ABOVE: An aerial shot of Sydney’s own Cockatoo Island. IMAGE: Mark Merton/Destination NSW
If you fancy a last-minute island holiday over the festive break that’s VERY close to home, then why not sample one of these six beauties – of both the tiny and the tropical varieties – that lie just off the 2000km of NSW coastline … some just a hop-step-and-jump from the Sydney CBD!
1. An idyllic paradise, Lord Howe Island welcomes just 400 visitors at any time. With rugged volcanic peaks, lush forests, rolling surf and serene lagoons, Lord Howe is encircled by the world’s most southerly coral reef and the crystal clear waters make it perfect for swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing, surfing and paddle boarding. Accommodation ranges from luxury eco lodges, to family-friendly guesthouses and modern self-contained apartments.
2. Cockatoo Island offers waterfront camping in the heart of Sydney and is easily one of the world’s most picturesque harbour campsites, with waterfront glamping and camping sites providing unobstructed views of Sydney. The largest island in Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island forms part of the UNESCO world-heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites. With a fascinating history, it has become a regular site for movie filming, and has plenty of activities to keep you entertained – cafes, audio tours, events, kayak and boat hire, and swimming in the slipway. Accessible by ferry and water taxi, Cockatoo Island also offers accommodation in self-contained heritage houses in the heart of the island.
3. For an ‘off the beaten track’ camping experience, pitch a tent at one of just five campsites on the beautiful Broughton Island, off the coast of Port Stephens. Camping at Little Poverty Beach is truly special as it is the only place in NSW where you can camp among an active seabird colony, and enjoy scuba diving, fishing, snorkelling and swimming at the sandy beaches within Esmeralda Cove. Accessible by private boat only, tour operators in Port Stephens can drop you off and pick you up. With only five campsites, make sure you book ahead through NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
4. Off the coast of Narooma on the South Coast is Montague Island, a National Park where visitors can spend a night in the restored Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. Accessible via tour boat from Narooma, the operator will drop you off and pick you up the next day so you’ll have the island all to yourself for the night. Enjoy discovering NSW’s largest colony of Australian and New Zealand fur seals, Montague Island is home to hundreds of seals and more than 90 bird species along its shoreline. Tour operators can arrange snorkelling with seals, and visiting the lighthouse and penguin and seal colonies.
5. In the middle of the Hawkesbury River, just an hour’s train ride from Sydney and accessible by ferry is Dangar Island near Brooklyn, at the gateway to the Central Coast from Sydney. A perfect weekend away, the island has plenty of luxurious ‘river access only’ properties to choose from, one café and a bowling club. Spend your days exploring by foot or bicycle, and swimming, fishing and kayaking in the sparkling waters.
6. On Sydney’s Northern Beaches is the beautiful Scotland Island on Pittwater. Accessible by the Church Point Ferry, book a stay in a holiday house and enjoy bushwalking to secluded bays. Alternatively hire a yacht and bareboat your way around Pittwater and the Hawkesbury, stopping in at islands along the way.
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