School holiday ideas – Old Melbourne Gaol – a family review!

With school-holiday-boredom looming after Christmas and New Years, we parents need to find some fun activities for the family to do together – fast! In our Old Melbourne Gaol review, we’ll show you what’s fun – and what to avoid with young kids!

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It’s time to find some easy school-holiday outings to entertain the whole family. The Old Melbourne Gaol has long been a popular tourist attraction – so let’s take a closer look to see what it has to offer families….

One of the immense outer walls of the Old Melbourne Gaol

One of the immense outer walls of the Old Melbourne Gaol

The Old Melbourne Gaol and City Police Watch House

If you’ve visited Glenrowan or any of the other numerous Ned Kelly historic sites  (perhaps like we did on our way down to Melbourne during our Victorian road trip last year), then visiting the Old Melbourne Gaol makes for a great wrap-up of the famous Kelly story.

The long, narrow balconies feature cell after cell of stories...

The long, narrow balconies feature cell after cell of stories…

There you can view the exact place where the infamous bush ranger Ned Kelly, was hung. Gruesome perhaps, but of course that’s exactly what primary-school-aged children love – the gory bits!

The spot where Ned Kelly was hung at Old Melbourne Gaol

The spot where Ned Kelly was hung at Old Melbourne Gaol

But there’s more to the Gaol than just Ned – here you can also wander about at-will, checking out numerous tiny prison cells and climbing several stories up old steel stairs and along extensive balconies (be sure to keep toddlers firmly in-hand and young children under close supervision – staircases are steep and railings, whilst safe, are rather narrow!).

A guide explained what each item in this display case was originally used for - including the birch whip seen here!

A guide explained what each item in this display case was originally used for – including the birch whip seen here!

You can read tales of the actual prisoners of yesteryear in different cells – including Ned Kelly’s cell, of course!

There’s some audio-visual film shown on the walls of a cell or two as well, which is always great to capture the attention of busy kids – let’s face it, trying to read history off wall placards is difficult when you have kids racing around like excited squirrels from one display to the next!

Luckily there is also the odd guide dotted around to explain just what went on and where – like this case full of interesting Gaol paraphernalia.

As already mentioned, the Ned Kelly’s hanging area is a major feature of course, and this is where you can stand and view a reproduction of the Ned Kelly hangman’s noose – and even get a photo with the noose around your own neck if you like!

While you are there, don’t miss the opportunity to get a photo of the kids dressed up in some mock-Ned Kelly amour and helmet, located right next to the hanging site – that is if you can lift the heavy iron armor plates over their heads – because it really does feel like it weighs a ton!

The kids can try on some reproduction Ned Kelly armour for photos!

The kids can try on some reproduction Ned Kelly armour for photos!

The City Police Watch House Tour

The City Police Watch House Experience is fun and fascinating

The City Police Watch House Experience is fun and fascinating

The City Police Watch House is located right next door to the Old Melbourne Gaol. Here they run a rather fun tour experience which is great for adults and older kids. During the tour, you are treated just like a prisoner!

The City Police Watch House with its lock-up cells

The City Police Watch House with its lock-up cells

The female police officer who conducted our tour “arrested” us! She allocated us our alleged crimes (Brooke, 10, was apparently caught driving without a licence!), then told us all off soundly and split us into groups of women or men. Then we were locked into a pitch-black cell for a minute! It’s a little spooky to say the least, even though you are sat with several other “fellow prisoners”!

Young kids? It can be a little spooky!

I say this tour is suitable for older children, because whilst my 10yo was half scared/half thrilled, Samantha my 8yo was a bit frightened – she really thought we were in trouble! When the cell we were locked in with our other “inmates” went dark, both Samantha and another child on the tour were quite worried! The Gaol does warn the tour may confronting for children on their website – it’s good advice if perhaps you have children under-ten, or sensitive kids.

Samantha (right) was still a little nervous of our arresting Police officer at the end of our tour!

Samantha (right) was still a little nervous of our arresting Police officer at the end of our tour!

During the tour you also get to check out the old exercise yards, plus see more audio-visual jail stories too. After being “locked up” we were allowed to roam the cells – the girls decided the padded cell was the best one – and proceeded to go mad in there!

I always knew they were crazy - Brooke and Samantha go mad in a padded cell!

I always knew they were crazy – Brooke and Samantha go mad in a padded cell!

You can see video projected in cells in both the Watch House and Gaol

You can see video projected in cells in both the Watch House and Gaol

Then at the end of the City Police Watch House Tour you get the opportunity to take “line-up” photos of your family with prisoner i.d. numbers – all tour members were eager to have their turn at this – plus it’s great material for kid’s future 21st birthday parties too!

Souvenir Gift Shop

At the end of your visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol and City Police Watch House visit you exit through the gift shop – a great place to grab some unusual souvenirs.

The kids had me talked into buying a pair of handcuffs until I found out that if you lose the key, you’re stuck for good! I reckoned that it would have taken the kids about 5 minutes before they managed to lock themselves together and lose the key. I opted to buy some ice creams instead!

The Old Melbourne Gaol is a fascinating and authentic look into the past, which also just happens to entertain and educate the kids at the same time – bonus! This historic Melbourne attraction is a great destination for the school holidays, and well-worth a visit.

Guilty of trying to convince their mother to buy real handcuffs!

Guilty of trying to convince their mother to buy real handcuffs!

 Old Melbourne Gaol Important Info

Admission price

(as at December 2015)
$25 Adult
$20 Concession
$13.50 Child (5 to 15 years)
$55 Family (2 adults + 2 children.

Location of Old Melbourne Gaol

377 Russell Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Contact details

Phone: 03 8663 7228
Email: info@oldmelbournegaol.com.au

How to get there

By Train – Melbourne Central Station.
By Tram – Catch the free City Circle tram no.35 and get off at stop 7 (corner of La Trobe and Russell Streets) or just ask the conductor – they’re really friendly on these brown tourist trams!
The Old Melbourne Gaol is  2 minutes walk from either the tram or train.

Have you been to the Old Melbourne Gaol? What did you think – did your family enjoy it? Tell us in the comments below…

2 Responses so far.

  1. We didn’t make it to the Gaol last time we were in Melbourne but I’ll be making sure we go there next time…it looks awesome!

    • LetsGoMum says:

      It is a lot of fun, and really interesting – it would have been good to have been able to read some more of the stories, but of course kids aren’t that patient!

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About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
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