Exploring Shark Island National Park

Exploring Shark Island National Park

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 04/20/2018

Reading time: 4 mins

Spend a relaxing day watching the world go by on Shark Island with scenic views of Sydney Harbour.

One kilometre from Rose Bay in the clutches of Sydney Harbour, Shark Island (Boowambillee) is a spectacular spot with a rich and fascinating history. Shark Island has grassy picnic areas with impressive 360 degree views of Sydney.

The island has plenty of hand built grottos from the 1900s to explore, many of which are home to an exciting range of tide pool creatures.

The History of Shark Island National Park

Back when the island was first discovered in 1879, it was used as a recreation reserve. Later on, it was an animal quarantine and remained that way until 1975, when it was declared part of the Sydney Harbour National Park.

You’ll be glad to know that the island got its name from the island’s shark-like shape. Though, in 1877, famous cricketer and AFL player, George Coulthard was pulled from his boat by a large shark. He survived and returned to the island’s shore.

The Aboriginal Heritage of Shark Island

For many years, Aboriginal people have called Shark Island Boowambillee. The Eora and Daruk people lived and owned the areas around Sydney Harbour for thousands of years. But when European settlers arrived, the land was cleared, forcing First Nations people to move further away.

Today, despite the dispersed history of First Nations people, there are still many Aboriginal sites around the national park, including numerous rock engravings and middens.

How to get to Shark Island

There are ferries available that run to Shark Island from Darling Harbour,  Circular Quay, Taronga Zoo, Watsons Bay, and Manly. Before you plan your trip to Shark Island, ensure you book and pay for the national park landing fee. Children under four years old can travel are free!

Things to Do on Shark Island

Besides exploring the history and discovering the unique Aboriginal heritage of the island, there are plenty of other things for you to do on Shark Island. Keep in mind, you will also need to bring everything that you’ll need for the day! The island only has public toilets, a gazebo, and picnic shelters.

  • Explore the foreshore

Shark Island is perhaps most famous for its prominent foreshore, which hosts several magical grottos that date back to the early 1900s. These are home to a range of tide pool creatures and are well worth exploring to discover some of the unique wildlife in the area!

  • Cool off and go swimming

The island has calm, sparkling waters ideal for taking a leisurely dip in. Whether you go further into the water or stick to the shallow parts to cool off, you’ll have an epic views across Sydney Harbour.

  • Have a picnic

It’s no surprise that Shark Island has become a popular spot to have a picnic lunch. Bring along your picnic blanket and delicious food to enjoy the surrounding views. You’ll soon discover just how beautiful it is!

  • Take photos

Shark Island is truly a picture perfect spot with heaps of stunning sights! From iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House to historic buildings, it’s a great location for many photos.

So make sure you snap photos of yourself with family or friends to get the perfect picture for your next Instagram post!

  • Go surfing

If you are a bit of a pro at surfing, try out catching the four to eight foot high swells! Sometimes these swells can be as high as 10 feet, so bring along your surfboard and wetsuit to Shark Island adventure.

Don’t forget to pay the national park fee before your spectacular day on Shark Island. You could also buy a Sydney budget or essential tour package which includes a ferry cruise with views of Sydney Harbour and Shark Island.

Previous article: The Shops at Sydney Harbour


Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.

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