Prison cell holiday – do the time without the crime

If these walls could talk, would they ponder how life has changed so drastically that today people pay money for a prison cell holiday – to stay in a place they once would have given anything to leave?

Recently plans were announced for one of Melbourne’s latest hotel developments on the site of Victoria’s Pentridge Prison in the northern suburb of Coburg.

Melbourne's old Pentridge Prison will be transformed into an apartment hotel.
Plans are underway to transform Melbourne’s old Pentridge Prison into an apartment hotel.

Once home to some of Victoria’s most notorious criminals, today it is undergoing an urban redevelopment that will include a contemporary apartment hotel.

The 120-room Adina Apartment Hotel, due to open in 2020, will offer guests the chance to stay in an historic converted prison cell, while being able to indulge in a day spa and indoor pool.

It got me thinking -Where can a law-abiding citizen enjoy a prison cell holiday in 2016?

South Australia

The Old Mount Gambier Gaol

The Old Mount Gambier Gaol
The Old Mount Gambier Gaol

Planning a group escape? The Old Mount Gambier Gaol, built in 1866, can house up to 73 ‘inmates’ across a range of rooms including ex-prison cells, warden’s offices and residences. And all of this is surrounded by a 15m high brick wall.

The prison closed in 1995 and as well as providing accommodation for holidaymakers and school camps, it has become a popular live music venue.

Gladstone Gaol

The historic Gladstone Gaol
The historic Gladstone Gaol

Offering a more back-to-basics style of accommodation is the Gladstone Gaol, about 30 minutes from Port Pirie. The prison opened to the public in 1978, some 100 years after it first took prisoners.

This heritage-listed facility was also used to intern Italians and Germans during WW II. Stay in the cells budget style (BYO bedding) or for an extra cost, on made-up beds

The Old Police Station, Port Elliot

The Old Police Station at Port Elliot.
The Old Police Station at Port Elliot.

The Old Police Station at Port Elliot was built in 1853 and is now a holiday home on the rental market, sleeping up to 10 people in 4 bedrooms, including the women’s holding cell and the resident policeman’s office.

Today, the prisoners exercise yard is an enclosed courtyard, while you can enjoy luxuries that prisoners could only dream of in one of the original cells, now a luxury bathroom.

NSW

Cockatoo Island

Stay overnight on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour.
Stay overnight on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour.

Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour and is today accessible by ferry. But in its early days, no one willingly went there.

It was chosen as the site of convict penal settlement in 1839 and unlike the accommodation on offer today, conditions were dreadful. Convict internment ended in 1869, after which it became an industrial school for girls, then a prison in 1888.

Trial Bay Gaol camping ground

Camping at Trial Bay campground.
Camping at Trial Bay campground.

Love camping? Considered camping under the stars – and the nearby ruins of a penal facility? This is exactly what you can do at the Trial Bay Gaol camping ground on the NSW North Coast.

The prison opened in 1886 – 13 years after work started on its construction. Prison labourers were housed there to build the failed Trial Bay breakwater scheme. During World War I, it was used to intern people of German descent.

Western Australia

Fremantle Prison YHA

Fremantle Prison YHA
Fremantle Prison YHA

The World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison has been taking paid guests since 2015, when the Fremantle Prison YHA opened, offering the opportunity to stay in restored cells within the former women’s prison and guard’s cottages.

The prison dates back to 1829, when convict labour was introduced and it remained open until 1991.

Tasmania

Port Arthur Motor Inn

Port Arthur Motor Inn
Port Arthur Motor Inn

While you can’t actually bunker down within the historic Port Arthur ruins, the Port Arthur Motor Inn is located within the historic site property and offers interconnecting rooms for families.

Comfortable self-contained accommodation is on offer and you can walk to and from the evening ghost tour directly from your room – if you are game enough!

Maria Island

Maria island penetentiary
Maria island penetentiary

Separated from Tasmania by a stretch of water that today takes 40 minutes to cross, it is evident why Maria Island was chosen for a penal colony in 1825.

For a real get-away from it experience, you can stay in the historic Penitentiary, part of the original Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island on Tasmania’s east Coast.

