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Spooky experience at Adelaide Gaol

Thursday, March 5, 2009
You'd never imagine the genteel city of Adelaide had a spooky side, but venture five minutes from the CBD and get ready for a spine-tingling experience in the City of Churches at the Adelaide Gaol.

The old building, one of South Australia's premier heritage sites, is open to visitors who, these days, have the freedom to leave when they wish, unlike the 300,000 prisoners incarcerated there during the gaol's 147 year run. It is fascinating to see 19th-century architecture, original cellblocks, the hanging tower, gallows, yards and prisoner graves.

Built by the River Torrens and controversial from inception, its bold plan incorporated the latest in overseas gaol design. In 1841 it received much criticism for the lavish expenditure, which put strain on the colony's finances, and unnecessary size, resulting in work being halted for six years. Two of the four planned watchtowers didn't eventuate. When the gaol finally opened, it operated until 1988.

The radial plan meant access to cellblocks and exercise yards was from one central point. The stark cells, barbed wire and stone masonry are greatly contrasted today by sweeping city views.

The three storey cell blocks in Yard Two housed female prisoners who did laundry and made and repaired gaol clothing. In 1969 the women were transferred to a dedicated female rehabilitation centre.

Yard Four has original cell buildings. It was an ablutions cleaning area used to clean buckets given to prisoners for use in cells overnight.

The cell block in Yard Six was designed with cells facing inwards. It was built following the demolition of earlier cell blocks. Most of the original slate floors were replaced by concrete.

Slate flagstones were easily removed by prisoners who had plenty of time for creative and illegal activities, including hiding alcoholic brew!

During a torchlight tour, you will hear about, and maybe even see or feel, the ghost of the gaol's first governor, William Baker Ashton. People say they hear very heavy footsteps and the sound of furniture being moved.


Thebarton, five minutes from Adelaide's CBD.


Adelaide Gaol Torchlight Tours take around two hours and are $20 per person. They operate any evening but advance bookings are essential. The gaol is open for visit every day except Saturday between 11am and 5pm. Last entry is 3.30pm. Cost is $8.50 for adults and $21 for a family.

Virgin Blue has flights to Adelaide.

One-way fares from:

  • Melbourne $59
  • Sydney $119
  • Brisbane $135
  • Perth $195
  • Darwin $255

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at March 5, 2009 and are subject to change.

Prices correct at March 5, 2009.

For further information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789

Adelaide Gaol
18 Gaol Road
Thebarton 5031
Ph: (08) 8231 4062
Fax:(08) 8231 8975

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