Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Melbourne Gaol offers comprehensive and sometimes chilling insight into the criminal justice system in Australia in the 19th and early 20th century. Closed in 1929, the oldest remaining penal establishment in Victoria has since found new life as a popular museum. The gaol’s cells have been converted into mini-exhibits that cover prison life, punishment and stories about the institution’s notable inmates.
Learn about wrongly hung inmate Colin Campbell Ross, and be horrified by the gory story of serial killer Fredrick Bailey. Learn about the punishment methods and spirit-crushing solitary confinement that prisoners endured. Many of the cells contain death masks. These wax or plaster casts of deceased prisoners’ faces allow you to stare into the eyes of some of Melbourne’s most notorious criminals.
To really experience what the gaol was like, sit in on a reenacted trial in the Old Magistrates’ Court. Or, become a prisoner yourself during the Watch House Experience, where you’ll be formally arrested and locked up in a cell before taking an interactive tour of prison life.
Among the 133 prisoners hung at Old Melbourne Gaol was Australia’s most famous outlaw, Ned Kelly. Examine Kelly’s famous homemade body armor that he wore at his final shootout with police. You can also see his death mask and pistol, and the gallows where he and so many others were hung.
If you feel a strange presence while in the jail, you’re not alone. Many believe the gaol to be haunted. There are regular night tours where trained actors recount chilling stories of ghosts and explore the gaol’s dark past. Bookings are essential and can be made via the Old Melbourne Gaol’s website.
Old Melbourne Gaol is located in downtown Melbourne. It’s best to get there by public transportation; the free City Circle tram stops nearby and Melbourne Central train station is a few minutes’ walk away. The gaol is open daily except Christmas Day and Good Friday.