Touring Old Melbourne Gaol

Touring the Old Melbourne Gaol and City Watch House

By: Matthew

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.

The main hallway of the City Watch House.

The main hallway of the City Watch House.

A standard holding cell inside the Watch House.

A standard holding cell inside the Watch House.

The exercise yard for the general population.

The exercise yard for the general population.

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.)

The original entryway for the Melbourne Gaol.

The original entryway for the Melbourne Gaol.

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.

A small taste of the Death Mask collection.

A small taste of the Death Mask collection.

The hangman's beam with a strand of rope dangling over the trap door.

The hangman’s beam with a strand of rope dangling over the trap door.

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Having a go in the replica Ned Kelly armor.

Having a go in the replica Ned Kelly armor.

Travelasics

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.

Website: oldmelbournegaol.com.au

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.

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Travelationship Rating:

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.

Troy, Matt, & Heather in the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Troy, Matt, & Heather in the Old Melbourne Gaol.

See More Photos on Flickr, and Please look for us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

* 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.

Comments 16

  1. Pingback: Road Tripping: Australia Part 1 - Sydney to The Great Ocean Road - Travelationship

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  2. Just recently I came across a post on prisons in the USA. This one in Australia looks the same. I love places of historical importance. I usually get lost in thought at these kinds of places and would stand there imagining how life would have been those 100 years back and I’d imagine or make up a scene in my mind like a movie. The Melbourne Gaol and the Watch House evokes such a feeling after reading your post.

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  3. This was indeed a unique destination and a unique post. The Gaol seems pretty well maintained. I am sure I would get an eerie feeling walking through the corridors. If the walls of the place were to speak, they sure would have some fascinating and strange tales to tell.

  4. Definitely a unique experience in Melbourne. As a fan of experiential travel, I’m going to add it to my list of experiences to try the next time I’m in the city. I’m also going to Google Ned Kelly Thanks for sharing!

  5. Interesting visit, good to know that the tours keeps it entertaining. I’m already curious about the place itself but it’s good to know that the tours keep it entertaining which is a huge plus, thanks for sharing something different to do in Melbourne!

  6. LOL, despite living in Melbourne, and knowing of the Gaol, it’s one of those things I’ve still never done!

    I think I’m saving it for when we host foreign guests, so we can try something new as well 😉

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  7. Im living in Melbourne at the moment and had never even heard of the Old Melbourne Gaol and City Watch House. Definitely sounds like its worth a visit. Might have to take a look this weekend. Thanks!

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