Whoever said the best view of Halifax is from Dartmouth was wrong. The best view of both cities — and the entire harbour — is from Georges Island.


A few thousand visitors got the rare opportunity to not only experience the panorama, but also step on the usually off-limit island’s windswept shore.


“I have always been intrigued by it,” said Bedford’s Barb Oakley. ”It’s the mystery.”


Oakley took one of the transit ferries across the choppy harbour on Saturday to explore the historic site, which Parks Canada opened to the public on the weekend.


Making the $14-per-person journey with Oakley were her three children and her two friends, Bob Nagyobb and Susan Swan.

“It’s here, you always see it, but you can’t go on it — and that’s a shame,” said Swan about the experience. “I didn’t realize there was a fort on it. I am probably the only person who didn’t know it, but I really didn’t.”

It was also an opportunity to remove some of the intrigue from the place. Long lines formed to venture inside the hilltop Fort Charlotte and explore its tunnels — one of which is alleged to lead under the harbour to the Citadel.

For 63-year-old Dale Matthews Veinot, Saturday’s trip to the island wasn’t to crack its code, but to relive her own memories. Her father was the lighthouse keeper, and she lived there from 1946 to 1964.

“I remember being up here in Fort Charlotte and going through the tunnels and all that stuff,” said Veinot, who brought a scrapbook and photo album with her. “There was no electricity. It wasn’t too bad.”

One thing she found hard to believe was the existence of a variety of garter snakes, which Parks Canada is said to have found on the island in the 1990s.

“There wasn’t one when I lived here,” Veinot said. “There were ants, but no snakes.”