I will start with – We loved this place! We had the pleasure of being led by Troy, and we could have listened to his Australian history lessons for days. His stories of Ned Kelly, Australia’s number one folk hero, were particularly interesting. The stories of Ned’s rebellion are fascinating and add an extra layer to your overall Melbourne Gaol experience. Look for more about Kelly from IronOutlaw.
There is essentially two sites to explore for your Melbourne prison experience. The City Watch House and the Old Melbourne Gaol.
The City Watch House
The Watch House ran up until recently from 1909 until 1994. The Watch House was your first step into the criminal justice system. Once you were arrested, this was the place you were brought and then subsequently processed. The tour delightfully recreates this process. A sharp and witty Police Sargent will escort you through the intake process in a fun recreation. You will get to line up and report your crime, be sorted and locked into a holding cell for the night. Hopefully, the guard will choose to let you out for good behavior.
Old Melbourne Gaol
The Melbourne Gaol is the second site and was operated from 1842 to 1929. This is the only remaining piece of the cell blocks still standing. Other buildings from the prison complex remain, but they are now part of the RMIT University complex. Also, don’t miss walking around the property to see the original jail entry gate, which is around the corner off of Victoria Street. (Note – the old entrance archway sits on the university campus, so please be respectful of the students that may be in class.)
While in the jail be sure to take the time to look at their Death Mask collection. Search for hairs in some of the plaster casts made from the executed prisoners, so gross and fascinating. Thoroughly examine the hangman’s beam, which claimed some 133 lives, as a small remainder of rope dangles eerily above the trap door. Countless cells are on display with various bits of information regarding the prison and its inmates throughout the three floors on display. You even can try on replicas of Ned Kelly’s famous armor suit, which makes for a fun photo opp.
Give yourself at least two hours to complete the Watch House tour and then the jail on your own. To truly have the full experience set aside 3 hours, so you can take the Watch House tour, the Jail Block tour and walk around the jail on your own. Cell block tours are available on weekends or local school holidays. We highly recommend planning your visit to coincide with tour days. During the school year on weekdays, the gaol can be packed with school age children. Check their website for special events such as Saturday plays based on Ned Kelly’s life and art installations.
Price: Check the site for current pricing.
Hours: Daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm (Last entry suggested at 3:30 pm) CLOSED: Christmas Day and Good Friday.
How to get there:
The Old Melbourne Gaol is located at 377 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia. There is NO on-site parking available. Paid street parking is offered along La Trobe Street.
Public Transportation: For the Bus use the Old Melbourne Gaol stop directly in front of the compound. For the City Tram, you can use either the RMIT University stop or the Russell Street stop off of the No. 30 & 35 tram.
4 out of 5 Travelationship high fives. Type of traveler rating – adventure, historical, bucket lister. The prison was chalk full of interesting information and loads to see. The tours were both top notch and kept all entertained. It would be hard to imagine someone not having a good time here.
* Thank you to The Melbourne Gaol and The National Trust of Australia for our complimentary entry and tour. As always, our opinions are ours – honest, not biased and as we experienced.