In 1791 Captain George Vancouver claimed the southern part of Western Australia for the British Crown. As he explored along the coast, he discovered one of the world's finest natural harbours and named it the Princess Royal Harbour and King George III Sound. During the 19th century, the loss of this strategic port to an enemy naval squadron was recognised as a potential threat to the security of Australia. Consequently – before Federation - all the Australian states agreed to proportionally pay for the construction of a fort with the Imperial British Government supplying the guns. The Fort was opened in 1893 as the first federal defence of Australia, and today is called the Princess Royal Fortress.
The Princess Royal Fortress is one of two pre-federation fortresses built to protect intercontinental trade routes. At the time all Australian colonies contributed to the cost, demonstrating rare pre-federation cooperation between the colonies. The fortress is of exceptional significance for its key role in the first national strategy to defend Australia. From 1893 to 1956 the guns of King George Sound maintained their role as a deterrent, though never firing a shot in anger. It was neither age nor enemy that silenced the guns of the Sound but rather the advent of the missile era. In 1956, throughout the Commonwealth, coastal defences like the Princess Royal Fortress were decommissioned.
Commanding panoramic views of Princess Royal Harbour, King George Sound, Middleton Beach and Oyster Harbour, the Princess Royal Fortress is now a military musuem with all builings open to the public. Wander the grounds, explore pre-federation buildings and view original artefacts from one of Australia's first acts of pre-federation cooperation.
The Museum is open every day of the year including all public holidays (except Christmas day) between 9am and 5pm. Entry is free, with gold coin donations encouraged.