Fort Scratchley Historical Society Guide Rick Carter with an historic 80-pound rifle gun muzzle loader earlier this year. Photo: Peter Stoop

Novocastrians can immerse themselves in the city’s military history when Fort Scratchley reopens its doors to the public this weekend.

Visitors will once again be able to explore the grounds of the historic fort, which has been standing sentry over Newcastle since 1882, from Saturday 4 July.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said she looked forward to the site reopening.

“It’s fantastic that both locals and visitors can once again explore one of Newcastle’s most iconic landmarks and learn more about the important role Fort Scratchley played in our city’s history,” she said.

“Visitors may also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the humpbacks currently migrating north along the coastline, with the fort headland offering one of the city’s most spectacular vantage points for whale watching.”

Access will be granted to the outdoor areas of Fort Scratchley, allowing self-guided tours around the barracks and above-ground defence structures, while visitors can witness the time-honoured tradition of the firing of the gun at 1pm on weekends.

The large grassed headland is also ideal for those wanting to enjoy a picnic or take advantage of the panoramic views of the ocean and harbour.

Capacity limits will apply for those who want to visit the museum exhibition rooms, gift shop or onsite café, while guided tours of the historic tunnels and group bookings remain temporarily suspended.

Newcastle Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz said the staged reopening of the fort would allow visitors to access many of its unique experiences while ensuring the health and safety of volunteers and the public.

“While it will be wonderful to visit the fort, I remind visitors to continue to practice physical distancing and follow the signage, floor markers and direction of the dedicated volunteers from the Fort Scratchley Historical Society, who will be monitoring capacity to ensure it remains at a safe level,” she said.

Fort Scratchley will reopen from 10am to 4pm on weekends only. General admission entry is free and no bookings are required.

A range of enhanced hygiene measures are being implemented at the site, including touch free hand sanitiser stations at entry points and increased cleaning regimes during operational hours.

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