As a local one of the most endearing aspects of Sydney is a vibe which is truly unique to this city and something I am yet to find anywhere else in the world. This vibe is difficult to put into words but can best be described as fusion. This vibe can be felt and seen as you explore Sydney’s exquisite harbour, a vibe which is this beautiful blend of indigenous magnetism, colonial history and multicultural influence.
A trip to Sydney is not complete without a visit to Fort Denison whose name has changed as much as its structural purpose. Prior to the arrival of the First Fleet the island was used as a retreat for local Aboriginal communities when it was than known as Mat-te-wan-ye. During colonization, the island was utilized as a penal site known formally as Rock Island and informally as Pinch Gut in reference to convicts sent there as punishment and left to survive solely off food and water.
Upon completion of the fortification in 1857 , close to one hundred years after settlement, the defence facility was titled Fort Denison and has seen the skyline of Sydney change over the centuries. The Fort itself gives an insight into Australian history but if antiquity is not your thing the Fort which boasts prime position in the heart of the harbour is still worth a visit for the unparalled panoramic views.
Now for my lovebirds out there looking for a romantic venue in which to dine, or anyone for that matter celebrating a special occasion, Fort Denison houses a restaurant which operates Monday through to Friday. With the exception of special and seasonal events the restaurant is open for bookings from 11.30 am through to 2.30 pm and can be reached via ferry or water taxi.
During summer the restaurant hosts “Sunset Sessions” where patrons can dine and gaze upon the surrounding harbour on Sunday evenings. For winter visitors looking to get in on the dinner action the restaurant opens again during the evening as part of the Vivid Sydney festival. However, being the Harbour’s only island restaurant bookings are not only essential no matter when you visit but tickets sell out rapidly for dusk events.
The island is accessible via either water taxi or ferry but please keep in mind that all guests travelling via water taxi must disembark the island prior to the departure of the last ferry service of the day at 4.00pm. The ferry to the island takes no more than 5 minutes and can be found at Wharf 6, Circular Quay as of 2017, however, please note that despite its close proximity ferries are not frequent so should you have a restaurant booking or simply eager to make the daily 1.00pm firing of the cannon please refer to the ferry timetable by clicking here. A return ticket with Captain Cook Cruises will roughly set you back AUD $20.00 and includes entry to the Fort with the exception of the Martello Tower.
If your budget permits I highly recommend booking a heritage tour for AUD $37.50 through the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service which is inclusive of a return ferry ticket, guided tour and access to the Martello Tower. The guides are very well informed, clearly are passionate about what they do and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Fort’s diverse history. Should this be the manner in which you would like to experience Fort Denison tickets must be printed at home and upon providing this documentation Captain Cook Cruises (Wharf 6) will organize your transport ticket. Please do not board the ferry without both tickets!
Lastly, given the structure of the Fort and adjoining jetty, unfortunately the site is not currently wheelchair accessible. Bathroom facilities are available on the island however with the exception of the restaurant there is no food and beverage services so pack a snack beforehand for little ones or if visiting on Friday duck over to the The Rock’s Friday Foodie Markets before setting sail for Fort Denison.