Visiting McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour got a little easier today, as the Friends of McNabs Island Society and the Waterfront Development Corp. unveiled $180,000 in new amenities.

The wooded island dotted with the ruins of British fortresses, a bottling plant and two rival "pleasure grounds" has long drawn the wistful stares of land-bound Haligonians.

Now, those who catch a water taxi, chartered vessel or local boat to get to the island will find 30 "wayfinding" signs that mark out points of interest and lead visitors on self-guided tours of the 372-hectare island.

McNabs Island's new hemlock sign posts will take visitors on a self-guided tour of the island.

McNabs Island's new hemlock sign posts will take visitors on a self-guided tour of the island. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

Two new composting toilets will help adventurers who need to answer the call of nature while visiting nature. They've also added a floating dock to the main pier to make room for more private visits.

Colin MacLean, president and CEO of the Waterfront Development Corp., visited the island to show off the improvements on Friday.

"It's truly an undiscovered gem here in Halifax Harbour," he said.

"This partnership is one way to create more opportunity, more discussion around public access and navigating the island more easily, while still protecting the vision that guides its future."

One visitor Friday who didn't need a tour was Faye Cleveland Power. Her father was a lighthouse keeper on the island and she grew up on McNabs, leaving when she was 10 years old.

"We loved it here. This was our playground. We picked berries, we skated, we sledded, we told ghost stories in the fort," she says.

She loves that it's getting easier for people to share in one of her favourite places.

"I think it's wonderful, because people don't realize that they're allowed to come out on the island. People are amazed."

The Friends of McNabs Island Society have cleaned up inside the old tea house.

The Friends of McNabs Island Society have cleaned up inside the old tea house. They hope to eventually open for summer business. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

People have used the island for at least 5,000 years, as that's how far back the oldest food middens date.

Today, McNabs is popular with bird watchers, hikers and campers looking to get away from the city without leaving the harbour. 

The Friends of McNabs Island Society is hosting the ever-popular fall foliage tour this weekend, although it's already sold out.

McNabs once housed a bottling plant and two rival pleasure grounds.

McNabs once housed a bottling plant and two rival pleasure grounds. Much of that has vanished entirely, leaving only metal hints on the forest. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)