Few folk would be happy to claim a lockup as their town’s greatest tourist attraction, but, when it comes to prisons, Gladstone Gaol is one right out of the history pages.
Two years in the building, Gladstone Gaol opened in 1881 to provide temporary quarters for ‘inebriates, debtors and other prisoners’. Its guest list remained basically unaltered until the early days of World War II when it was used for the internment of German and Italian nationals and subsequently, as a military detention centre.
The Germans and Italians were allowed to return to their Australian homes at war's end and the lock-up remained empty until 1953 when it was recommissioned as a medium security gaol for young prisoners. In 1975 it was deemed to be outdated and its inmates were transferred to other gaols.
Three years later its doors were thrown open to visitors. Today the gaol shares the Gladstone heritage spotlight with the Gladstone Hotel which was the childhood home of Australian poet, C.J. Dennis. Dennis lived in the hotel, which his father owned, from the age of seven to 13 and no doubt picked up some characteristics of the Sentimenal Bloke and Ginger Mick from the Gladstone regulars.