It’s quite difficult to comprehend that within 1 hour of Sydney it’s possible to stick a metaphorical flag into an island to call your very own, but believe me it’s entirely possible and its name is Snake Island.



  • Medieveal spit-roast
  • Island camping
  • Short shorts

The Lowdown

Snake Island, however, certainly lacks posturepedic sun loungers, fresh puffy towels and infinity pools. This ain’t no Club Med. I’m talking challenging and raw. I’m talking seemingly untouched by mankind, but equally beautiful. I’m talking Lord of the Flies, Castaway, and Robinson Crusoe. Did I mention 1 HOUR FROM SYDNEY?!

You’d be wrong to think “Spit-roasting on Snake Island” is an x-rated title for the latest Famous Five novel by the way. Our plan was simple and far less filthy:

  • Find an island within an hour of Sydney
  • Paddle to it by whatever means possible
  • Cook up a medieval spit-roast
  • Sleep in a hammock under the stars
  • Wear really short shorts

A few weeks earlier, Jamie and I had decided over a beer that an island getaway would be the most apt way to spend our last adventure weekend for a little while. We loaded up google maps there and then, my finger scanning across Sydney’s rivers and surrounding sea like a 21st century pirate, before quickly locating a couple of alluring and intriguing named island escapes.

Lion Island (at the mouth of the mighty Hawkesbury) jumped out immediately, but a little research proved it’s highly illegal to even set a toe on this protected nature reserve thanks to NSW’s largest colony of a rare penguin species calling it home sweet home. The penguin stew for dinner and $2000 fine held little appeal so our beady eyes and grubby digits scanned further up the Hawkesbury to Snake Island — 80m long x 40 metres wide, an attractive coating of foliage and a spot to beach our vessels. Sold.

Taking into account my intense fear of serpents, why I pushed for this option I still have no idea. I think it’s because it sounded cool as f*%k.

Spit-roasting on Snake Island (NSW) Henry Brydon Nathan about to set sail packraft river kayak

Island Time

Fast-forward to a typical sunshine filled Saturday morning, our typical hangovers from the previous night ensured a typically scatty, unproductive and highly delayed start to the day. Thanks to this grogginess, we always allow for a solid 2-4 hour buffer to assemble with kit at a designated meeting spot — this time Tom’s place in Paddington. Of course, I forgot my paddle.

Having stopped off for supplies at the hell-hole that is Chatswood, and again at the Mooney Mooney RSL Club for an emergency late lunch and beer, it was 3:30pm before we even arrived at our launch site on the banks of the Hawkesbury, chasing 2 hours of fading dusk light. The 4 of us — Jamie, Tom, Nathan and myself — assembled on the river bank with paddles in hand positively fidgeting with excitement, staring out at our evening’s accommodation like explorers of the past.

Aside from splicing my toe open on an oyster shell to become mobile shark bait, and Tom snapping his paddle to end up in the drink, the 400m crossing was relatively painless and trouble free. As the sun set behind us the island changed colour as we approached, taking on an ethereal glow, its increasing warmth feeding its welcoming nature. We beached and supply chained our bags like a well-drilled ant colony up the steep cliff, to where we tied up our hammocks and collected firewood just in time for the light to disappear and our fire to become it’s substitute.

Spit-roasting on Snake Island (NSW) Henry Brydon Spitroast campfire fire cooking

I’d love to see Nathan’s family lineage. I’m confident an ancestor of Ray Mears and a famous welsh cook fornicated somewhere in a Snowdon bothy, such is the level of craftsmanship he puts into the spit roast’s construction and quality of lamb slowroasted throughout the evening. The juice from the meat dripped in equal measure to the saliva dribble down our chins. The Neanderthalolic destruction at the end was savage and disturbing, straight out of a Nat Geo documentary.

We eventually retired to our hammocks with bellies full of rum soaked meat — the definition of happy pirates.

(NB. Not one snake was seen during our stay on the island)

Spit-roasting on Snake Island (NSW) Henry Brydon Short shorts for Jamie fireEssential Gear

  • Kayaks/canoes & paddles
  • Hammocks
  • Meat
  • Rum

How To Get There



  • Canoeing/kayaking
  • Wild swimming
  • Stories around the campfire

Skill Level

Beginner-Intermediate — you need to be a confident swimmer and be happily self sufficient camping on an island! Hope for the best but plan for the worst.


Approx 400m paddle across the island.


Remember to pack your paddle for these river adventures

Packrafting The Charismatic Colo River

3 Days Paddle Boarding the Whanganui River

8 Reasons to Explore Australia’s Longest White Water River Trail