Forget about stunning beaches and finding Nemo.
Australia is known for its beautiful beaches, colorful marine parks, unique wildlife, and burning hot sun…and you’ll find plenty of all that when you visit. Another common vision of Australia is its dangerous animals and insects. But if you think the scariest things found in Oz are great white sharks, venomous snakes, and massive spiders, think again. There are countless souls trapped in historic buildings, parklands, and underground caverns waiting for their chance to scare the living daylights out of visitors. If you’re up for the thrill, check out these haunted places around Australia (and take a spare pair of undies with you).
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WHERE: Fremantle, Western Australia
The port city of Fremantle near Perth is a hip hive of art, craft beer, and quirk. It also has an extensive convict history that dates back to 1850 when the first prisoners arrived from England. The jailbirds needed somewhere to live, so they were put to work to build their own quarters, effectively known as The Establishment. Between 1855 and 1991, the prison housed thousands of criminals and the stories aren’t pretty. In normal times, guided tours are available throughout the day and night when visitors can walk the cell blocks and hear of the horrors and hauntings of Fremantle Prison.
INSIDER TIPLocated in the former women’s sector of the prison is the YHA Fremantle Prison where you can opt to sleep in a cell if you dare.
WHERE: Babinda, Queensland
Just south of Cairns in tropical North Queensland, there’s a beautiful nature walk through the rainforest that brings you to a pool of water known as Devil’s Pool. The waterhole is labeled dangerous because several men have drowned here since 1959. Here’s why, according to lore: Aboriginal legend tells a story of a young, married woman who fell in love with a dashing young man from a visiting tribe. They ran away together but were found by their tribe leaders in the rainforest. They were torn apart and the man was forced to leave, but the woman refused to go home with her people. Instead, the broken-hearted woman threw herself into the rocky pool while crying out for her lover to return to her. Her spirit remains there in the Babinda Boulders and Devil’s Pool where it’s said you can still hear her weeping.
A Real Ghost Town
WHERE: Walhalla, Victoria
The tiny town of Walhalla in rural Victoria looks as quaint as anything during daylight hours. But when the sun goes down, this former gold mining town becomes dark and frightening (not just because there are limited street lights). Like many Aussie towns during the gold rush, Walhalla’s population grew to a whopping 4,000 residents hoping to strike it rich. But life was tough, and living conditions grim. If you’re looking for a classic gold mine ghost town worthy of a Scooby-Doo episode, make tracks for Walhalla (a term used in Norse mythology meaning “the hallway to heaven”). Saturday evening ghost tours are available.
National Film and Sound Archive
WHERE: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
You may think a film museum wouldn’t be haunted, but when the building used to be the Australian Institute of Anatomy and Canberra‘s first morgue, you’d better believe ghosts float around inside. If seeing is believing, check out the exhibit called Spirit Slides, a collection of old photographs showcasing captured ghosts on film by AJ Abbott, a Melbourne-based spiritualist in the early 1900s. Tours of the National Film and Sound Archive are hosted by Tim the Yowie Man, a genuine Aussie bloke with an appetite for the dark and disturbing. His tours are so scary, they’re restricted to ages 16 and older.
Monte Cristo Homestead
WHERE: Junee, New South Wales
Labeled Australia’s Most Haunted House, Monte Cristo Homestead is a magnet for ghost hunters visiting New South Wales. Located 267 miles from Sydney, this wonderfully restored mansion and property is packed full of trinkets, toys, and collections of yesteryear. Also, about 10 ghosts live inside. Bed-and-breakfast guests report creepy sightings that involve doors opening and items being moved with no explanation why. The owner hosts tours for hotel guests and day visitors in which he tells tales of murder and mayhem.
INSIDER TIPTake cash; there are no EFTPOS or bank machines here.
WHERE: Toowoomba, Queensland
Upon entering Vacy Hall, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a time warp. The Victorian-themed manor offers guests the chance to stay in old-world style (complete with canopy beds) and say hello to spirits that come out at night. One of the ghosts is reportedly the son of a past owner who was so distraught about being sent back to boarding school he killed himself. He didn’t want to leave home then, and he still refuses to leave.
INSIDER TIPWhen visiting haunted houses, take lots of photos, even if you think it’s too dark. It’s common for orbs and apparitions to be caught on camera.
WHERE: Port Arthur, Tasmania
Another premise teeming with convict history is Port Arthur, about an hour’s drive from Hobart. Some people believe the historic site to be Australia’s most actively haunted place. Reportedly, 1,000 prisoners died here during its 47 years as a penal colony. Now, visitors can walk the ruins and grounds in search of ghouls and ghosts.
WHERE: Blue Mountains, New South Wales
The local Gundungurra tribe call Jenolan “Binoomea”—a word that translates to “dark place.” Jenolan Caves is a series of 11 grottos with public access; they’re among the largest limestone caves in the world. If exploring dark caverns isn’t enough to get your heart pumping, know that you may encounter the spirit of James Wiburd, a former caretaker who’s said to linger underground. Guests of the nearby Caves House are treated to an after-dark ghost tour of the cave with only lanterns to light the way.
WHERE: Melbourne, Victoria
Princess Theatre is a grand landmark dating back to 1854, which happens to be the oldest entertainment centre on Australia’s mainland. When stage actor Frederick Federici had a massive heart attack as the curtain fell on his last performance in 1888, he refused to leave the premise. He’s haunted the Melbourne theatre ever since, but sources say he’s a friendly ghost.