By Jim Craigie. Money magazine, April edition.
Every capital city has icons that are on every visitor’s list – but some don’t get the attention they deserve. If you’re heading for Sydney, for example, you will tick off the Opera House, Bondi beach, the ferry to Manly and maybe the Harbour Bridge climb. But chances are you’ll overlook a spot minutes from the CBD that’s rich in history and many a good story.
You’ve all heard of Garden Island and know it’s a naval base, but have you been there? It’s just a six-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay. Actually it ceased to be an island back in 1942 when, in a feat that rivalled the building of the Harbour Bridge, a huge dry dock filled the space between the island and Potts Point. It was in the thick of World War II and the nearest dry dock was in Singapore. So Garden Island became the major repair base for ships taking part in the Pacific war. The dock is still used and can be seen on tours you can book with the Naval Historical Society HQ on the island. Phone 02-9359-2372 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spend time in the fascinating chapel whose spectacular windows commemorate many warships and sailors; see the Japanese midget sub conning tower (from the audacious World War II raid on the harbour that claimed 21 lives). The sub’s torpedoes missed the cruiser USS Chicago but hit the island’s seawall and wrecked the ferry Kuttabul (used as sailors’ accommodation) and a Dutch submarine.
Ready for another island? What about Cockatoo Island, 15 minutes from the CBD by ferry, where you can see the old prison and shipbuilding yards, have a picnic or even stay overnight in a tent already set up. It’s the only place you can do that. Call the accommodation office on (02) 8898-9774 or check out wwwharbourtrust.com.au.
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