In a bid to attract more visitors to Sydney’s historic Cockatoo Island, a comprehensive master plan has been unveiled, promising an exciting transformation for this UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Sydney Harbour. The draft proposal, released by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, outlines ambitious changes set to enhance the island’s appeal and accessibility, ultimately making it a prime destination for both locals and tourists.
The centerpiece of the plan is the addition of a high-end hotel, a diverse selection of top-tier restaurants, and a public swimming pool. These facilities are aimed at catering to a wider range of visitors, ensuring that the island becomes a welcoming spot for families and travelers with varying budgets.
Janet Carding, the executive director of the Harbour Trust, stated;
“Our aim is that by improving public access and the range of experiences you can have, we can attract more people to this UNESCO World Heritage site.”
Current visitor numbers on Cockatoo Island are relatively low compared to other popular tourism and heritage destinations across Australia.
The proposal, prepared by Tyrell Studio, Doug and Wolf and Mott McDonald, also includes several infrastructural improvements, such as a second ferry wharf to accommodate more frequent services, and a dedicated slipway for kayakers to easily access the island. The island’s main former slipway is set to be transformed into a picturesque harbor pool, adding to the island’s allure.
A further portion of the plan envisions moving the campground to the western side of the island, allowing the existing site to be converted into a beautiful park. Cabins will be discreetly built into the hill where the new campsite will be situated. Moreover, a number of historic houses will be carefully restored and used as boutique accommodations.
One of the boldest ideas within the proposal is the transformation of a former industrial building into a high-end hotel. While described as a “long-term aspiration,” this concept aligns with international precedent and offers unique accommodation in a World Heritage site.
Food and beverage offerings are also set to be elevated to support the “new and upgraded experiences” on Cockatoo Island. The plan outlines the inclusion of high-quality dining options, from breakfast and brunch to lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and evening drinks.
To encourage visitors to extend their stays into the evening, the plan incorporates light and sound projections, ensuring a captivating nocturnal experience on the island. Furthermore, the historic Fitzroy Dock will be drained to allow visitors to walk inside, offering a unique perspective of Australia’s only surviving dry dock built by convicts.
The industrial and turbine halls on the island will be repurposed for art exhibitions and performances, providing a cultural dimension to the island’s rich history. Artificial reefs are also in the works, designed to boost biodiversity and rehabilitate the waters surrounding Cockatoo Island.
This island, known as Wareamah to some, is steeped in Indigenous, colonial, and industrial history. Prior to European settlement, it served as a significant meeting place for Indigenous people. In the 19th century, it was home to a convict jail, and the remnants of sandstone buildings constructed by convicts are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. For over a century, Cockatoo Island played a vital role as a shipbuilding and repair facility, serving the Royal Australian Navy for submarine refits until its closure in 1991.
Janet Carding emphasized,
“Our draft master plan will unearth the island’s many layers of stories to allow visitors to learn about Australia’s remarkable history.”
This unveiling marks the second time the public has had an opportunity to shape the future of Cockatoo Island, with a “draft concept vision” released for consultation in 2021. The draft master plan is now open for public feedback until December 13, and the Harbour Trust aims to finalize the plan next year before commencing detailed design work. Cockatoo Island’s transformation into a vibrant and multifaceted destination promises to breathe new life into this historic gem, offering an inviting and enriching experience for all.
- Submissions open CURRENT 9am AEDT Wednesday
1 November 2023
- Submissions close PENDING 5pm AEDT Wednesday
13 December 2023
- Internal review PENDING Early 2024
- Members of the Trust review PENDING Early-Mid 2024
- Final Master Plan published
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