This barren island fortress sits smack in the middle of Sydney Harbour. It’s the one you go right past whenever you catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly.
It’s forbidding and stark.
A relic of convict Sydney and the early days of the colony, the island has a spine-chilling history.
From the first days of the colony, it was used as a particularly nasty punishment. Convicts were left on the island in iron chains for a week or more with nothing other than bread and water, earning the island the name ‘Pinchgut’.
In 1796 the British authorities went one step further. They installed a hanging gallows.
Within months, they had put it to use. The first man hung there was a murderer, Francis Morgan. HIs body was left hanging on the gallows for 4 years, to be picked at by birds, until there was just a skeleton left.
It was a particularly vivid warning as the skeleton could be easily seen from the mainland and was intended as a deterrent.
Later in the 1850s, the distinctive Martello fort, gun batteries and barracks were built . Alarmed by the Crimean War, the fortress was part of a defence system to protect against possible invasion by the Russians.
Normally you can visit the Fort Denison and have lunch there but it is currently closed for maintenance on the seawalls and wharf and won't re-open for visits until the end 2022.