Rydges Melbourne (CBD)
Old Melbourne Gaol
The Old Melbourne Gaol is one of Melbourne’s most rewarding attractions for atmosphere, history, ghost tours and gives a great return for a couple of hour’s investment.
The Old Melbourne Gaol is at 377 Russell Street (between Victoria and La Trobe Street, where Russell turns into Lygon Street). While no skyscraper, the building once dominated the Melbourne skyline, making it a symbol of authority. Between 1842 and its closure in 1929 it was the scene of 133 hangings, including bushranger Ned Kelly. This is the main reason that ghost tours of the gaol are popular.
The gaol was used as a US military prison during World War II. Displays include death masks and histories of famous bushrangers and convicts. You can actually visit up to three sites at the one location – there’s the original gaol, the former City Watch House and, in school holidays, Court One in the Old Magistrate’s Court. The gaol was the winner of the 2010 Hall of Fame Victorian Tourism Awards and is open daily from 9:30am to 5:00pm except for Christmas Day and Good Friday.
If you visit the original gaol you can explore all three levels including the somewhat haunting execution area and see Ned Kelly’s death mask and revolver. A bit of trivia – while Ned was waiting to be hanged in 1880, his mother was serving a sentence in the women’s wing. You can join the Charge Sergeant on a tour of the cells when you visit the Watch House and you can take a night tour.
The night tours cost $38 for adults and $35 for concessions and each last an hour. You can opt for A Night in the Watch House that immerses participants in the criminal world that was the Melbourne City Watch House and inhabited by the likes of Squizzy Taylor, Chopper Read and various other unsavoury characters.(Note this tour includes: loud noises, confined spaces and is conducted in the dark. Recommended for 16 years and over).
The second option is Ghosts? What Ghosts? The gaol is a grim place. It has a dark history. Stories abound of an unexplainable presence. Over many years, these stories come from visitors and staff alike. None have been proved. Many are compelling… (Note: not recommended for children 12 years and under).
And there is the Hangman’s Night Tour. What stories would a hangman tell you if he was guiding you around the Gaol, where he was the master of the rope? What other stories from the dark side will find their way into this performance? Book the Hangman’s Night Tour and find out… (Note: not recommended for children 12 years and under).
By day you can experience the Watch House Experience every half hour from 10:30am where the Charge Sergeant will assist you in experiencing the process of arrest. This is a 40-minute interactive role-play experience with adult themes so it can be a tad confronting for children. This is included in your admission ticket for the Old Melbourne Gaol – Crime and Justice Experience.
Here is a link to the official Old Melbourne Gaol website.