If you’re looking for an interesting and historic place to visit in Melbourne, look no further than the Old Melbourne Gaol. This former prison is now a popular tourist attraction and offers visitors a unique glimpse into Australia’s dark criminal history.
This former prison held some of Australia’s most notorious criminals and many say the building is haunted. If you’re curious about what it’s like to visit, we’ll provide all the information to make your trip to Victoria’s oldest surviving prison a success.
History of the Old Melbourne Gaol
The Old Melbourne Gaol was in operation from 1842 until 1929. During this time, it housed petty offenders and some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, including the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, gangster squizzy Taylor and serial killer Frederick Bailey Deeming. The prison was also the site of 133 executions, the last of which took place in 1924.
By the early 20th century, the Gaol had become overcrowded, unsanitary and inefficient, so it was finally closed in 1929. The prisoners who were still being held were then transferred to Pentridge Prison in Melbourne.
The buildings were subsequently used for a variety of purposes, including as an art school and a museum. However, in 1997 the Old Melbourne Gaol was reopened to the public as a museum and tourist attraction. Today, visitors can explore the jail cells, see displays of prisoners’ belongings, death masks and even take a ghost tour for an extra dose of suspense.
Who Was the Most Famous Inmate?
One of the most famous inmates of the Old Melbourne Gaol was Ned Kelly. Born in 1854 to an Irish Catholic family, Ned grew up in Victoria’s Bushrang region. From a young age, he was involved in various petty crimes, and he eventually served three years in jail for the theft of a horse. Upon his release, Ned became a member of the infamous Kelly Gang.
The Kelly Gang became famous for their daring robberies, and their exploits were widely reported in the press. However, in 1880, the gang was eventually captured after a lengthy manhunt and a shootout with police at Glenrowan.
Ned Kelly who was the leader of the gang at that time was tried and sentenced to death here. He was hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880. His story has since become a legend in Australia.
Visiting the Old Melbourne Gaol
Your General Admission Ticket gives you self-guided admission to the City Watch House, Old Melbourne Gaol and Old Magistrate Court.
There are many areas to explore within the Old Melbourne Gaol prison complex including the gallows, prisoner yards and women’s section. However, the most notable is the three-story cell blocks. You can explore the cells yourself and get a sense of what it would have been like to be locked up there.
The City Watch House was built in 1904 and was the holding cell for prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing. It is located on the northern side of the complex and contains the original interiors of this part of the building.
Connected to the City Watch House, is the Old Magistrate Court. This is the site of the former Supreme Court in Victoria and is where prisoners were sent for sentencing and death. It was in operation from 1911 to 1994. However, the Old Magistrate Court is only open during school holidays.
Included in your General Admission ticket is a Self Guided Audio Tour which can be accessed via a QR code. Bring your phone and earbuds to access it. Otherwise, you will have to purchase earbuds above the price of your General Admission.
The Arresting Experience in the Old City Watch House is also included in General Admission. Here the Charge Sergeant will walk you through what it would have been like to process a prisoner. Just be careful they don’t lock you up after! If you have a General Admission ticket, plan to stay for 2-3 hours exploring the complex.
Cell 17 in the Old Melbourne Gaol is one of the original cells and a particularly eerie place. The cell is said to be haunted by the spirit of an inmate who was wrongly convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit. Visitors to the cell have reported feeling a sense of foreboding, as well as seeing strange shadows and hearing strange noises.
In addition, the cell is said to be significantly colder than the rest of the gaol, despite being located in a warm climate. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there is no denying that Cell 17 has a dark and eerie atmosphere and is a grim place to visit.
Night Tours at the Old Melbourne Gaol
There is a Hangman’s Night Tour and Ghost Night Tour currently being performed at the Old Melbourne Gaol. The tours provide an opportunity for people to learn about the prison’s grisly history and to experience firsthand the places where past prisoners are said to haunt.
Before making your booking, keep in mind that these tours are performed at night and can include confined spaces. You can also make a private booking for your special occasion.
Where is the Old Melbourne Gaol Located?
