Guide to visiting the Old Melbourne Gaol

Pentridge Prison exterior shot

Nyasha Jokomo

Posted January 24, 2024

The Old Melbourne Gaol stands as a somber yet captivating testament to the city's rich history. Visit the gaol to discover the fascinating stories that have unfolded within its walls.

Nestled in the heart of Melbourne, this iconic landmark, with its imposing bluestone walls and chilling corridors, offers a wealth of activities and experiences that cater to history enthusiasts, families, and thrill-seekers alike. It beckons visitors to delve into a bygone era, with tales of crime, punishment, and notorious individuals coming to life. Old Melbourne Gaol is owned by the National Trust, along with Pentridge Prison and Polly Woodside, which are also great to visit. 

From the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly to other lesser-known criminals, the gaol's cells once housed a diverse array of individuals. Visitors can trace the footsteps of these historical figures and gain insights into the legal system of the time. RACV Members save on Old Melbourne Gaol general admission tickets.

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about a day trip to Old Melbourne Gaol.

Everything you need to know about the Old Melbourne Gaol

What is the history of the Old Melbourne Gaol?

The Old Melbourne Gaol was established in 1845 and remains an integral part of Australia's history. Situated on Russell Street in Melbourne's CBD, this imposing structure functioned as a prison until 1924. The gaol was originally designed to hold both male and female inmates in separate wings. Its architecture is a masterpiece of Gothic design, characterised by its imposing facade, central guard tower, and austere cell blocks. The stark contrast between the gloomy interior and the outside world adds to the haunting allure of this historical site.

The gaol served not only as a place of punishment but also as a stage for significant moments in Australian legal history. Trials of notable criminals unfolded within its confines, leaving an indelible mark on the nation's legal narrative. During its operation, the Old Melbourne Gaol bore witness to several pivotal events that defined its legacy. One such event was the execution of the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly on November 11, 1880. Kelly's death by hanging drew extensive attention and remains a point of interest even today.

Many notorious figures called the Old Melbourne Gaol home during its operation. Along with Kelly, inmates included Frederick Bailey Deeming, a convicted murderer suspected of being Jack the Ripper, and Elizabeth Scott, the only woman ever executed in Victoria. The stories of these infamous prisoners contribute to the gaol's enduring allure.


Old Melbourne Gaol interior shot

The Old Melbourne Gaol's architecture is a masterpiece of Gothic design. Image: Getty

What tours, experiences and exhibitions can I expect?

Today, the Old Melbourne Gaol operates as a museum, preserving its original cells, gallows, and other artifacts. Visiting the gaol provides a captivating experience, shedding light on the harsh realities of prison life and revealing the fascinating stories that unfolded within its walls.

Explore the site where Ned Kelly faced trial. Interactive displays bring the famous bushranger's story to life, allowing visitors to delve into the complex circumstances that led to his demise. The gaol provides a nuanced exploration of his legacy, prompting reflection on justice, societal attitudes, and the impact of historical figures. Don't miss the chilling artifact – Ned Kelly's death mask.

Self-guided tours and exhibitions

Self guided audio tour – Daily 10am-5pm

A unique aspect of the Old Melbourne Gaol is the opportunity to see the original gallows, a grim reminder of the harsh penalties imposed on law-breakers.

Take your time exploring the curated artifacts displayed throughout the gaol with the self-guided audio tour. These relics provide tangible connections to the past, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of both inmates and guards.

History of the Women and Children of the Gaol – Daily 10am-5pm

The Women and Children of the Gaol exhibition offers a compelling exploration into a unique facet of the Old Melbourne Gaol's history. This exhibition is designed to illuminate the experiences and stories of the women and children who were once confined within the gaol's walls. Hear and read about the challenges and often untold stories of the female and juvenile inmates who found themselves facing the criminal justice system.

You'll also learn about the living conditions, daily routines, and the struggles faced by women and children during different historical periods within the gaol's operational years. 

Guided tours

The Escape Artists tour – Daily selected times 10:30am – 2:30pm (duration 45mins)

In this thoughtfully curated outdoor tour, an expert National Trust guide offers a distinctive perspective on the remnants of Melbourne's historic crime and justice precinct. The guide not only reveals architectural details but also weaves captivating narratives around some of Old Melbourne Gaol's most ingenious and intriguing residents. 

