.

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Upstairs is the equally fascinating Surviving Australia exhibition with lots of information on Australia’s native animals, insects and marine life.

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One of the best bits was a big interactive table on which you could watch sharks and crocodiles swimming around, spiders crawling and snakes slithering across the top. When you touch the table near one of the creatures, an information bubble pops up and tells you what you should do if bitten or stung by it in the real world!

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The next day we took advantage of the warm weather and took a walk down to Darling Harbour for lunch. This part of Sydney is home to the Aquarium, Wildlife World and Maritime Museum, as well as numerous trendy bars and restaurants. It’s a really pretty area with a park and the Chinese Gardens to its rear.

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From here we caught a ferry to Sydney Harbour’s largest island, Cockatoo Island. It costs $5.30 one way and takes just six minutes to get there. Cockatoo Island has a fascinating history – following the fall of Singapore during WWII, it was the major shipbuilding and dockyard facility for the South West Pacific and between 1839 and 1869 the island was used as a convict prison. It was the convicts who built Australia’s first dry dock on the island, Fitzroy Dock, as well as many of the shipbuilding warehouses and facilities.

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Today, the island is a World Heritage site and visitors can take a tour of the dockyard and the convict penitentiary buildings that still exist. This is exactly what we decided to do so we picked up a free map from the visitor information centre and followed the pathways around the island.

It was really interesting to discover just how important this tiny island was throughout Australia’s history as a penal colony and also during the war.  It took us about an hour to walk around the shipbuilding area on the bottom of the island and a further 50 minutes or so to make our way around the old convict barracks on the islands top layer – ‘The Plateau’.

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The island tour includes a ‘cliff walk’ where we got fantastic views of the Sydney Harbour bridge and skyline.

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Once we’d finished our tour we got the ferry back to Circular Quay on the mainland and walked to our friend’s house where we were staying. That night we went out for a few drinks to say our goodbyes to Sydney, as we had just one day left in the city. We went to a really random bar called ‘Shady Pines’, which looked like it had come straight out of the Wild West, before moving on to a couple more and then back to the house!

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It’ll be strange to leave Sydney after being here for over two weeks – the longest time we’ve stayed in any one place since we left London. We feel quite at home here and are only dragging ourselves away so that we can experience another country on our hitlist – New Zealand! This is a place that we have both wanted to visit for years and we’re so looking forward to making our way around it in our very own camper van!…

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