There’s something about the way islands capture our imaginations, invoking feelings of exotic, faraway lands. But in Sydney, uninhabited islands are right on your doorstep – only a short kayak, ferry or water taxi ride from Circular Quay.

Learn about Sydney’s maritime history during a guided tour of Fort Denison, the fortified rock in front of the Sydney Opera House. Shark Island in Rose Bay could be Sydney’s top picnic spot, with a gazebo, beach and grassy knolls with city views. Visit the Queen’s Gunpowder Magazine built by convicts at Goat Island, or the colonial summer homes at Rodd Island off Birkenhead Point.

The largest of the harbour islands, Cockatoo Island, was once an imperial prison and one of Australia’s biggest shipbuilding yards. With hand-carved tunnels, sandstone buildings and giant rusting machines, Cockatoo Island makes for a fascinating daytrip. Make a weekend of it by pitching a tent on the grassy campground, or try glamping – a luxury camping experience where everything is provided down to towels and sheets.

To mix with Sydney’s beautiful set, attend an event at The Island, Australia’s only floating beach club. Sip a cocktail at sunset while relaxing on a day bed to the tunes of top-billed local and international DJs.