HALIFAX -- Georges Island, a small but historic chunk of land in the middle of Halifax harbour, has long been off limits to tourists -- even though it has been a national historic site since 1965.

But that will change on Saturday when regular weekend boat tours begin, Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced Thursday.

Parks Canada says the island will be open for guided tours for the next five weekends. A tour boat will leave the Cable Wharf every 40 minutes until the last run from the island at 5:10 p.m.

The island was fortified by the British military in 1750 and served as a detention centre during the deportation of Nova Scotia's Acadian population between 1755 and 1763.

Its military installations include Fort Charlotte, which is known for housing two seaward-facing artillery batteries and a spooky underground tunnel complex. The lower battery on the south side of the island includes several massive canons from the 1860s.

Georges Island is also the site of one of Canada's first fully automated lighthouses.

"For generations, Georges Island ... has remained out of reach to Haligonians and visitors alike," Fillmore said. "Access to this emerald gem in Halifax Harbour will immerse visitors in the diverse history and ecology of this iconic landmark, while enjoying Halifax from a whole new vantage point."

In late 2019, the federal government spent more than $2 million to build a permanent wharf with floating docks. In the future, the floating docks will offer access to water taxis and recreational boats.

Upon arrival on the island, visitors can expect to walk up a gravel path to Fort Charlotte, where interpreters will present the island's history and provide short tunnel tours through the lower level rooms and halls of the lower battery.

Visitors will be required to wear non-medical masks or face coverings and to follow public health recommendations including physical distancing.

Tours can be booked online at visitgeorgesisland.com or by phone at one of the Ambassatours waterfront kiosk.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020.