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Trial Bay Gaol

Arakoon National Park


For a glimpse into Australian history, head to South West Rocks to explore the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol. Make sure you see the view from the sentry’s lookout.

Historic buildings/places
Arakoon National Park

Adult $11. Concession $8. Family $30 (two adults and two children).

Opening times

  • 9am - 4.30pm daily
  • Closed on Christmas Day
  • Self-guided tours are available all day and an entry fee applies. Allow about one hour to explore the gaol.

Hire this venue

Trial Bay Gaol is available for events and function hire.

Please note
  • Peak rates apply from 1 December to 31 January and NSW school holidays (excluding winter school holidays).
  • Shoulder period is from 1 February to the start of the Easter holiday break.
  • Between August and September, Trial Bay hosts the annual Sculpture in the Gaol, a public sculpture competition. For more information contact the park office.
  • For more information about the German internees, please visit the Migration Heritage Centre website.
  • Mermaid Pools, near Trial Bay Gaol, is not recommended for swimming. Large waves wash over the area and visitors can be swept off the rocks.

Step back in time on a guided tour of Trial Bay Gaol, soaking up the history and the amazing coastal views that surround it.

The gaol opened in 1886, after 13 years of construction. It must have been a strange feeling building a prison in such a beautiful setting. The prison labourers were there to construct a breakwater to make Trial Bay a safe harbour between Sydney and Brisbane. Unfortunately the scheme failed, however you’ll still be able to see the remains of the breakwater from the guard tower lookout. During World War I the gaol became an internment camp for people of German descent who were feared to be enemy sympathisers.

Today, this picturesque historic ruin stands as a testament to those who lived and died here, with a museum and memorial for visitors to get a better idea of life in those days. Feeling energetic? Try the nearby Powder Magazine walking track or Monument Hill walking track.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Tours and events at this location

  • A cell with model prisoners located at Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Jessica Robertson/OEH

    Dark and deadly deeds: Trial Bay Gaol sunset tour

    Wander through the old Trial Bay Gaol at sunset. Hear about the prisoners' crimes and deeds here during World War I.

  • Tour group at Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Jessica Robertson

    Trial Bay Gaol twilight tour

    As the sun sets, explore the old Trial Bay Gaol in beautiful Arakoon National Park, with an NPWS guide by your side.

  • Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary

    Trial Bay Gaol: Life behind bars kids tour

    Come along and find out what life behind bars was really like for the prisoners here. Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park, is brimming with stories.

  • Didgeridoo performance at the Scultpure in the Gaol event, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Jessica Robertson

    Visit Sculpture in the Gaol

    Don't miss this popular annual sculpture exhibition at Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park, near South West Rocks. This year there'll be a gala day, an evening event and over 60 works in the show.


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A family walk a boardwalk section of Bouddi coastal walk, Bouddi National Park. Photo: John Spencer/OEH.
Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/NSW Government