Housing convicts from 1830, today you can sleep in their rooms in basic bunkhouse – style. This is a true BYO experience as there are no shops, no power and no running water.

Victoria

George Kerferd Hotel, Beechworth

Grounds of the George Kerferd Hotel.
Grounds of the George Kerferd Hotel.

Although not a prison as such, the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, also known as Mayday Hills, was built to contain and condemn those suffering from mental illness.

Dating back to 1867, at the time a “lunatic” could be admitted to an asylum at the request of a friend, relative or acquaintance, with medical certificates written by two medical practitioners.

Today the beauty of the site, with its heritage gardens, belies the tragic lives of those who were forced to live out their lives here. There are 2 historic accommodation options available on the iconic site, including the George Kerferd Hotel or the retro Linaker Hotel, once the nurses’ quarters.

Further afield

Jailhouse Accommodation

Jailhouse Accommodation in Christchurch.
Jailhouse Accommodation in Christchurch.

Built in 1874 with 60cm thick concrete, this Christchurch building was used as a prison, women’s prison and military camp until it closed in 1999. In 2005, the building was purchased and renovated by a local couple who now operate it as a successful backpacker hostel.

Alcatraz

Germany's Alcatraz Hotel
Germany’s Alcatraz Hotel

It is called Alcatraz, but is located in Kaiserslautern, a city in south-west Germany, less than 2 hours’ drive from Frankfurt. Built in 1867 and closing in 2002, guests can now stay in the old cells – with some extra creature comforts thrown in.

Hotel Katajanokka

Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki
Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki

Dating back to 1837, Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki was originally built as a prison, closing its doors to detainees in 2002 and re-opening to those who pay to stay in 2007. Sleep in beautiful designer cell blocks, with cute prison stripe slippers offered in some premium rooms, and eat your buffet breakfast in the funky refurbished prison canteen.

Langholmen

Stockholm’s Langholmen Hotel.
Stockholm’s Langholmen Hotel.

Dating back to the 17th century and described as having a “captivating charm”, Stockholm’s Langholmen is actually an island that closed its doors as a prison in 1975. Today it is a hotel, hostel and conference centre where you can sleep in refurbished cells.

Huis van Bewaring Hotel

The Huis van Bewaring Hotel in the Netherlands
The Huis van Bewaring Hotel in the Netherlands

The Huis van Bewaring Hotel in the Netherlands opened in 1928 to house people sentenced at nearby courts. The prison closed in 1995 and has been operating as a hotel since 2004. Today the hotel is a blend of traditional prison with contemporary European style and actually looks quite stunning inside.

Malmaison Oxford

Malmaison Oxford in the UK
Malmaison Oxford in the UK

Designer prison chic is all the go at the Malmaison Oxford in the UK. This boutique hotel is located in an old castle prison and has undergone a stunning transformation. Given its luxury offerings, this looks like a perfect place to remain detained.

Jailers Inn

The historic Jailer’s Inn, south of Louisville
The historic Jailer’s Inn, south of Louisville

The historic Jailer’s Inn, south of Louisville, dates back to 1874 and offers the opportunity to do time in beautifully decorated historic rooms in part of the old Nelson County Jail that operated until 1987. If you really want to get into the theme of it, the Jail Cell has been set up to resemble a cell, decked out in black and white and housing two original bunks.

The Liberty Hotel

The Liberty Hotel in Boston.
The Liberty Hotel in Boston.

The Liberty Hotel in Boston is jail-house glam at its best. This hotel is pure luxury with the aptly-named Clink Restaurant. The architecturally-designed building dates back to 1851. The prison closed in 1973 after as prisoners revolted against poor living conditions and the prison was declared unfit and in violation of the inmates’ constitutional rights.

Have you experienced a prison cell holiday? Would you recommend it?

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Family friendly ghost tour impresses younger visitors

  • All photos sourced from the websites provided
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2 thoughts on “Prison cell holiday – do the time without the crime”

  1. Wow I had no idea there were so many options. Touring Alcatraz gave me the chills so I don’t know that I’d line up to stay in a jail. Great list

    1. Thanks Julie. It is an interesting list and there are certainly a range of options. I agree, not sure if I’d be brave enough to stay over although some of them look quite tempting 🙂

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