The Old Melbourne Gaol is located on Russell Street in the city centre. It’s within walking distance of many other popular tourist attractions, but you can also take public transportation. When it was first built it dominated the Melbourne skyline but today many other buildings are taller.
To get to the Old Melbourne Gaol, take the Number 96 tram from Flinders Street Station. The tram will take you right to the front gate of the Gaol. Alternatively, you walk. It is just 20 minutes on foot from Flinders Station.
If you are visiting from elsewhere, plan your trip with Victoria’s Public Transport here. You can add the Melbourne Gaol as a destination and it will appear in the planner. If you are travelling by car, there is street parking available in the area. Unfortunately, there is no designated parking for visitors at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
What are the Hours and How Much are Tickets?
The Old Melbourne Gaol is generally open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00am to 05:00pm for General Admission ticket holders and then from 8:00pm to 9:00pm for Special Night Tours. Admission prices vary depending on which activities you want to do, but start at around $33 for adults and $20 for children. Members of the National Trust of Australia can enter for free.
You can buy tickets at the ticket office when you arrive or buy tickets online beforehand. We recommend buying before if you are sue you are visiting, as they can sell out during the summer. Tours can be booked up to two weeks in advance. For the most up-to-date information regarding hours and to buy tickets, visit the official website.
Tickets are valid for the whole day, and you are granted re-entry with them. The last tickets are sold at 3:00pm each day. There are no food establishments within the Old Melbourne Gaol but there are plenty of places nearby to grab a bite to eat.
Unlimited Melbourne Pass
If you are coming from out of town and plan on doing lots of exploring while in Melbourne, then the Unlimited Attractions Pass might be a good fit for you. The Flexi pass is an affordable way to save on popular attractions within the city. It lets you choose between 3, 5, 7 or unlimited attractions which you can visit on the pass for up to 3 months.
Entry to the Old Melbourne Gaol and the Ghost Night Tour is included in their list of attractions. As are other popular attractions and things to do in Melbourne like the Zoo, Melbourne River Cruise, Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Skydeck and more.
Is The Prison Complex Suitable for Children?
The Melbourne Gaol is suitable for families or for anyone interested in Australian history. There are many family-friendly exhibits and it becomes most busy during school holidays.
Children who visit the gaol will learn about the harsh conditions that prisoners once faced, and they will also get a glimpse into the dark side of Melbourne’s past. As long as they are accompanied by an adult and given a brief explanation of what they are seeing, older children may gain something from a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol.
However, it is ultimately up to the discretion of the parents who should do some research before visiting. One area your kids might want to steer clear of is the night tours. These can certainly be too spooky for some small children.
Places to Stay Near the Old Melbourne Gaol
The Old Melbourne Gaol is located in one of the most desirable places to stay in the city. If you are visiting, consider staying at one of these hotels near the former prison complex.
The Brady Hotels Jones Lane
This modern hotel has clean, crisp interiors and is located just minutes on foot from the Old Melbourne Gaol. The Brady Hotels Jones Lane is great for couples or families who want a comfortable place to stay in the centre of the city.
A select number of rooms have terraces, and all guests are welcome to use the guest laundry and fitness room. Prices start at just $179 per night.
Across the street from the Old Melbourne Gaol is the Space Hotel. This youth hostel has dormitories and private rooms for rent, as well as a wide range of amenities. For a budget price, you’ll find sweeping views of the Melbourne CBD from the rooftop. It also has a jacuzzi, bar and BBQ area on the roof.
Back inside, you’ll find a shared kitchen, exercise room, and cinema. All rooms are air-conditioned with pricing starting at $99 per night.
The Old Melbourne Gaol is an important part of Australia’s history, and it offers a unique insight into the country’s criminal past. Whether you are visiting from out of town or you have lived in Melbourne all of your life, the gaol is a must-see attraction.
It goes much further than explaining the exploits of dangerous criminals, it goes a long way in explaining the criminal justice system of the past. If you want to see firsthand the conditions the prisoners endured, then start planning your trip to this unique attraction today.
What are you most excited to see at the Old Gaol?
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