Self-guided tour

Georges Island National Historic Site

Use the handy map and guide to take yourself on a walking tour of the island. Climb the trail from the wharf to Fort Charlotte and explore Mi’kmaq, Acadian, and military points of interest.

Satisfy your curiosity, visit Georges Island!


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Georges Island National Historic Site, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

A montage of the overall experience visiting George's Island National Historic Site. This includes aerial and scenic shots of George's Island National Historic Site and the surrounding area, imagery of the boat transportation traveling to the island and docking, and intriguing snippets of the guided underground tunnel tours with interpreters.

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Points of interest

Begin on the shore near the end of the wharf. Turn and look toward the city, and try to imagine how this place appeared when only the Mi’kmaq lived here for millennia. Listen to the waves lapping the shore.

Explore the interpretive panels and other displays, and ask our interpretive staff for more information.

1 – Submarine Mining Establishment

Now leap ahead centuries in time to discover one of the last structures to be built on the island. The submarine mining establishment was first constructed in the 1870s and expanded in the 1890s, and represented the height of harbour defence technology at the time. Submarine mine (or sea mine) cases were stored and only assembled and deployed for drills or in case of an attack. A mini railroad was used for transporting the heavy mines. The tracks and base of a turntable remain.

A wooden barracks for married soldiers once stood just to the left of the existing brick buildings.

2 – Guncotton Tanks

The explosive used in the submarine mines was guncotton (nitrocellulose). Because it was so volatile, it had to be stored in water in these concrete tanks.

3 – Dry Primer Store

The igniters for the mines were stored separately in this small magazine. The roof no longer exists. The blast wall around the outside of the building was meant to contain an explosion in the event of an accident.

4 – Married Officers Quarters and Former Prison Shed Locations

This little brick house was built in 1901 as quarters for Royal Artillery officers and their families. The house contained a kitchen, parlour, two bedrooms, and an outside sentry post.
In the 1750s, a large shed or barracks stood close to this location at A. Along with another shed further south near B and several other buildings that no longer exist, it was part of the prison where Acadians were held during the Deportation of 1755-64.

5 – Lighthouse Keeper’s House

One of the newest structures on the island, this house was built in 1947 as quarters for the lightkeeper and his family. It was abandoned in 1972 when the lighthouse was automated.

6-7 – Former Prison Shed Locations

In the 1750s, two large sheds or barracks stood close to this location (6 and 7). These sheds and several other buildings that no longer stand were part of the prison where Acadians were held during the Deportation of 1755-1764.

8 – Lighthouse

View the lighthouse from the road, and be careful of the steep slope! The current lighthouse dates from 1917 and replaced an earlier one that was destroyed by fire. Several lighthouses of this octagonal design were built in Nova Scotia in the early 20th century.

9 – Fort Charlotte Gate and Guard Room

The gate to Fort Charlotte dates to the final rebuild of the fort in the 1860s. A sentry, part of the Guard detachment, was posted here. The wooden bridge was retractable and controlled from inside the Guard Room, to your right as you enter. The Guard Room was the security office for the fort.

10 – Parade Square

This grassy oval was the assembly area for the fort’s garrison, and also a small drill ground.

11 – North Battery

This low slate wall is the oldest structure on the island and dates from the 1790s. The cannon mounted here protected the rear of the fort and were originally 24-pounders (guns that fired a 24 pound ball). Massive 68-pounders were mounted here in the 1860s.

12 – Caponiers

These short stairways lead to rifle bunkers known as caponiers. These two caponiers were added in the 1820s and were shelters for riflemen to fire from cover in the event of an attack.

13 – Forge

This brick forge was used by artillery artificers for making and repairing various metal objects such as pieces of gun carriages.

14 – Artillery Store

This building was used to store equipment for loading and firing the guns, and was later used as a cookhouse.

15 – RML Laboratory

This building was a special laboratory for manufacturing gunpowder cartridges for the RML (rifled muzzle-loading) guns.

16 – Upper Battery

One of the key elements in the reconstruction of Fort Charlotte in the 1860s, the Upper Battery featured eight 9-inch RML guns arranged in a horseshoe. Each massive cannon had a range of about two miles and was capable of sinking the new “ironclad” warships.

If you stand in the centre of the battery, you can see how these guns had a clear shot all the way to the mouth of the harbour.

17 – 9-inch RML Gun Emplacements

These are the five remaining RML emplacements.

18 – Quick-Fire Gun Emplacements

In the 1890s, three of the RMLs in the Upper Battery were replaced with 4.7 inch calibre Quick fire guns. Another example of evolving military technology, these guns utilized a self-contained brass shell and could fire five to six shots a minute.

19 – Tunnels (Magazine Complex)

Head back down to the entrance to the magazine complex.

Here the ammunition needed for the Upper and Lower Batteries was stored in a protective network of underground tunnels.

This facility consisted of a central magazine for gunpowder storage, surrounded by a system for delivering cartridges and shells to the Upper Battery.

The tunnels are best explored in company with one of our interpretation staff.

20 – Ditch

The tunnel complex brings you to part of the defensive ditch that surrounds Fort Charlotte. The ditch was an obstacle protecting the fort from potential attacking enemy troops. It was defended by five caponiers, or rifle bunkers.

21 – Lower Battery

This second layer of powerful RML guns added massive firepower to Fort Charlotte. Buried inside these arched stone chambers, these four 10-inch guns were well protected from potential enemy fire.

22 – Central Caponier

The largest of the fort’s five caponiers, this one also houses the main stairway that will lead you back from the Lower Battery to the Upper Battery.

23 – “The Mi’kmaq” interpretive panel

Take in the view of the inner harbour from this vantage point and learn more about Mi’kmaq life in Kjipuktuk.

24 – “The Acadians” interpretive panel

The second of two large sheds used to house Acadian prisoners during the Expulsion of 1755-64 was located near this panel.

This concludes the tour. Feel fee to continue to explore the island, take in the views of the harbour and city, and talk to our interpretation staff.

Map of Georges Island National Historic Site

Map of Georges Island National Historic Site
Text version

Facilities and services

Boat dock Boat Dock

Water transportation Water Transportation

Shore launch Shore Launch

Information Information

Toilet Public Toilets

First Aid First Aid Station (Coal Shed)

Picnic area Picnic Area

No access allowed No Access

Points of interest

  1. Submarine Mining Establishment
  2. Gun Cotton Tanks
  3. Dry Primer Store
  4. Married Officers Quarters
  5. Lighthouse Keeper’s House
  6. Former Prison Shed Location
  7. Former Prison Shed Location
  8. Lighthouse
  9. Fort Charlotte Gate and Guard Room
  10. Parade Square
  11. North Battery
  12. Caponiers
  13. Forge
  14. Artillery Store
  15. RML Laboratory
  16. Upper Battery
  17. 9-inch RML Gun Emplacements
  18. Quick-Fire Gun Emplacements
  19. Tunnels (Magazine Complex)
  20. Ditch
  21. Lower Battery
  22. Central Caponier

For your safety

Georges Island is a fortification that features steep masonry walls, surrounded by a ditch up to 9 metres deep.

Please do not climb up on the walls or earthworks or out into gun openings. These areas are especially dangerous when wet.

Young children should be under close supervision at all times.

Be aware of steep inclines and watch out for low doorways, uneven steps, and floors.

Please note there is no smoking permitted on the island.

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