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Fort Denison

Home > Sydney > Day Trips | Escape the City | Museums | Outdoor | Tours
by Ian Gill (subscribe)
I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published November 20th 2013
Sydney's Island Fortress
Along with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House Ford Denison, or 'Pinchgut' as it's known, is one of Sydney's most recognisable landmarks.

NSW Sydney Fort Denison Sydney Harbour Museum Museums Fortifications
Historic Fort Deniison is one of Sydney's most recognisable landmarks


Since the arrival of the First Fleet this once rocky outcrop has served as a convict prison, place of execution, a fort, a navigation aid for shipping, a tidal gauge station, a weather station, time signal and finally a restaurant and events venue.

In the very early days of settlement it was known as Rock Island and used as a source of sandstone for the construction of sea walls at present day Circular Quay.

By then levelled the island had a Gibbet installed on it in 1796 and the first execution, that of convicted murderer Francis Morgan took place that same year.

NSW Sydney Fort Denison Sydney Harbour Museum Museums Fortifications
Originally a tall, rocky outcrop 'Pinchgut' was leveled by convicts quarrying sandstone for early building projects


In the period 1841 to 1857 various works were undertaken to fortify 'Pinchgut' for the defence of Sydney. In 1857 the newly completed structure was named Fort Denison after the incumbent Governor of NSW Sir William Thomas Denison.

NSW Sydney Fort Denison Sydney Harbour Museum Museums Fortifications
Fort Denison's Martello Tower is unique in Australian colonial architecture


The forts distinctive tower is a Martello Tower, a defensive rounded structure with walls more than 3 metres thick which naval artillery found difficult to breach. Fort Denison's Martello Tower was the last built in the British Empire and the only one to be constructed in Australia.

In 1992 the site was taken over by National Parks and Wildlife and considerable money and effort has gone into conserving the structure and improving facilities. Fort Denison though remained under some threat from rising sea levels and salt eating away at the porous sandstone.

NSW Sydney Fort Denison Sydney Harbour Museum Museums Fortifications
The fort with its artillery and garrison was a strategic defence outpost for for the fledgling first settlement


Today the fort is a major tourist attraction featuring a museum full of artefacts and detailing the history of the island dating back to pre-settlement. It's also a very popular wedding venue.

The firing of the 1 O'clock time gun is a popular daily event.

Unfortunately Fort Denison is not wheelchair friendly with the fixed-level wharf difficult to access at times and featuring stone steps and some rough ground.

Regular ferry services operate to Fort Denison between 10.30 AM and 4 PM 7 days a week, departing from Wharf 6 at Circular Quay. Tickets purchased through Captain Cook Cruises include the price of admission to the Martello Tower and the guided tour.

NSW Sydney Fort Denison Sydney Harbour Museum Museums Fortifications
Modern facilities and a fine restaurant make Fort Denison a tourist spot and wedding venue


The restaurant is open for lunch Monday Saturday 11.30 AM 3 PM, Sunday Brunch from 10.45 AM and Lunch 12 PM 3 PM. The restaurant also takes group bookings for dinner.

Fort Denison is one of Sydney's great historical sites and provides sensational views across the harbour and city skyline. Just a short ferry ride from the centre of the city it is a must-see attraction for visitors to the harbour city.

NSW Sydney Fort Denison Sydney Harbour Museum Museums Fortifications
Fort Denison

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Why? Visit the only 19th Century Martello Tower built in Australia
When: Monday to Friday 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM, Weekends & Public Holidays 10 AM to 4.30 PM
Phone: 1300 072 757 (National Parks & Wildlife)
Where: Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour
Cost: Tours cost Adults $15.50, Concession $14.50, Children $13.50 and Families $40
Your Comment
I love the architecture of Martello Tower.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12512) 2248 days ago
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