Captivating! 12 historical Australian gaols to check out

Arguably the most well-known prison in Australia, the Port Arthur Historic Site in TAS is bursting with stories from the past.

If only the walls could talk. Well, it turns out they just about do.

Australia is dotted with historical gaols and similar sites that explode with captivating stories of a time gone by. From the spine-tingling to the fascinating, these yarns make for a memorable visit to an old lockup.

Break free from the standard and enter the gates of a heritage Australian gaol on your next BIG4 escape.


Adelaide Gaol, SA

Having been in operation for almost 150 years, Adelaide Gaol possesses more stories than your average library. The best way to take it all in is on a guided tour, which extensively retraces the gaol’s long history. For a hair-raising experience, sign up for a ghost tour and hear spooky yarns about this haunted site.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 West Beach Parks or Marion Holiday Park.

With almost 150 years of history contained within its walls, Adelaide Gaol is full of stories. Credit: Penny Wilkinson, Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society Inc

Port Arthur Historic Site, TAS

Arguably the most well-known prison in Australia, the Port Arthur Historic Site bursts with tales from its rich convict past. The admission fee includes an introductory tour where yarns both educate and entertain, before the iconic grounds are yours to explore at your own leisure. Or grab a ticket to one of the themed activities, which enhance a visit to this World Heritage attraction and include riveting ghost tours.

Visit when… staying at NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park on a daytrip from BIG4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park.

The Port Arthur Historic Site in TAS is a World Heritage attraction and has a range of themed activities to participate in during your visit. Credit: Alistair Bett

Richmond Gaol, TAS

Almost two centuries’ worth of history is jammed into the walls of Richmond Gaol, which can be gleaned on a self-guided tour. View a series of spaces that highlight the harsh conditions that prisoners were subject to: convict-holding rooms, a flogging yard, and solitary confinement cells among others. The gaol belies the charm of this beautiful English-style village, reached with ease from Hobart.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park.

With almost two centuries' worth of history confined in its walls, Richmond Gaol in TAS is well worth a visit. Credit: Tourism Tasmania, Kathryn Leahy

Cascades Female Factory, Hobart, TAS

Little more than ruins exist at this World Heritage site but visitors can still leave with a vivid picture of how this facility once was. This is achieved through a dramatic theatre-style tour, Her Story, which cleverly and powerfully details what it would’ve been like for those convict women condemned to life here. It’s not to be missed when at this leading Hobart attraction.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park.

Discover what life would have been like for convict women at Cascades Female Factory in TAS. Credit: Tourism Tasmania, Jonathan Wherrett

Fremantle Prison, WA

This imposing limestone creation was built by convicts during the 1850s, and its past is as engrossing as its façade. Join a fascinating guided tour to learn about the many roles of this World Heritage property, including as a place for executions as well as an internment camp during two World Wars. A superb selection of enthralling tours is on offer, with themes that include great escapes. Or explore the various tunnels that snake underneath this must-visit complex.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Perth Midland Tourist Park

Take a guided tour of Fremantle Prison in WA to learn about the many fascinating roles of this World Heritage building.

Albany Convict Gaol, WA

Take yourself for a stroll around the Albany Convict Gaol to retrace the extensive past of this enchanting heritage site. Built in 1852, this facility had many uses, and these are thoroughly detailed through various displays and old photographs that are placed throughout this top attraction.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Emu Beach Holiday Park or BIG4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park.

Retrace the steps of prisoners past at Albany Convict Gaol. Credit: Albany Historical Society (Inc)

Maitland Gaol, NSW

These confines hold a wealth of history, which is shared via a self-guided audio tour or through a top-notch selection of themed tours. These include the gripping Crimes of Passion tour as well as those dedicated to great escapes and ghosts. A visit to this Hunter Valley attraction is not to be missed.

Visit when…staying at Ingenia Holidays Hunter Valley.

A themed tour of Maitland Gaol is a must-do. Credit: Mark James Edge Photography

Old Wentworth Gaol, NSW

More than 135 years of history are tucked into the walls of Old Wentworth Gaol, a striking, well-preserved brick building. Its great condition enables you to easily slide into the shoes of a prisoner to imagine life as it once were, soaking up a riveting past on a self-guided tour.

Visit when…staying at a BIG4 park in Mildura.

Slip into the shoes of a prisoner and experience life as it once was at Old Wentworth Gaol in NSW. Credit: Roberto Seba

Old Dubbo Gaol, NSW

Delve into the absorbing history of Old Dubbo Gaol, which operated for close to 120 years. Self-guided and guided tours combine with theatrical experiences, or join a thoroughly entertaining night tour. Head to the watchtower for a great view of this complex, check out the hangman’s kit and gallows, or increase the chill factor by stepping into a pitch-black solitary confinement cell.

Visit when…staying at a Dubbo City Holiday Park.

Combine self-guided tours with theatrical experiences and you're in for a real experience at Old Dubbo Gaol in NSW. Credit: Destination NSW

Trial Bay Gaol, South West Rocks, NSW

Although this site has been reduced to ruins, guided tours bring its many stories to life in fascinating fashion. Learn about the gaol’s rich past, including failed projects and its role as an internment camp during World War I. However, one of the biggest drawcards has as much to do with the present as the past: the coastal views from this attraction are breathtaking, particularly from the sentry’s lookout.

Visit when…staying at NRMA South West Rocks Holiday Resort.

With stunning coastal views complementing the fascinating history of the prison itself, Trial Bay Gaol in NSW is well worth checking out.

Fannie Bay Gaol, Darwin, NT

Retrace the footprints of a diverse selection of prisoner groups with a self-guided tour around this compelling site. In use for more than a century, the gaol has retained the gallows that were used for the last execution in the Northern Territory, which took place in 1952. Please note: the gaol has limited opening times during the wet season (November-April).

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Howard Springs Holiday Park.

Visit the site of the last execution in the Northern Territory, Fannie Bay Gaol. Credit: Fannie Bay Gaol image courtesy of Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Old Melbourne Gaol, VIC

Infamous as the setting for the hanging of bushranger Ned Kelly and home to various other ‘celebrity’ prisoners, Old Melbourne Gaol is brimming with stories from a time gone by. By day, self-guided tours lift the lid on the gaol’s extensive history and provide access to the police watch house. By night, ghost and hangman tours at selected times are among the experiences that enhance the chills and thrills of a visit to this leading Melbourne attraction.

Visit when…staying at a BIG4 park in Melbourne.

With Ned Kelly and a range of other famous prisoners previously calling Old Melbourne Gaol home, you're sure to come across a story or two when visiting. Credit: Old Melbourne Gaol

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