If you’ve ever fancied yourself a jailbird I’ve got good news for you. You can now experience life behind prison bars at YHA’s newest hostel – a converted wing of the UNESCO world heritage listed Fremantle Prison – but with the added bonus that you can leave whenever you want. Here’s what you need to know before you get yourself committed.
As with most YHAs Fremantle offers a mix of single, double, family and dorm rooms but note that if you want to stay in one of the converted cells you need to book make sure you don’t book a dorm. Even if you do decide to stay in a dorm the experience is still suitable prison-esque enough to satisfy your curiosity. I stayed in the 6-bed dorm with an en-suite bathroom (that slightly gave me the creeps) and there are bars on all of the windows for authenticity. Our bathroom also opened out on to the prison courtyard which is now a common area.
The hostel is quiet as I found Fremantle to be generally. It seems to attract a mix of backpackers and families, probably due to kids enjoying the novelty of staying in a prison. Walking around the building and exploring the common areas is a pretty cool experience let alone actually living in it for a few days. The facilities are also excellent despite the age of the site – most likely because it’s new but it seems like they’ve really listened to what travellers want in a hostel. Be sure to read the information on display on the walls as you walk around about the ex-female prisoners whose shoes you’re walking in (the converted wing is the women’s prison) and stories of the most infamous escape attempts from Fremantle.
While you’re next door you of course have to visit the prison itself. Entry to the courtyard and some public exhibition rooms is free but it’s worth taking a tour for a full sense of the history of the place. There are a range of different options including: two daylight tours covering different topics (if you book both you get a discount and you can do them both pretty much back to back); a tunnels tour which takes you down into the network of tunnels built between the prison and the town of Fremantle; or a torchlight tour which heads around the prison after dark.
If you’re staying overnight just next door it’s a great opportunity to take the torchlight tour, which I of course did as I enjoy a good spookfest. If you’re actually looking to be frightened you might be disappointed because it’s more amusing than spine-chilling, and mostly the tour just gives you the general history of the prison not the ghost stories you might be expecting from somewhere that is supposedly one of the most haunted places in WA. Still it’s a fun night and I recommend it! No spoilers on the actual scares but needless to say I did scream once or twice.