Dark Tourism In Australia: 12 Macabre, Strange & Interesting Destinations!

Wandering our World is reader supported! If you purchase anything through a link on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Last updated on July 26, 2023 by Wandering our World

Australia has the quirky internet nickname the “Land of Nope” and we expected nothing less from a country that literally lost a war against literal birds (don’t believe us – go look up ‘the war on Emus’….).

Aside from the country’s infamous animal residents, Australia also hosts a wealth of dark, mysterious, and outright strange dark tourism destinations that we guarantee you won’t want to miss!

Despite being a fairly young country, Australia’s host of dark tourism sites is truly something that has to be seen to be appreciated. From the ruins of penal colonies to abandoned mental asylums and underground cities, Australia’s history has been far from easygoing.

And while most tourists seek the sun and sea, we’ve found other ways to keep your vacation interesting! Join us as we journey through some of Australia’s best dark tourism destinations!

A picture of an old dusty cellar and ghostly figure in it
iStock.com/Rastan

12 Macabre, Strange & