Checking Out The Old Melbourne Gaol

posted in: Australia | 32

With only 3 days to explore glorious Melbourne, waking up to rain was not what we had hoped for. We were half way across the world and experiencing the wet weather we were used to in London . If we had longer in Melbourne we probably would have had a rest day but when you’re time is so valuable you have to get out there and explore regardless of the weather.

Over breakfast, which was a make your own pancake station at Flinders Backpackers Hostel, we looked through our Melbourne guidebook in search of indoor attractions to keep us dry from the rain. We had a few ‘maybe’ possibilities but as soon as we saw that Melbourne had a prison, or gaol, we knew we had to visit. Especially as one of the former residence was the famous Ned Kelly.

History of the Old Melbourne Gaol

Located next to the old City Police House and Court Buildings, construction of the prison started in 1839 but did not become operational until 1842. It remained in use up until 1929. During this time it held many of Australia’s most notorious criminals. The most famous criminals to walk through its gates are bushranger Ned Kelly and serial killer Frederick Bailey Deeming. In total, over 130 people were executed here by hanging.

Due to overcrowding, a second gaol was later built between 1841 and 1844. The first cell block was opened in 185 and by 1850 was already suffering from overcrowding. Women did not get their own cell block until 1864 when one was opened next door to mirror the mens cell block. Until this point men and women had been locked away together.


What Happened to the Old Melbourne Gaol?

After a review of the Penal system in 1870, the old gaol was closed and the prisoners were relocated to more suitable locations. After its closing parts of the gaol were demolished. In 1927 part of the Old Melbourne Gaol became part of the local college which is now part of the university.

It wasn’t until 1957 that the National Trust of Australia listed the site on its heritage register to preserve it. In 1972 the gaol was reopened as a public museum. The museum now attracts around 140,000 visitors a year.

How to get to the Old Melbourne Gaol

Since the Old Melbourne Gaol is so centrally located at Russell Street, it is really easy to get to. As we were staying by Flinders Street Station we decided to walk it. The walk only took 20 minutes. The other option is to take the free city circle tram (no.35) and get off at stop 7 which is La Trobe Street. I highly recommend this tram to any tourists visiting the area as it stops off at the major attractions.


Ticket Price 

The price for an Adult ticket is $25AUS which is just £15, €18 or $19US. For a child ticket it’s $13.50 which is £8, €9 or $10US. Considering how much you get with your ticket we would say it is definitely good value for money!

Your ticket lasts all day and you are free to enter as many times as you want throughout the day. As well as entrance in to the Gaol Museum, your ticket also includes entrance to The Old Magistrates Court and The City Watch House Experience.


Inside The Museum

Your ticket allows you to enter the museum self guided, or for a little extra you can get on a tour. We decided to get on a tour and we didn’t regret it. Our tour guide had such great knowledge of the Old Melbourne Gaol and really brought it’s history alive.

If you do decide to go through the museum self guided there are information cards in each cell. Some show stories of former prisoners, others have memorabilia and some have history of the gaol itself. We really found it fascinating having a look around and reading all the different stories.


The Old Magistrates Court 

Right next door to the Old Melbourne Gaol is the Old Magistrates Court. With your ticket you can also visit here but there are only certain time slots you’re allowed in so check the times first!

You will be lead inside the court house and shown to the main court room. Here a tour guide will give a brief history of the types of trials that have come through the old court.

After the tour guide has finished giving an overview of the court, there is a chance for everyone to look around, take pictures and even dress up! Danik had great fun dressing up as a judge but the power quickly went to his head as he sentenced me to 3 years of prison for being British… you can feel the love can’t you!


The City Watch House Experience

This was probably my favourite part of the day. Just like with the Magistrates Court, you can only enter at certain times so check first. This is one you won’t want to miss!

You won’t just be taking a look around the Watch House, you’ll get the chance to experience what it is like to enter the Watch House as a prisoner. As you enter you will be made to line up against the wall and you will be given a character story of why you were arrested. The Charge Sergeant will then process a few people. It’s great fun getting to hear why everyone’s arrested and the Charge Sergeant was very entertaining.

Once everyone has been ‘processed’ it’s time to move in to the cells. First though, the guard checks us all for contraband. Don’t worry this isn’t physical! My tongue bar would have been classed as a weapon if I had really been arrested so now I know to stay above the law so I don’t have to risk losing it!

Once we have been ‘cleared’ we are sent to our cells. All the girls in one and the men in another. The cells were quite small and not very well looked after. While we were in our cells the lights were briefly turned off so we could get a true appreciation of what it must have felt like to be locked away in one of these cells.

Once we were released from our cells we were free to walk around. I found it quite interesting reading the words and threats that had been scratched in to the doors. All these were original scratchings from when the cells were in use.