Life in the City Watch House – Daily selected times 11:30am – 3:45pm (duration 30mins)

Embark on an immersive journey where you'll truly feel the weight of 'the book being thrown at you'. Conducted by an experienced guide as your 'charge sergeant', visitors are actively 'arrested', offering them a first-hand encounter with the compelling reality of being confined within the historic Old City Watch House. This unique tour provides an authentic and engaging glimpse into the arresting experiences of the past, as well as the fascinating dynamics of law enforcement in Melbourne's history.

Night time tours

Hangman’s Night Tour – Selected nights of the week, 8pm-9pm

As daylight fades, the gaol becomes dark and atmospheric - perfect for evening tours such as the Hangman's Night Tour. This specialised night tour delves into the macabre accounts and haunted history associated with the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Due to the graphic nature of the tales, this immersive tour is not recommended for children under 16 years of age. If you have any concerns, contact the Old Melbourne Gaol directly.

Ghosts? What Ghosts? - Selected nights of the week 8pm – 9pm

The Old Melbourne Gaol Ghost Tour enables daring participants to delve into the mysterious and supernatural realms that linger within the gaol's cold stone walls. This uniquely haunting experience is led by seasoned guides with an intimate knowledge of the gaol's darker history, bringing forth tales of the unexplained, the eerie, and the haunted.

This night tour is conducted in the dark and includes confined spaces, and appropriate footwear is recommended. It is not recommended for children 12 years and under.


Old Melbourne Gaol exterior close up shot of walls with cell windows

This iconic landmark, with its imposing bluestone walls offers a wealth of experiences. Image: Getty

Is the Old Melbourne Gaol suitable for children?

The suitability of visiting the Old Melbourne Gaol is at the discretion of parents, as there may be content that could be confronting. School tours are designed for Year 5 students and above. The exhibits include references to punishment, death masks, and execution areas, which may be inapproriate for some visitors. If you have concerns, contact the Old Melbourne Gaol directly for more information.

Is the Old Melbourne Gaol wheelchair accessible?

The Old Melbourne Gaol has three levels and offers partial wheelchair accessibility. Unfortunately, due to its heritage status, the gaol does not feature lifts or ramps. About 80 per cent of the museum's information is conveniently located on the ground level for easy access. However, it's important to note that the cell doors have narrow openings, which may pose challenges for some wheelchairs that are too wide. Visitors with mobility concerns are advised to consider these factors when planning their visit to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Is there food and drink at the Old Melbourne Gaol?

The Old Melbourne Gaol does not have an onsite cafe, and the consumption of food and drinks is not permitted within any of the heritage-listed buildings on the site. The Gaol is located in Melbourne's CBD, which means there's a variety of nearby eateries to complement your experience at the gaol.

The City Watch House interior shot

Walk in the footsteps of the infamous outlaw, Ned Kelly, by exploring the site where he faced trial. Image: Getty

Essential information for visitors

If you're planning a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol, here's some essential information to ensure your experience is as enjoyable as possible.

What are the admission fees and opening hours?

The Old Melbourne Gaol is open every day from 10am to 5pm, including weekends and public holidays. However, it's advisable to check the website or contact the Old Melbourne Gaol directly for any updates or changes to the opening hours.

Ticket prices for individual guided tours and experiences can be found on the website.

The general admission fee for an adult is $35. A concession ticket costs $30, and a ticket for a child aged 5 to 15 is $22. A family ticket, which includes two adults and two children, costs $85, while a ticket for one adult and two children costs $65, with each additional child costing $10. National Trust members receive free general admission. Prices are subject to change, so check the Old Melbourne Gaol website for any changes.

RACV Members save on Old Melbourne Gaol tickets.

How do I get to the Old Melbourne Gaol? 

There are many ways to get to the Old Melbourne Gaol, which is located at 377 Russell Street, Melbourne. Use the arevo journey planner app to find the easiest and most convenient route. Trams 86 and 96 stop are nearby, and Parliament Railway Station is just a short walk away. If you prefer driving, there are paid parking options available in the vicinity.


RACV Members save on Old Melbourne Gaol general admission tickets.
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