The Old Mount Gambier Gaol is an exceptional hostel located on a quiet and safe street in the central area of this scenic country town. This hostel was a functioning English Prison from the late nineteenth century until a few decades ago, and was opened within the last few years as a hostel.
The hostel is located on quiet Margaret Street in Mount Gambier, South Australia, only a five-minute walk to the main street in the town. The area surrounding the hostel is very quiet and safe with plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants nearby, as well as tennis courts and an outdoor aquatic centre next door to the hostel. Most of the local attractions are only a short distance from the hostel, including the famous Blue Lake and the cave gardens, which are both about a ten-minute walk. Other local attractions include volcanic craters, lakes, and underground aquifers as well as caves and a sinkhole. The town of Mount Gambier is halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, right next to the Victorian border in South Australia, so it is an ideal stopover. The town provides the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, Grampians National Park, and the Coonawarra Wine Region. This hostel is best accessed by car as the public transport in regional Australia is not the best and it's only a short drive from the town centre.
Rooms and Bathrooms
The hostel contains a variety of rooms including twin, double, family, and mixed dorm rooms ranging from three to nine beds. The hostel is made up of several separate buildings that were the different cell blocks, which are enclosed by a fourteen-foot wall. The main entrance is the original wooden gate and it looks brilliant from the outside. Inside the hostel is just as good, with many original features kept in place to give it an authentic feel; it's clean and tidy too. The majority of the rooms are old converted cells, but there are a few rooms that are not for those that are a little squeamish. The rooms are cleaned before and after your stay and can be cleaned everyday if you wish.
We stayed in a double room, housed in the old long-term prisoners' cell block. The room is an old prison cell and still contains the original cell door. The room is pretty basic and includes a double bed, bedside tables, and en suite toilet as well as a small shelving unit to store clothes. The bed is very comfortable and there are plenty of pillows, linen, and blankets to keep you warm during your stay. The room is of an average size and the only downside is that the room is very cold. There is a small heating unit in there that the owner kindly put on prior to our arrival, which warmed it up for us -- this is a very nice touch.
The double room does have its own toilet and wash basin but there is a shared shower room in that part of the hostel. The toilet is in a separate room from the bed and is the original from the prison that has been restored. The shared shower room is very clean, tidy, and well lit, with several shower cubicles and two sinks with a large mirror above them. The showers are ok and there is a hook on the back of the cubicle door where you can hang your towel, as well as a bench inside the cubicle.
This hostel has three main common areas -- the kitchen, lounge/TV area, and some outside seating as well as the old exercise yards and the gardens too. The kitchen is the cleanest hostel kitchen that we have ever been into, with all the amenities you would expect -- cooker, microwave, toaster, kettle, and a fridge. There is also a table and chairs as seating in the kitchen and it is of a good size. The TV room contains a couple of sofas, a large table, and a television. The TV is a little too small for the room -- it could really do with a larger one. There are two different outdoor seating areas, one next to the lounge and the other is located by the big exercise yard. The outdoor seating is a few tables and chairs as well as a couple of heat lamps. The hostel offers free Wi-Fi, guided tours of the prison, and ample car parking out the front. The atmosphere of this hostel is very friendly -- you will meet lots of cool backpackers who are looking to party.
Overall, this is an outstanding hostel that is very quirky and unique; by retaining the original features, it gives you a totally different hostel experience. The atmosphere is very friendly, its clean and tidy, and the owners are incredibly helpful.