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Old Melbourne Gaol

Last Updated: May 28, 2024 City Secrets
Tripadvisor Rating 4.5/5
5 46
Google Rating 4.5/5
avatar By Sam Baldwin
Explore the dark and intriguing history of Melbourne at the Old Melbourne Gaol. Take a night tour and discover the stories of notorious criminals like Ned Kelly. Step into the watch house, experience the justice system of the past, and be amazed.

377 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia


Nestled on Russell Street, the Old Melbourne Gaol is not just Victoria’s oldest surviving prison but an integral fragment of Australia’s colonial history. A foreboding bluestone building, it transports every visitor back in time, reliving an era when dangerous criminals, including the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly, languished in its solitary confinement cells. A visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol offers a unique opportunity to explore the watch house, gallows, and the myriad stories that echo within its walls.

If the walls of Melbourne’s most famous prison could speak, they would whisper bone-strumming tales of infamous criminals, hard labour, and the grim shadow of the hangman’s noose. As part of the National Trust of Australia, the Gaol is a testament to the transformation of crime and justice in the country.

The Story

Constructed in 1839, the Old Melbourne Gaol has seen the likes of notorious criminals, including Squizzy Taylor and Colin Campbell Ross. Yet, it’s bushranger Ned Kelly’s story that resounds the loudest. On 11 November 1880, wearing his iconic metal armour, Kelly met his end at the gallows, forever cementing his place as both a criminal and an Australian folk hero.

Within its bluestone walls, countless stories of theft, vagrancy, and even more sinister crimes unfold. As Victoria’s oldest prison, the Gaol bore witness to over 130 hangings, with Ned Kelly’s being the most renowned. The prison operated between 1845 and its closure in 1924, with the fixed gallows installed below the octagon across the main axis of the prison block, a chilling reminder of its gruesome past.

original entrance of Melbourne Gaol showing the courtyard and Chapel Source:

What Is Old Melbourne Gaol Famous For?

Known to many as the place where Ned Kelly and his gang were incarcerated, the Gaol also offers night tours, including the eerily intriguing tour of the hangman. Inside the Gaol, visitors can explore every corner, from the ground floor to the second floor, unveiling a tale at each turn.

The City Watch House tour offers an immersive experience. Stepping inside, you’ll encounter the notorious City Watch House, where Melbourne’s most dangerous criminals were brought to face justice. Moreover, the Old Melbourne Gaol Tours encompass a ghost tour, promising spine-tingling encounters for those brave enough.

Adjacent to the Gaol, near Melbourne Central, lies the old City Watch House and City Courts buildings, a stark contrast to the Melbourne skyline. They, too, have stories to tell, stories that intertwine with the very fabric of Australian history.

Did You Know?

How To Get There?

Enjoy the intriguing history at Old Melbourne Gaol at night. Aside from that, you can take the bus, train, and tram lines to get there:

Bus: 207, 250, 251, 302, 295


Tram: 1, 16, 3-3A, 5, 6, 67, 72, 86

inside view of Old Melbourne Gaol with some visitors at the end of the hallway Source:

Nearest Parking and Cost To Visit The Old Melbourne Gaol

The 62 La Trobe St Car Park costs $5 per 30 minutes in online booking while $8 per hour if drive up. While parking in QV – 180 Lonsdale Street offers $25 per hour.

Nearby Attractions – Make A Day Of It!

Exploring Old Melbourne Gaol in Melbourne? Make sure to visit these interesting attractions close by:

red signage of Melbourne Museum that looks like a checkmark Source:

Melbourne Museum

Melbourne Museum is a dynamic, state-of-the-art cultural attraction in Melbourne, Australia, showcasing diverse exhibits from natural history to Aboriginal cultures and located near the historic Old Melbourne Gaol.

