Abyss Scuba Diving

Unveiling Wedding Cake Island: Sydney's Enchanting Coogee Icon


Discover the Charm of Wedding Cake Island: A Coogee Gem Revealed

If you’re searching for Wedding Cake Island, you’re likely intrigued by its unique name and what lies beneath its waves. Situated just off Coogee Beach in Sydney, this island is not just a diver’s paradise and a swimmer’s challenge but also a storied landmark with a sweet name hinting at its layered rock formations. Our guide will navigate you through its captivating dive sites, local folklore, and the annual Coogee Island Challenge without spoiling the full experience that awaits.

Key Takeaways

  • Wedding Cake Island, officially recognized by the Geographical Names Board and rumored to be named due to its resemblance to a multi-tiered cake, is a point of coastal intrigue and historical speculation.

  • The island is a hotspot for biodiversity, offering divers impressive underwater landscapes with rock reefs, marine life, and clear waters, and is also a cultural symbol with a musical nod from the rock band Midnight Oil.

  • Wedding Cake Island is not only an ecological treasure but also a hub for community events like the Coogee Island Challenge—a long-standing swimming competition—and serves as a place of remembrance on ANZAC Day.

The Enigmatic Name and History of Cake Island

Location of Cake Island east og Gordon Bay Coogee

A journey around Wedding Cake Island is filled with intrigue and wonder. Did you ever stop to ponder why it bears this unique name? Well, one popular belief is that the island’s shape, reminiscent of a multi-tiered wedding cake, inspired its name. Particularly, when waves crash over it and create an ‘icing’ effect, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. Another theory, slightly less palatable but equally captivating, suggests that bird droppings on the rocks, appearing similar to wedding cake icing, could be the source of the name.

Locally, you might hear the island referred to as Lemo’s Island, a colloquial touch that adds to the charm and identity of lemo’s island. Now, isn’t that a delicious slice of history to chew on?

Etymology and Geographical Names Board

The island’s name ‘Wedding Cake’ is officially recognized by the Geographical Names Board, which adds an air of authenticity to this sweet moniker. However, the true origin of the name remains shrouded in mystery, with age-old legends and tales passed down through generations serving as the only qualifications for this unique nomenclature.

Regardless of the true origin of its name, there’s no denying that the image of a grand, multi-tiered wedding cake, complete with a frothy white icing of waves, perfectly suits the island’s picturesque north-facing profile. It’s a name that has stood the test of time, adding to the island’s allure and enigma.

The Midnight Oil Connection

Now, it’s time to explore a slice of Aussie pop culture. Did you know that Wedding Cake Island has a rock ‘n’ roll connection? That’s right, the iconic Australian band Midnight Oil, made famous by vocalist Peter Garrett, paid homage to this coastal wonder in their instrumental piece aptly titled ‘Wedding Cake Island’.

The band, known for their energetic performances and sociopolitical activism, hailed from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, not far from Coogee Beach. Their instrumental tribute to Wedding Cake Island, a popular spot in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, is a testament to the island’s cultural significance in Sydney, making the island not just a geographical marvel, but also a rock ‘n’ roll icon.

Exploring the Depths of Wedding Cake Island

Colourful blue devel fish typical of the underwater marine life near Wedding Cake Island

Famed for its clear waters and rich biodiversity, Wedding Cake Island promises a memorable underwater adventure. Rock reefs sitting offshore and the island’s protective barrier make for an epic island journey swim. The island’s complex underwater environment is a paradise for divers, promising a treasure trove of fascinating discoveries.

Located approximately one kilometre east of Coogee Beach in the Tasman Sea, Wedding Cake Island presents a challenge for experienced ocean swimmers wanting to circumnavigate Wedding Cake Island, this Coogee gem. Are you prepared to embark on this underwater exploration?

The Underwater Terrain

The underwater terrain around Wedding Cake Island is as captivating as its surface. Small boulders festooned with a variety of sponges, ascidians, and soft and hard corals create an intricate array of underwater constructions that leave divers spellbound. The underwater topology descends gracefully from a shallow depth of 5 meters near the island’s rocks to a deeper expanse of 22 meters on the sandy bottom.

As divers navigate this dynamic underwater environment, they encounter the rock reef sitting offshore, which includes:

  • Little rock reef formations

  • Mesmerizing caves

  • Swim-throughs

  • Walls dotted with sea squirts and gorgonians

This underwater art exhibit appears to be sculpted by Mother Nature herself, each nook and cranny hiding fascinating secrets to unveil.

A Kaleidoscope of Marine Life

But the island’s underwater charm doesn’t end with its terrain. Wedding Cake Island is a sanctuary for a diverse range of marine life, including colourful fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates. As divers explore the waters around the island, they can encounter a variety of fish including wobbegong sharks, old wife, luderick, combfish, black reef leatherjackets, one-spot pullers, bullseyes, bream, yellow-banded seaperch, snapper, and blue gropers.

Among these, the eastern blue devil stands out with its bright and vivid appearance, adding to the kaleidoscope of marine life beneath the waves. Each dive uncovers a new aspect of the island’s vibrant underwater ecosystem, making every dive a unique experience.

