I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published May 10th 2013
You can enjoy this island even when its fort is closed
Bare Island is a notable Sydney site for a few reasons. It is the only island in Botany Bay (located near the entrance to the bay) and it's also home to a historically significant fort that was built in 1885 to protect the area from an expected Russian invasion.
This concrete fort remains almost completely intact today and takes up most of the island, but your only chance to get inside is on tours which cost $10.00 and take place on Sunday afternoons. For many people, arranging such a visit may not be practical.
While it may not sound like it at first however, Bare Island can still be worth a visit on other days of the week. Best of all, there are ways you can enjoy it for free, a fact quite a few people seem to have discovered, judging by the number of people I found there when I stopped by on one long weekend.
The main reason Bare Island still offers the potential for fun is the large expanse of rock to explore around one side, which is accessible via some stairs to the left of the bridge. Most of the space is quite flat (much more so than it seems at the beginning) and even the rock itself is worth marvelling at, as some impressive erosion is taking place here.
In one section, the weathering of the rock has created a sort of alcove in which there is a smaller rock that serves as a table. If the island isn't too busy, it would make a great place to have a picnic.
On the right is a recess in the wall of rock, where a group has set up a picnic
If you don't get there first however, the rest of the area still offers you some fun things to do. This site seems to be a popular place to go fishing and it offers pretty good views of the northern headland of Botany Bay. You can also see both Congwong and Little Congwong beaches from here.
The rock platform ends about halfway around the island. Out the back, it seems to lie almost at sea level and standing out here I had the weird sensation of looking out at the pounding waves and feeling like I was standing on them. Yet I was completely dry and had a solid surface beneath my feet.
While it hardly compares to getting inside the fort itself, like at the front of the island, you can see part of the fort's wall above you at the rear, which ensures you won't forget the main feature of the site. Back here you can also find what looks like part of a ladder and a surveying mark.
At the end of the rocks you can see part of the fort's wall
Unless you enter the fort, all the action on Bare Island is pretty much limited to this one, north-facing side. On the other side of the bridge there isn't much to see, though it's from here that you get to appreciate the vastness of Botany Bay.
If you can't get your head around visiting this site and not leaving with some appreciation of the fort and its history, there is a way to expose yourself to it without actually getting inside, by visiting the nearby La Perouse Museum. Like the fort itself, it is only open on Sundays (between 10.00am and 4.00pm), but as far as I can tell, entry is free.