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Fort Denison

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Published April 1st 2010
It's scenic, it's historic, it's interesting – so isn't it time you finally visited Fort Denison?

Formerly known as Mattewanye by the Aborigines, and Rock Island and Pinchgut by the British, it acquired its present name in 1857, when the construction of the fort was completed during the governorship of Sir William Thomas Denison.

Not long after the First Fleet landed in Sydney, this modest island was used as a place of penal servitude, hosting its first execution in 1796. After a couple of American warships snuck into the harbour one night in 1839, a review of the harbour's inner defences was ordered, before work on a fort was started two years later. While the project was soon halted, it resumed in 1855, due to fears of an attack by the Russians, who were then fighting the British in the Crimean War. The job was finally completed in 1857. But by then, the war was over...and advances in artillery had anyway rendered the defences obsolete.

What makes Denison so distinctive is its sandstone
Martello tower, the last ever constructed by the British, and one of only two remaining in the southern hemisphere. Curiously, although it was never targeted by Ivan, it was actually hit by the Yanks. When a trio of Japanese midget submarines forayed into Sydney Harbour in 1942, the USS Chicago opened fire, accidentally (one hopes) hitting the fort.

Each day, Matilda Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises run ferries to the island, departing every 45 minutes from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. The price of a return ticket is $17, which includes entry to what is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. However, guided tours of the tower cost extra. Tickets for these half hour tours – three of which run per day – must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, by calling 9247-5033

For a taste of the scenery, check out these pictures:

The old and the new
The floating fort
Up close
Sandstone splendour
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Why? You’ve always promised that one day you would…
When: Daily
Where: Fort Denison
Cost: Return ferry and park entry costs $17 ($10 for children)
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