Last week my partner and I decided to head up to Old Maitland Gaol, which is roughly a 30 - 45 minute drive out of Newcastle. The gaol is set in East Maitland and is a bit tricky to get to as you have to go through quite a few backstreets to find it. The gaol is open every day 9am - 4pm and has a range of tours that they offer.
Maitland Gaol originally opened back in 1848 and was home to some pretty scary, tough criminals. The gaol housed criminals such as Ivan Milat, the Backpack Murderer serial killer, and also Neddy Smith, underworld serial killer. This gaol was operational for 150 years then was closed due to the security not meeting the guidelines or standards. All inmates were transferred to other gaols around Australia.
Maitland Gaol offers many different ways to view the historic site. You are able to go in any day and for $14 - $17 a person and get a self-guided audio tour. This kind of tour means that the people at reception give you an iPod and headset each with tracks and a map with corresponding numbers. Each number you click on tells you a bit about where you are. For example, if you stand in the "main entrance" to the gaol, the audio track (number 24) will match the map (number 24) and this will tell you about the hangings that happened in the archway over the many years.
The gaol also has:
Sleepover Tours - where you get a night-time guided tour and you stay the night in a cell. Psychic Tours - where you get taken around the gaol with a psychic (this is pretty much a ghost tour). Ex-Inmate Tours - where you get taken around the gaol in a group with an ex-inmate of the gaol and many more kinds of tours.
Come down and check out the gaol one day (or even one night if you are brave enough). It is very interesting and extremely educational. It isn't like walking through anyone's past but more like walking through a replica town - I got a weird feeling in some of the cells but go and check it out for yourself.