Geelong, gateway town to the Great Ocean Road, has many wonderful attractions, not the least of which is its gorgeous waterfront region. Dotted with trendy cafes and restaurants, central meeting point for a local market, site of the Bollard Trail, and home to the multi-million dollar carousel renovation project, the waterfront buzzes with the vibe of social activity on all levels. Ironically, just a few blocks away, is the location of one of the town’s more intriguing attractions: the old Geelong Gaol.
The gaol, which operated as a high-security prison as recently as 1991, (when it was officially closed), was first occupied in 1853 despite construction not finishing until 1864. It was built by convicts using bluestone which was considered the strongest material at the time using a design based on the Pentonville Prison in England Security posts.
The Old Geelong Gaol housed inmates in small cells with no heating and no sewerage system in place. Some of its prisoners were hanged, the most famous of which was James Murphy who bludgeoned a police officer to death at the Warrnambool Court House.
Several cells of the period which exemplify their use have been recreated or highlighted including those used when prisoners lost their privileges, and in Cell 47, there is a painting depicting a “Window to Freedom” illustration on one wall. The watchtower is well-worth a visit if you have time as it overlooks both the cells and the grounds.
The historic building has been the centre of attention over the past few years as rumours that it is haunted have come to light. It appeared on Haunted Australia in 2007 together with eye-witness accounts of unexplained phenomena. Tours can be booked if you would like to share in this experience, though children under 5 are not permitted to join them.