The tour ended with photo opportunities to get some good souvenirs. It really is an enjoyable part of the Old Melbourne Experience and if you’re wondering if this part is appropriate for kids, in my opinion, yes and there were a couple of youngsters with us and they were enjoying themselves. They saw the funny side of being “yelled” at by the Guard Sergeant. In all honesty, there is no yelling, just orders given in a stern voice.


As you can see we really enjoyed our visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol. If you’re in Melbourne and looking for some fun while learning about history, than this is something for you!


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32 Responses

  1. This is one of the places my husband would love to see! He enjoyed Alcatraz so much! I’m sharing the article with him, surely to put this on our bucket list!

  2. Wow…..a place with historical significance. The cells look creepy though. The mug shots look really cool. Funny way to end the post.

  3. This looks like so much fun! Love checking out obscure places like this when traveling. fun photos too!

  4. It looks like you all had a great time while seeing some awesome history! I love that you went to jail and got your mugshots done!

  5. I love visiting old jails, any old, dilapidated buildings. It looks like you had fun!

  6. It sounds like a great fun at the cell and the court . I really enjoyed the humourous way you have written this. I have been to Syndney but not to Melbourne. It reminds me of the Sydney Convicts museum.

  7. I love old jails… I am so mad that we didn’t make it to Alcatraz last year!

  8. An interesting place to visit when in Melbourne. Cool mugshots by the way. 🙂

  9. Wow love this post. The pictures are so cool. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I travel to Melbourne at least once a month th for work but unfortunately I get little down time so haven’t explored the Melbourne Gaol. Looks like you had a great day. Love the mug shots!

  11. That mug shot looks so cool, what a great place to find and visit. Added to my bucket list. thanks for sharing.

  12. Nice story about Old Melbourne Gaol. I have not visited Melbourne yet but I assume that I would need to check it out on my future trip there.

  13. That tour looks like something I would definitely like to do. Alcatraz is my ultimate idea of a jail tour..lets hope it happens.

  14. Too funny that you got to be prisoners! Old Melbourne Gaol looks like a perfect way to spend a rainy day. It has such an interesting history and sounds like a really entertaining spot!

  15. I think this was an interesting outing. The Gaol experience must have given you goose pimples. But an exciting adventure of sorts and a different experience.

  16. Looks like a fun place to visit! Great that you had so much fun there! Nice photos!

  17. This must have been a really cool experience, especially when you got to go inside the cells. Although, I’m sure it was a bit creepy. Did you get to hear any good ghost stories? I’m sure there are plenty!

  18. This sounds like such a cool tour. I try to find neat things to do when I travel – and this is one of those things i would like.
    Did it feel haunted to you? I sometimes get those vibes even when nothing bad has happened there. Just from old buildings.

  19. This is so interesting. I have never taken a tour of a jail. But read about a few. This one sounds really interesting, particularly the city watch house experience part

  20. I love visiting old places like this and trying to get the vibe from the past. So full of stories.

  21. Firstly, sorry about the Melbourne weather, but it is kind of similar to the UK climatewise. I’ve never been to Melbourne Goal, it looks like an awesome experience and not just a straight tour with facts being hammered into you.

  22. We’ve been in loads of Jails around the world (Hanoi Hilton, Tulong Seng, Freemantle, Port Arthur etc) – I find them fascinating – but I’ve never visited the one in Melbourne. I think it’s because it’s on my doorstep that I think I’ll get to it eventually! It looks like a great interactive experience too – I might go next time we have a rainy day.. so I don’t think I’ll be waiting long!

  23. I have visited a number of old gaols but the city watch house experience is something different. It’s interesting how similar the inside of this jail is to others in Australia.

  24. Old jails are super interesting!! They have such an intense vibe that is intoxicating.

  25. Oh my..this must be like Alcatraz, but my hubby and I havent gone there, too. Ugh. I wonder how it feels to be inside the cell during your tour. This is interesting. 🙂

  26. Ha, love that wig! This looks like a fun and really interesting place to visit… especially on a rainy day! Also… a make your own pancake station? Yes please. Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  27. Wow, so many changes throughout the years! I’m happy they finally though to preserve it in the 50’s. Looks like you two had a lot of fun! Loved reading this. Happy travels 🙂

  28. I think I’d be a bit scared of going in there! It does sounds like an interesting tour though and full of so much history. Thanks for sharing. Polly

  29. It must be so annoying to have rain when you only have limited days! But this looks like a cool spot in Melbourne, I’ll have to add it to my list for when I get there!

  30. There is much history associated with a place. Even we love to cover museums and war memorials as much as possible. Funny pictures of the mug shots. 🙂 Love the way this tour was done, kind of experiencing the real thing in a funny way. Hope you had a good time.

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