Although some sharks do live in the Sydney Harbour area, the island is so-named because it very vaguely resembles the shape of a shark. From the 1830s until around 1900, the island was used as a quarantine station, first for people and then animals. It opened to the public as a park in 1905.
While it’s possible to visit independently with your own vessel, most travelers will find it more convenient to join a guided tour or ferry over to Shark Island. Active travelers can join a kayak tour of Sydney Harbor, or for a more relaxed experience, there are hop-on hop-off ferry tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
There’s an entry fee to the island, but kids aged four and under are free.
It’s important to check whether there is a fire ban in place around Sydney’s parks before heading to Shark Island. The environment here is susceptible to fire, and even something as small as a cigarette spark could lead to catastrophic damage.
There’s no wheelchair access on Shark Island.
There are basic facilities on the island: picnic tables, a gazebo for shade, a toilet, and drinking water. There are no trash cans, so pack everything out with you.
How to Get There
If you have access to a kayak or small boat, you can paddle to the island yourself, although private vessels aren’t allowed to moor on the island. Alternatively, join a guided tour that includes activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking, or jump on a hop-on hop-off ferry around Sydney Harbour, stopping at Shark Island.
When to Get There
Shark Island is open every day of the week between sunrise and sunset. Late spring through to early autumn is a good time to visit, as you can cool down in the sea breezes and by swimming off shore. It’s particularly good to visit Shark Island when there's a boating event happening in the harbor, such as late December's annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
Visit Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island is another small island in Sydney Harbour that’s worthy of a day trip. The island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was used as a penal settlement from 1839, and is one of the best surviving examples of convict transportation and forced labor in Australia. During odd-numbered years it also hosts art and installations of the Biennale of Sydney art festival.