State Library Victoria

State Library Victoria is a historic and cultural landmark in Melbourne, offering a vast collection of books, stunning architecture, and various exhibitions located near the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Top 5 Closest Hidden Gems – Recommended By Adventure Clues

Destination Distance
Coop’s Shot Tower 550 m
Hosier Lane 1.1 km
Federation Square 1.4 km
Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Walk 1.6 km
Ponyfish Island 1.8 km

Your Hidden Gems Itinerary

  1. Start your day at Old Melbourne Gaol.
  2. Walk to Coop’s Shot Tower, an iconic historical landmark that stands as a testament to Melbourne’s industrial history.
  3. Continue with a walk or public transport to Hosier Lane, known for its vibrant street art and artistic atmosphere.
  4. Explore at Fed Square, a cultural hub where you can experience art, events, and the lively atmosphere of Melbourne.
  5. Take public transport or walk to the Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Walk, immersing yourself in the rich Indigenous culture of Australia.
  6. Head to Ponyfish Island, conclude your day with a unique floating bar beneath the Southbank Pedestrian Bridge, providing a relaxed riverside experience.

Exploring these locations allows you to delve into the city’s rich history, cultural diversity, and natural attractions. Whether you prefer the tranquility of botanical gardens or the vibrant energy of cultural hubs, Melbourne’s hidden gem locations provide a day of exploration and discovery, allowing you to connect with the city’s unique character.

Best Eateries Around

Don’t miss these popular dining spots near Old Melbourne Gaol:

The Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington is a popular dining spot near Old Melbourne Gaol, known for its traditional British pub fare and extensive selection of beers.

The Meat & Wine Co.

The Meat & Wine Co. is a renowned dining destination in Melbourne, offering a unique blend of modern and traditional steakhouse vibes with a vast selection of high-quality steaks and an extensive wine list located near the historic Old Melbourne Gaol.

Entry Price

Self-guided entry to two buildings, the Old Melbourne Gaol and City Watch House, has these ticket prices:

National Trust members receive free general admission.

Final Thoughts

The Old Melbourne Gaol stands as a testament to Victoria’s complex history of crime and justice, encapsulating tales of notorious criminals, evolving penal methods, and the societal shifts of 19th-century Australia.

Explore the charm of Melbourne. Join Melbourne Scavenger Hunts by Adventure Clues and uncover the city’s secret treasures.

Old Melbourne Gaol Tours FAQs

Find answers to questions about the Old Melbourne Gaol’s history in this section.

1. What is the Old Melbourne Gaol and its historical significance?

The Old Melbourne Gaol is a former prison and courthouse in the Russell Street area of Melbourne. It is operated by the National Trust of Australia and is one of the city’s most important historical sites. This establishment held some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, such as the bushranger Ned Kelly and underworld figure Squizzy Taylor. Its dark past includes being the site of 133 executions between 1842 and 1929, with the gallows being a grim reminder of its past.

2. Who was Ned Kelly, and what is his connection with the Gaol?

Ned Kelly was an infamous bushranger and leader of the Kelly Gang. Known for his confrontations with the colonial police, his story is deeply interwoven with the Old Melbourne Gaol. He was imprisoned and ultimately executed there in 1880. His death mask is also displayed, providing a chilling experience for those who visit the Old Melbourne Gaol.

3. What is a Watch House, and why is it linked with this Gaol?

A watch house was historically a local lock-up where prisoners were kept before being transferred to a larger jail or before a court appearance. The City Watch House is closely linked with the Old Melbourne Gaol as it served as the Gaol’s remand centre. The Watch House tour gives you the experience of what it was like to be arrested and locked up in late 19th-century Melbourne.

4. What’s special about the Night Tour at the Old Melbourne Gaol?

The Night Tour, or the Hangman’s Night Tour, is an exclusive feature of the Old Melbourne Gaol tours. Visitors confront the Gaol’s ghostly history, including tales of prisoners, infamous criminals and the restlessness of spirits said to still linger inside the Gaol. It brings one step back in time and uncovers the darker side of its history in a spellbinding night experience.


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