Incarcer-Vacations: 11 Prisons-Turned-Hotels

Culture/History, Featured, Offbeat — By Rachel Greenberg on October 30, 2010 at 8:30 am

2. Jail Backpackers – Mount Gambier, Australia

Image: avlxyz/Flickr

Some former jails go through massive renovations led by world renowned architects and top-notch designers. Others kick the prisoners out and open their doors to patrons the next day. The Jail Backpackers (website under construction) falls into the second category. Don’t expect witty jailhouse names or tongue and cheek references here…don’t even expect a private bathroom. The cells haven’t changed much since the prisoners left — except now the doors lock from the inside and the former chapel is used as a common room. The hostel is owned by Gary and Patricia Adams who seem to be an, “if it ‘aint broken, don’t fix it” kind of couple.

Image: avlxyz/Flickr

Image: avlxyz/FlickrImage: avlxyz/Flickr

If you’re dying to see more, take the $3.30 “grand tour” of the property where a “tour guide” takes patrons around to the solitary confinement cells, a mural painted by the inmates and the old kitchen, and much more:

Volleyball and tennis were played here on the weekends and at the end of each day. In the early days this was not a high security gaol, and sometimes the inmates would climb over the walls, run down to the pub, buy some grog, climb back inside and hide it to drink later. Did you know that tennis nets make good ladders?

An extra enticement for playing tennis was having friends on the outside who would throw in a doped tennis ball. (An ordinary tennis ball with a slit was stuffed with some drugs – mainly marijuana – in a plastic bag. The recipient would swallow these drugs, plastic and all, and retrieve it later in the privacy of his cell, as it passed through him! This ruse didn’t always go as planned, however, and at least one prisoner was very ill because the plastic bag had not been well enough seal; an overdose resulted!

Oh those prisoners, what tricksters!!

Tags: Australia, Avignon, boston, Canada, Courthouse Hotel Kimpinski, england, finland, Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet, france, Helsinki, Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel, Hostel Celica, Hotel Katajanokka, Istanbul, Karosta Prison, Langholmen Hotel, latvia, Leipaja, Ljubljana, London, Malmaison Oxford, Mount Gambier, Ottawa, Oxford, Sainte-Anne Prison, Slovenia, Stockholm, Sweden, The Jail Backpackers, The Liberty Hotel, Turkey, UK


  • some guy says:

    The Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge in Capetown, South Africa is another one.

  • Zvi Greenberg says:

    Near Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada there was a German prisoner of war camp during World War Two. Following the war, it was turned into the Gateway Hotel – a Jewish summer resort.

  • Vic says:

    My wife and I stayed at the Hostel Celica, Ljubljana, Slovenia, when backpacking around Europe!
    This is definitely a party hostel, close to the main train station and centre of town!
    A must see and stay!

  • susan frank says:

    I wouldnt mind staying at the 4 seasons prison in Turkey. looks great. Excellent article by the way, I recently found a you tube video of haunted houses that were turned in hotel rooms,

  • bvp says:

    gaol isn’t kooky canadian for anything- it’s another way of spelling jail, it comes from middle english and old french, and is the way jail is commonly spelled in the UK!

  • Orest Stelmach says:

    Alcatraz: the next Native American casino operation in partnership with the U.S. government and other gaming experts . . .

  • Thumprr says:

    Also, the jailhotel in Lucerne, Switzerland.

  • sell timeshare says:

    The Peninsula Tokyo in Japan, rated as one of the world’s best hotels, allows you to soak indulgently in their luxurious comforts, which hints of Japanese heritage and culture combined with the latest in innovative technology. The hotel is one of the worlds best hotels and an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

  • Dave says:

    cool article and nice hotels huh. hmmm. we can do it ourselves in our homes though. try this site

  • ted says:

    We stayed at the Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge in Capetown, South Africa. Great place to stay considering the prices in Capetown.

  • andrwe says:

    Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam was a juvenile detention center.

  • Anon says:

    Do you not know the difference between Stalin and Lenin?

  • Deacon says:

    I had planned to highlight the Old Goal Backpackers in Grahamstown but now I see they have been kicked out of their cells…

  • Marchije says:

    I second bcv’s comment: “Gaol” is actually a British variant of the word “jail”. We kooky Canadians may have used the term “gaol” in the 19th century, but we certainly don’t use that word today.

  • Artur says:

    Seems you forgot Unitas Pension in Prague. Sure it’s a hostel, not a hotel, but it has a ‘presidential’ cell since former president Vaclav Havel was incarcerated there. It’s a weird feeling to close those heavy metal doors on yourself, even though the many locks and tray hole are not functioning anymore.

    On a different subject, it’s likely that “gaol” is linked to the French “geôle”, our ancient word for prison. But I don’t know which language used it first.

  • Artur says:

    Oops, apparently they renovated everything since my stay in July 2006, but you can still have a look at the cells in the basement on their archived old website:


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