During the school holidays when you visit the Old Melbourne Gaol you’re invited to “Escape the Gaol” by cracking the code! This fun activity book is suitable for 9+ to complete with a friend, or younger kids with the help of an adult.
When: during the Victorian school holidays
Where: Old Melbourne Gaol, 377 Russell Street MELBOURNE
Cost: Included with entry, ticket information here.
Visiting the Old Melbourne Gaol is quite an adventure! It’s not just strolling through old buildings; as part of your entry fee you are also able to take advantage of the Watch House Experience and a visit into the Old Magistrates’ Court – both of which I can highly recommend as it really helps set the scene for your visit of the Gaol. Allow about two hours for your visit.
We started with the Watch House Experience. The Watch House is where anyone who has been arrested is held, waiting to go in front of the Magistrate to be processed. As part of our experience, we were lined up against a wall inside and briefed as inmates by a Sargent – the kids absolutely loved this, especially when I was given a card and asked to read out my name and crimes. We then got to experience what being locked up in a cell for the night (as many as 12 would be locked up together for the night in a very small space) and also had some time in the yard where inmates spent their days. It was incredibly small and astounding to think that it was still operating in 1994!
We then visited the Magistrates’ Court – our visit here included a guide explaining how the court worked and who some of the famous criminals were who had passed through the doors. The kids also had the opportunity to dress up as lawyers and judges, and there was some additional reading materials on display.
From here we headed into the main part of the Old Melbourne Gaol and the kids collected their Escape the Gaol booklets and took off. There was plenty to explore and many of the cells have been set up as mini-museums, featuring different parts of history and stories of inmates. You will need to allow an hour to properly discover all the nooks and crannies – and if you were to read all the display material I suspect it would take much longer. It took the kids about 45 minutes to “crack” their code books.