Australia – In a category all of its own, ghost tours and trails have always been a bit of an enigma amongst travellers. Is it just another tourist gimmick or is it a relevant authentic cultural experience? While the jury is still out on that, one can’t deny the unexplained attraction towards the paranormal that we have, as evidenced by the hugely popular trails catered for the spooky and ghostly.
Join us as we take you through the walls and down the eerie passageways of five of Australia’s most-terrifying visitor attractions. Beware. You’ve been warned.
1. Quarantine Station – Popularly known as Q station, this hotspot has been featured on Ghost Hunters International, and is reputed to be one of the most haunted sites in Australia. During the 1830s right up to 1984 migrant ships which arrived in Sydney with suspected contagious disease were anchored inside North Head, and passengers and crew were off-loaded into quarantine to protect local residents from the threat of infection. After several weeks most passengers were released to settle as Australian residents but some never left…
It is said that the spirits of those who didn’t ‘make’ it still linger around Q station and people who have visited the then quarantine premises have described an unexplainable chill running over them, especially in the shower block amongst the rows of unused cubicles. For ladies planning on visiting the site, beware for a ghost who lurks within and is rumoured to have an eye for the ladies. Watch out for a licking feeling around the ankles!
Join one of the guided tours and listen to stories of the other world experiences and the strange things that have happened to former staff and visitors to the site!
Quarantine Station, North Head Scenic Drive, Manly, New South Wales 2095; +61 (0) 2 9466 1500; tours $49 (US$53) for adults, $44 for concessions; www.qstation.com.au
2. Fremantle Prison – 21 years ago, the Fremantle Prison was still a functioning penitentiary and housed many of Australia’s hardened criminals. As hard as this fact is to stomach, visitors to this ‘establishment’ who walk around the building’s cobbled yards and eye the iron grids over all the windows, are reminded that less than three decades ago, the Prison was a place of hangings, floggings, dramatic convict escapes and prisoner riots.
Built as a convict barracks by the convicts themselves in the 19th century, it is now Western Australia’s sole UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inmates included imperial convicts, colonial prisoners, enemy aliens, prisoners of war and maximum-security detainees. Visitors can explore the prison by eerie torchlight but, while there’s no shortage of ghostly tales set in its grounds, the evening tours gives folks the opportunity to learn more about the ghastly prison conditions and the many prisoner riots that happened throughout the Fremantle’s history.
Don’t be expecting any ghostly sightings or paranormal episodes as you wander around the prison grounds and solitary confinement but visits to the gallows, whipping post, and morgue, combined with the stories of those who died there will chill even the hardest of souls.
Fremantle Prison, 1 The Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160; tours $25, $21; +61 (0) 8 9336 9200; www.fremantleprison.com.au
3. Port Arthur – A small town and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula, in Tasmania, Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most significant heritage areas. This World Heritage site is one out of the eleven remnant penal sites originally built within the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries on fertile Australian coastal strips. From 1833, until 1853, it was home to the hardest of convicted British and Irish criminals who were no strangers to prisons back in Britain. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here, a quite undesirable punishment considering Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.
This historical site has its own celebrity – ‘Reverend George’. Sighted more than a dozen times over 150 years around the grounds of Port Arthur, the good Reverend is believed to have died in the 1870s. Another less liked and perhaps infamous celebrity is John Gould, a particularly nasty character who’s been spotted leering at people over the years. Over the years, there have been more than 2,000 reports of unexplained activity – sightings of ghosts and strange emotional reactions to the buildings and what not.
Real or make-believe. We leave that up to you but paranormal activity aside, Port Arthur is a well preserved excerpt of Australia’s convict past and occupies a stunning corner of Tasmania which in our books, makes it worth a visit.
Port Arthur, Port Arthur Historic Site, Arthur Highway, Port Arthur, Tasmania 7182; tours $25, $15;+61 (0) 659 101; www.portarthur.org.au
4. Williamstown – A thriving hub of restaurants and bars, Williamstown remains one of the Victorian capital’s most appealing waterfront areas, with the city’s residents and tourists flocking to it to soak up the historic charm and the view on the waterfront. But long before all the glitz and splendour that one sees today, Williamstown was once a rambunctious hub of convicts, drunk sailors, and raucous ladies. And apart from the many historic buildings found here, this maritime village seems to have something else from the past – its former inhabitants.
Take a tour and hear stories of a famous surgeon who took more lives than the ones he saved and an opera singer who up till today still visits her favourite haunt. The stories go on and on but one thing appears to be certain in Melbourne’s first port, these apparitions do exist. From hidden lanes, abandoned morgues to disused morgues and forgotten cemeteries, these ghostly sightings have been reported by locals over the years.
Lantern Ghost Tours offers spooky tours of the atmospheric area every Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m.; tours $25, $15; +61 (0) 390 119; www.lanternghosttours.com
5. Adelaide Gaol – In operation from 1841 until 1988, Adelaide Gaol was the first permanent prison in South Australia and also holds the distinction of being one of the two oldest buildings still standing in South Australia. Having housed approximately 300,000 prisoners during its 147 years of operation, the goal is the longest continuously operating prison in Australia.
Reputed to be one of the most haunted sites in South Australia, one of the gaol’s more infamous former occupant is Governor William Baker Ashton who is said to have died on the premises. Apparently the good Governor was quite a large man and having died in his room, had to be hoisted down through the window using a pulley. This embarrassment is rumoured to be the reason why Governor William is still hanging around.
If you are just not that into the tour, then it’s a good thing that the gaol also has a museum where you can check out how the prisoners lived.
Adelaide Gaol, Adelaide Gaol, 18 Gaol Road, Thebarton, South Australia 5031; tours $20; +61 (0) 8 8231 4062; www.adelaidegaol.sa.gov.au