Tunnel into 200 years of history with a self-guided tour around the barracks and above-ground defence structures of Fort Scratchley. General admission
is free to the only Australian costal fortification to fire on an enemy naval vessel, and visitors can grab a brochure from the Artillery Store, the
shop on the site. The grounds are the perfect place for a picnic and kite flying. The Fort makes for a great viewing point for whale watching during
migration in winter.
Guided tours are available to get the full picture of operations and history at Fort Scratchley, with paid site and tunnel or tunnel tours. The Fort Scratchley Historical Society volunteers operate the guided tours and the Artillery Store. Tours are available at regular intervals, Wednesday to Monday, 10am to 4pm. Tour times are displayed near the shop, with the last tour departing at 2:30pm.
Fort Scratchley is closed New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day (gates open at 12pm), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Fort Scratchley History
The headland known as Fort Scratchley has long been associated with the history of Newcastle. Two natural features dominated early history: its height offered a prominent vantage point; and seams of coal were readily accessible around its base.
The discovery of the coal seams by European explorers from Sydney led to the site becoming the first European coal mine in Australia, and probably the first mine of any kind in the country. Mining using convict labour commenced during the first European settlements of 1801 and 1804.
The strategic importance of a hilltop overlooking the harbour was recognised as early as 1804, and by 1828 an earthen battery was constructed and equipped with seven guns. In 1876 the British Government sent Major General Sir William Jervois and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley to give advice on naval defences. Under their direction, Colonial Architect James Barnet oversaw construction of the Fort which was completed in 1892.
The Fort’s armament changed several times as military technology changed. The Fort’s guns were used on several occasions during each of the world wars to halt unauthorised shipping movements through the harbour mouth. On the night of 7 June 1942 the Battery's 6-inch guns fired two salvoes at a Japanese submarine that bombarded Newcastle with about two dozen shells, becoming the only coastal fortification to ever fire on an enemy Naval vessel.
The Fort closed in 1972. It was vacant until 1977 when the City of Newcastle entered into a lease with the Commonwealth over the site. Under Council's control the site became home to the Newcastle Regional Maritime Museum in 1977 and the Military Museum/Fort Scratchley Historical Society in 1982.
In January 2004, Council and the Australian Government executed an agreement whereby the Government would restore Fort Scratchley, then transfer ownership to the Council. After closing in April 2004 restoration works were completed in 2008, enabling the transfer of the site to Council on 29 June 2008. >>>>