Fort Lytton provides a great opportunity to experience an exciting part of Queensland's history. Built in 1880-81, the Fort was a frontline of defense against the feared threat of naval raids by European superpowers. The Fort was shrouded in secrecy as its design, a classic example of a coastal fortress, was intended to conceal itself from an invading force until the first warning shot was fired. A warning that if ignored was followed by an armour piercing shot fired amidst the ships.
Heavy armour, consisting of six gun pits, two machine gun ports, and Armstrong guns which could be raised rapidly to fire over the Fort's ramparts and lowered below the parapet just 20 seconds later, were supported by a controlled mine field that operated from a concealed tunnel under the Fort. This minefield made it impossible for a vessel to enter the Brisbane Port unless authorised to do so.
A Search officer from an Examinations Steamer examined vessels wishing to enter the Brisbane River. The Steamer communicated to the Fort using a secret code of signals. Once established that a vessel was harmless, a pilot escorted the ship through the minefield. This system was replaced in the 1930s by a boom gate monitoring all river traffic through a series of flags.
During the forty years that Fort Lytton served as Australia's frontline of defense, only three warning shots were ever fired. No further shots were fired as no vessel was prepared to take the Fort up on its challenge. Although the volunteers were never required to defend Queensland against an invasion, when a permanent Queensland Defense Force was established in 1884, the skilled gunners and engineers of the Fort became the elite of the force.
After World War II Fort Lytton fell into disrepair. This changed however when Ampol took over the site in 1963 and undertook regular maintenance. While secrecy was the agenda at the start of the century, the new volunteer force, the Fort Lytton Volunteers have a new priority, to allow the public access to colonial Queensland's secret weapon. Fort Lytton is open to any member of the public from Sunday to Friday. Guided tours are also conducted on these days.
Fort Lytton forms part of the historic precinct managed for the people of Queensland by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, other sites managed by the Service includes nearby St Helena Island, a former colonial prison.