For decades, Georges Island has been a bit of a mystery.
Nestled in the heart of the Halifax harbour, the island can be plainly seen from the waterfront. But because of a lack of infrastructure, like water and electricity, the island has been closed to most of the public.
But on Saturday, that all changed.
On Thursday, the federal government announced the public will be able to visit Georges Island throughout August on weekend boat tours.
Saturday marked the first day of its reopening, and for history buffs alike, it was a long time coming.
“If you’ve never gone here, you have to come,” said visitor Rachael Ingles. “The tour of the tunnels are eerie but cool. The prison house is cool, it’s just oh so cool.”
“The tunnels were actually really neat, going on the guided tour through all the tunnels. And nice views of Halifax,” said visitor James Pearson.
The island was designated as a historic site in 1965. It was fortified by the British military in 1750 and served as a detention centre during the deportation of Nova Scotia’s Acadian population between 1755 and 1763.
Its military installations include Fort Charlotte, which is known for housing two seaward-facing artillery batteries, and an underground tunnel complex.
Plans to open the site date back to the 1990s. There was intent to open it to visitors earlier in the summer, but that was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Saturdays and Sundays throughout August, Ambassatours’s Harbour Queen is ferrying passengers from Cable Wharf for Georges Island. The boat leaves every 40 minutes from noon to 5 p.m.
Tickets cost $25 and Parks Canada recommends booking early, as they’re selling quickly.
“We’d really like people to visit the website, make sure they’re well prepared,” said Theresa Bunbury with Parks Canada. “So you get your ticket, you come on the boat, you’ll come across … we’ve got guides stationed around on the path up at Fort Charlotte, and just wander around a little bit and enjoy the views.”
The island will remain open until Labour Day, when it will once again close until next season.