Sydney Harbour is a central spot for tourists visiting Australia’s most populous city. With so many things to do and see, visitors might find it difficult to make decisions about where to spend their time. For history buffs, historic Fort Denison is not to be missed.
Overview of Historic Fort Denison
Fort Denison is a former military fortress and prison located on a small island in Sydney Harbour. The island is home to 19th century military barracks, a gun battery, and an over eight metre tall Martello tower. In the 18th century, prisoners and convicts were sent there as punishment and to quarry sandstone.
Because of the harsh conditions, it also became known as Pinchgut Island. Construction of the island’s fortifications began in 1847 when military officials became concerned that Sydney Harbour did not have enough protection against attack from foreign ships. Today, it’s one of Sydney’s top attractions, bringing tourists from all over the world to view the historic defenses and take in some of the best views to be had of Sydney Harbour.
6 Things to Do at Fort Denison
1. Take the Ferry
Because Fort Denison is an island, you’ll need to take a ferry to reach it. Its central location in Sydney Harbour means it is excellently placed for both defense and sightseeing, and tour boat companies provide regular service to the fort as well as other attractions. On the way there, you’ll be able to take in spectacular views of the harbour, including the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, and Botanical Gardens.
2. Tour the Historic Fort
As part of Sydney Harbour National Park, guided tours of Fort Denison are available. The central feature of the fort is the Martello tower, a type of small defensive fort the British built throughout the Empire. Fort Denison is the only Martello tower in Australia, and is the last tower of its kind the British ever built.
Park guides will show you around the tower’s three stories, which you can only access through a narrow and winding staircase. Inside you can also view the old gunpowder storage rooms, barracks, and military offices.
While most of the cannons and guns have been removed, some cannons at Fort Denison were installed before construction was complete, and the walls of the fort were then built around them. Because of narrow passageways, these cannons are now permanent residents of the tower and cannot be removed.
3. Take in the Views from the Lighthouse
The Fort Denison Light was added to the top of the Martello tower in 1913. The lantern itself was built in Birmingham, England, and then shipped to the fort in Sydney. The lighthouse replaced the original 10-inch or 250 millimetre gun that used to be stationed at the top of the tower.
Also known as “Pinchgut Light,” the lighthouse remains active to this day, providing visibility and sounding a foghorn for ships entering and leaving Sydney Harbour. Because of its central location in the harbour, the Fort Denison Light provides some of the best 360 degree views of Sydney one can find, and is a sought-after spot to view New Years Eve fireworks and other festivities.
4. Watch the Daily Gun Fire
While most of the cannons that remain at Fort Denison are no longer in use or were removed long ago, one of the 200-year-old guns is still fired daily. Since 1906 the one o’clock gun has gone off every day at, you guessed it, precisely 1:00 PM.
The gun briefly ceased its daily fire during World War II because officials feared it would upset residents, but the practice was reinstated in 1986. Its original purpose was to help ship captains keep time, though now it primarily entertains visitors to Fort Denison.
5. Measure the Tides
Since the fort was completed in 1857, measuring the tides has been one of the main functions of Fort Denison. The museum includes exhibits of old tide measuring technology, and you can also visit the current tide gauge measuring room, which houses the first automatic tide gauge used to measure the ocean depth in Sydney.
Instruments at Fort Denison still provide official tide measurements tracked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Sydney Harbour and New South Wales.
6. Eat at the Restaurant
If you get hungry during your visit to Fort Denison, don’t worry. The Fort Denison Cafe and Restaurant allows diners to take in the scenic views while enjoying a wide range of delicious treats. The restaurant is a popular venue for weddings, ceremonies, and other special events, and once again provides a relaxing place to take in the beautiful views of Sydney Harbour.
Get the Most Out of your Trip to Fort Denison
No matter if you’re a boating enthusiast or a charter yacht service, NSW offers a wide range of destinations that are sure to please. Corleone Marinas offer four stunning locations around Sydney. Whether a resident or visitor, we provide berths, moorings, and slipways to provide excellent care of your boat.
We also have a Shipwright and Marine Mechanic to keep your boat in top shape. If you experience an issue on the water or in the slip, our mechanics diagnose, repair, and maintain your boat while you’re on shore enjoying the sights and sounds. Contact us today, and let’s have some fun on the water.