Friday 4 November 2016

Review: A Night Behind Bars at Fremantle Prison YHA Hostel

I was hosted at Fremantle Prison YHA by YHA Ltd.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to spend a night inside the walls of a women's prison (and I'm sure we've all done that), then the hostel within the old convict-built prison in Fremantle, Western Australia is your dream come true. Or nightmare?

It's certainly a grim place to arrive, as you can see from the gate above. But also a highly atmospheric one. And it's not a relic of the distant past, either - the facility was used as a women's prison until 1970, and remained part of the larger prison until its closure in 1991.

YHA makes a virtue of necessity by highlighting the premises' history. Along the walls in the hostel's public areas is signage with detailed accounts of the prison's past, including profiles of particular prisoners and occasional escapees.

I like the honesty of embracing the hostel's shady back story; if this was a five-star hotel you could imagine it being discreetly hidden. In the main entrance corridor, however, institutional green still rules:

And there are twin-bed rooms within the former cells:

The other public areas are less reminiscent of a place of incarceration. There's a spacious lounge beneath timber beams, and two outdoor areas set with tables and hammocks:

This plentiful outdoor space makes the hostel feel very open and airy, rather than possessing the closed-in vibe you might expect from a former jail. I imagine it's because the prisoners required outdoor space for exercise, which is now available for the hostel's use.

There are dorm beds on offer, but I stayed in a private room. These are in a separate block newly built between the women's prison building and the rear limestone wall. My room was simple but comfortable, with a double bed, two bunk beds and an en suite bathroom.

The final public area is a spacious kitchen, itself with a small lounge area attached:

If you look closely, you'll notice a prison-themed element to the decor: a height chart, as used in mug shots. Just right for a novelty photo to share online:

Who is this dangerous-looking desperado?

The YHA Fremantle Prison is located at 6a The Terrace, Fremantle, Australia. Dorm beds start at $23, twin-bed cells at $68, and larger en suite rooms at $112 per night. Find more information and make bookings at its website.

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