Pentridge may now be home to apartments, a luxury hotel, a cinema and restaurants but it used to house some of Victoria’s most infamous prisoners.
Head to Coburg, take a tour and stay for lunch or dinner. From history buffs to ghost hunters, Merri-bek truly has something for everyone. Download the new Trail Map At Your Leisure to see all the activities that are on offer.
Pentridge Prison Tours: Unveiling Pentridge’s haunting history
Step into the past and immerse yourself in the captivating story of Pentridge Prison. Established in 1851 to address the overcrowding issues of the Melbourne Gaol, Pentridge quickly gained notoriety as a fearsome correctional facility housing the most infamous criminals of Victoria (Ned Kelly, Chopper Read, Ronald Ryan). Its towering bluestone walls, reminiscent of a medieval castle, were purposefully designed to instil intimidation.
After joining forces with the Shayher Group, local businesses, historians and residents to preserve and commemorate Pentridge’s legacy, the National Trust launched Pentridge Prison Tours in April 2023. These tours are an extraordinary opportunity for visitors to explore previously restricted areas that have been off-limits for over 25 years.
With a unique combination of guided and self-directed components, the tours are equally popular with schools, locals and international visitors. Engaging and knowledgeable guides lead visitors through a captivating and profound journey that lasts approximately 90 minutes (combination tickets are also available for both B and H Division – allow 3.5 hours).
The B Division tour highlights key individuals such as Ronald Ryan, the last man executed in Australia. This immersive experience explores indigenous history in close collaboration with Torch, an organisation supporting indigenous artists. Authentic prison cells from the 1860s contain various artefacts such as weapons and contraband, while the remains of a Panopticon – a surveillance and punishment yard – are imposing. Pentridge is home to the largest structure of its kind, with only eight remaining in the world.
Immersive technology brings the experience to life via headphones, an iPod and projector screens. Bluetooth speakers are hidden throughout the prison and seamlessly adapt to location for an interactive and engaging tour experience, complete with first-hand accounts from former inmates, guards, chaplains and lawyers.
The H Division tour offers an eerie and untouched glimpse into the maximum-security unit, including 39 cells and six rock-breaking yards. These yards were where bluestone was painstakingly broken down by prisoners, leading to the creation of Coburg Lake. The haunting graffiti and poetry adorning the walls provide a poignant reminder of the lives lived within these walls.