COVID-19 UPDATE: Fort Scratchley gates has reopened on a modified basis. From 1 November, the Fort will be open every day except Tuesday and they will be offering modified Tunnel Tours. Currently, barrack grounds, including the galleries and shop, are only open on Saturday and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. The Fort is free to enter and has COVID-safe protocols including signing in, sanitising and social distancing.
Perched proudly above Nobbys Beach, overlooking the harbour and Nobbys Head, Fort Scratchley sits grandly up on Signal Hill in Newcastle’s East End. At 137 years old and beautifully preserved, the Fort delights both adults and children. Simply put, it’s a place where the kids’ imaginations run wild.
With 360-degree uninterrupted views, I still find the Fort Scratchley historical site one of Newcastle’s golden treasures. I have been to the Fort many times, but today decided to delve a little deeper and take the Tunnel Tour to understand what makes up the Fort as we see it.
The guided tour began at a tunnel entrance that I have walked by several times without knowing it was there. We were met by a delightfully quirky tour guide, dressed in full uniform, which really makes you feel like you’re getting the full experience.
On our tour were several history buffs as well as a younger family with two sons at the age of 9 and 11. I enjoyed watching the boys’ eyes light up as we took the plunge into the tunnels and began our tour.
Our tour guide was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable on the Fort and his sense of humour made the tour interesting and fun. The guides involved the children on the tour, asking them questions and testing them on facts throughout the walk. He was great at keeping the kids engaged, which is vital when a tour consists mostly of talking and standing for periods of time.
The tour is around 90 minutes but didn’t feel that long as we moved swiftly between rooms and throughout the tunnels.
The tour isn’t suited to younger children and I would pen it for children aged 8 and up, especially if your child enjoys stories of the wars and old historical artefacts.
If you have younger children who you think may not want to do the tunnel tour, then there is still so much to do at the Fort! I myself have found ourselves at the Fort on a simple afternoon for ice creams and ocean gazing. There is something quite magical about the sites rolling grass hills that face the sea.
At previous visits to the Fort, my daughter has thoroughly enjoyed taking
An an-onsite Artillery store sells a range of refreshments, souvenirs and gifts. The refreshments are light, so if it’s lunch you’re after, it’s best you pack something for the kids, or indulge in something after at any one of the cafes around the East End.
And just when you thought you couldn’t feel more transported back into the past, if you time it correctly, you can enjoy an exciting and traditional gunfire which takes place at 1 pm every day that the Fort is open. The blast is loud so prepare your child if you decide to attend.
Fun facts about Fort Scratchley:
- Fort Scratchley was built in 1882 by independent contractors and only took 18 months to build.
- The Fort was built to defend our Port against possible Russian attack however has only ever shot its guns once at enemies, namely a Japanese submarine trying to invade the Port during World War II.
- The traditional gun firing that happens daily at 1 pm coincides with the dropping of the time ball upon Customs House over in Bond Street, this would alert Sea Captains to adjust all navigation instruments.
- On special occasions such as Australia Day and Anzac Day, the big guns of Fort Scratchley (6” Mk VII Guns) are fired. They also fire on the June long weekend to commemorate the anniversary of the shelling of Newcastle on 8 June at
Address: Nobbys Road, Newcastle East, New South Wales
Phone: (02) 4974 5033
Hours: The Fort is open 6 days a week from
Cost: General admission to Fort Scratchley is free. Cost applies for full site and tunnel tours.
This review was completed in September 2019. For more information, visit the Fort Scratchley website.
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Want more information on free family fun? Visit the Newy with Kids 50+ List of Free and Low-Cost Things to Do With Your Kids in Newcastle & the Hunter.
Jenna moved to Newcastle from South Africa 3 years ago, which has allowed her to experience the city with a fresh perspective. As mum to a wonderfully wild daughter who shares her passion for fun and adventure, they spend their time getting to know the city mostly on foot and bicycle, which affords Jenna an opportunity to bond with the city more intimately. Follow Jenna’s adventures on her Instagram account ‘Newy Kind of Life’ in which she shares her passion for Newcastle and its lifestyle through her photography and writing.