Dive Site Accessibility

Reaching Wedding Cake Island, which sits offshore approximately 8.5 kilometers from Botany Bay’s northern headland and 10 kilometers from Sydney Harbour’s South Head, poses an exhilarating challenge for divers. Weather conditions play a vital role in reaching this relatively untouched dive location safely, as the island’s distance from the nearest boat ramp or wharf near Sydney Harbour requires calm conditions.

Access to the island’s dive sites is typically via boat dives that set off from Sans Souci park pier and involve a round trip of about 3 hours. For the more adventurous, combining the dive with the nearby Magic Point makes for a double-boat dive, truly making the most of the diving opportunities the area has to offer.

The Coogee Island Challenge: Testing the Waters

Hosted by the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, the Coogee Island Challenge allows swimming enthusiasts to pit their skills against the waves. This biannual event, held in April and November, features a 2.4-kilometer course that takes participants around Wedding Cake Island from Coogee Beach.

With a history spanning over 20 years, the Coogee Island Challenge has become a well-established and much-anticipated event in the local swimming calendar. This event is not merely a swimming competition, but a celebration of community spirit, athletic prowess, and oceanic passion during the ocean swimming season.

Sweimming around Wedding Cake Island as part of the Coogee Island Chalange

Three Ocean Swim Distances

The Coogee Island Challenge caters to varying skill levels by offering three distinct swim distances:

  • Younger swimmers can participate in the 800m Junior Dash

  • Beginners or those desiring a shorter swim can opt for the 1km Splash and Dash within Coogee Bay

  • For the ultimate challenge, the main 2.4km event invites participants to circumnavigate the scenic Wedding Cake Island.

Participants can amplify their challenge by registering for both the 1km and 2.4km events, either to test their endurance or to fully embrace the varied swim experiences on offer. Before diving into the water, it’s essential to warm up. Each of the swim distances has a designated start time, allowing participants to plan their day and fully enjoy the event.

Coastal Celebrations and Commemorations

Beyond being a geographical marvel, Wedding Cake Island also stands as a symbol of community spirit and tradition. From the Coogee Island Challenge to ANZAC Day commemorations, the island serves as the backdrop for numerous coastal celebrations and events that bring the community together.

The island’s presence during the Coogee Island Challenge, a fundraising event organised by the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, is significant. This event, popularly known as the ‘first cut of the cake,’ aids in purchasing lifesaving equipment, reinforcing the island’s role in the community’s well-being.

ANZAC Day at Sea

Every ANZAC Day, surfers from around Coogee embark on a surfing pilgrimage to Wedding Cake Island. Regardless of the weather conditions, surfers maintain the tradition of carrying cartons of beer and drinks during their journey.

This solemn act serves to honour the sacrifice of local war heroes. As the surfers reach the island and toast to the memory of the fallen soldiers, the waves crashing against the surf-free waters and rocks seem to echo their heartfelt tribute.

Sporting Spirit in Coogee

Surfing Wedding Cake Island

The Coogee Island Challenge transcends being a mere sporting event. It represents a celebration of community spirit and oceanic affection. Held twice a year in spring and autumn, it invites athletes to start their aquatic contest from the scenic Coogee Beach.

The event brings the community together, with:

  • professional photographers capturing the athletes’ endeavor

  • clear water safety standards for participants

  • celebratory prize presentations for the top competitors at the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club

It’s a day of camaraderie, competition, and celebration, with Wedding Cake Island serving as the perfect backdrop.


Wedding Cake Island, with its unique shape, vibrant marine life, and rich history, is indeed a gem off the coast of Coogee Beach. Whether you’re an experienced diver exploring its underwater terrain, a participant in the Coogee Island Challenge testing your swimming prowess, or a surfer paying tribute to fallen heroes on ANZAC Day, the island offers a unique experience at every visit.

So, why not set sail for an adventure to Wedding Cake Island? Whether you choose to circumnavigate it, dive into its depths, or simply admire it from the shores of Coogee Beach, this unique island promises an unforgettable oceanic journey. Come, discover the charm of Wedding Cake Island!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Wedding Cake Island called that?

Wedding Cake Island got its name from locals who saw the rock formation as resembling a wedding cake, especially when the surf breaks and creates white caps that look like icing on a cake. The island's shape and the way the surf breaks over it contribute to its cake-like appearance.

Why is wedding cake rock white?

Distinct from Wedding Cake Island, Wedding Cake Rock is a naturally formed sandstone structure situated in the Royal National Park near Sydney. Its notable white hue results from the leaching of iron compounds, which gives it a stark contrast to its surroundings. It's important to clarify that Wedding Cake Rock bears no relation to Wedding Cake Island.

Who played wedding cake island?

Midnight Oil played "Wedding Cake Island".

What can divers expect to see underwater at Wedding Cake Island?

Divers can expect to see a diverse range of marine life, including colourful fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates, along with rocky reefs, caves, and swim-throughs. It's a fantastic experience for underwater exploration!