This is number one on my list of favorite Melbourne attractions. Old Melbourne Gaol’s Crime & Justice Experience is a fascinating way to spend a few hours. Start off at the spooky old prison, with its stone walls, tiny cells, and bizarre collection of death masks and artifacts of 19th-century prison life. Among the 135 hangings that took place here was that of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly, in 1880. The scaffold where he was hanged still stands, and his gun, as well as a replica suit of homemade armor (similar to those used by his gang), is on display. The jail closed in 1924, and profiles of former prisoners give a fascinating insight into what it was like to be locked up here. Each Saturday, performances of “The Real Ned Kelly Story—Such a Life” are held at 12:30 and 2pm (included in your ticket price).
Then move next door for a guided tour of the former City Watch House to find out first-hand what it might have been like to spend time here. The lockup, which operated from 1908 to 1994, is just across the road from the scene of one of Melbourne’s most notorious crimes, the 1986 bombing of the Russell Street police station. There’s role-playing involved for everyone, but be warned, it can be quite challenging for children. During holiday times, you can also visit the adjacent former Magistrate’s Court and take part in a reenactment of Ned Kelly’s trial.
New ghost tours have been introduced, giving the brave a chance to explore the gaol by night. Run every Tuesday at 7:30pm, the tours are an alternative to the equally chilling “hangman” tours run by candlelight every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night. Not for the fainthearted or children under 12. Tickets cost A$30 for ghost tours and A$38 for hangman’s tours.