Fort Denison – the heritage-listed former fortress in the middle of the harbour, which is easily spotted from the Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden – is getting a makeover, thanks to the group behind The Dolphin, The Bucket List and Bondi Beach Public Bar, as well as three venues in the soon-to-open Shell House in the CBD.

The Point Group has signed a long-term lease – of up to 25 years – to run the 19th-century fort, and wants to encourage locals and tourists to visit the island both to dine and learn about its history and importance. The group’s Fort Denison Dining arm will open a restaurant, a casual dining area, a bar and wine room, and three exhibition rooms in the former barracks. The island’s history will be on show via historic and interpretive displays, and visitors will be able to join guided tours of the fort, including of its Martello tower – the most complete of its kind in the world.

A new restaurant, shade pavilions and the interpretive displays will be installed in the heritage precinct. The National Parks and Wildlife Service – which will share custodianship of the island – is also undertaking conservation work of the historic buildings and sea wall, as well as replacing the island’s wharf.

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“Fort Denison has long been the forgotten jewel in our spectacular Sydney Harbour crown,” says NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, in a statement. “We wanted to right that wrong and deliver a state-of-the-art visitor experience for the whole community to enjoy that celebrates the unique heritage and environmental values of this iconic site.”

Brett Robinson, The Point Group’s CEO, wants the reimagined Fort Denison to join the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House as one of Sydney’s three most iconic landmarks. A fortress was constructed on the island – known as Muddawahnyuh by the local Eora people – in the mid-19th century. In more recent years, it’s housed a restaurant and has been a destination for weddings and historic tours.

Fort Denison Dining will open in late 2022.