Step into the cells of a convicted offender and discover what life was really like at the haunting penal complex of Napier Prison. Visit the chilling isolation cells and trudge toward the site of the old gallows where criminals were once hanged.
Napier Prison first opened in 1862 and housed some of New Zealand’s most dangerous criminals until it closed in 1993. Between 2002 and 2007 it served as a hostel where brave backpackers could spend a night in the cells. Overnight stays are no longer offered so come for a daytrip to this fabled prison instead.
Once you are within the thick stone walls that surround the complex, head for the sinisterly named Pound. This is where the most unstable inmates were detained. Among the prisoners held here were the likes of murderer Haira Te Piri and drug lord Terry Clark. Find out more about what made these men so evil and look for graffiti that other prisoners left on the walls as a lasting reminder of their time here.
As you wander down the long, dark halls, notice the crooked floors and cracked ceilings. This is some of remaining damage from the Hawke’s Bay earthquake of 1931. Be on alert for Basil, the ghostly cat who spends his days patrolling the prison.
Before you plan your escape, walk out to the old hanging yard. This now features just a drawn outline where the gallows once stood however, an ominous aura remains. Listen to stories about the unfortunate souls who were executed here and admire the colourful painted murals on the walls around you. These contrast starkly with the gloomy décor elsewhere.
Napier Prison is positioned on Bluff Hill near the coast. Enjoy a self-guided audio tour or book online in advance if you would prefer to be shown around by a member of staff. Minimum numbers apply for guided tours. The prison is open daily and there is an admission fee.