Garden Island became part of Australia’s naval history just 16 days after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, firstly as a ships’ garden. Its naval use further developed into a naval depot near the end of the 19th century, and ceased to be an island in 1945.
Many of the buildings are now over 100 years old, each having its own history, but rarely seen by the public unless through a Society tour. Each tour visits the buildings and details of their history is provided by our tour guides – each tour group is kept to minimum to ensure visitor involvement.
As Garden Island is the Royal Australian Naval Base – East, almost the whole are is inside a very secure area. Tour groups are limited in number, requiring visitor passes and escorts – these being pre-arranged by the Society. As Garden Island is a working dockyard and base, there are limited disability facilities. No cameras or smoking is allowed in the secure area, and no visitors under the age of 12 years allowed. It is a walking tour that includes staircases and no seating areas.
Access to the tours is by public transport or the visitor’s tour bus. For public transport catch the 311 bus from the QVB in York Street to Garden Island main gate, or the train to Kings Cross Station and walk to Garden Island (15 mins). On arrival at the main gate proceed to Security and wait for your tour guide. There is one tour each Thursday, starting at 10.00 am or as arranged for bus groups. The cost is $20.00 per person, payable upon arrival.
The tours start with a video briefing into the Island’s history, and them divided into small groups, each accompanied by a knowledgeable guide – some ex-Navy, others who have worked on the island for many years.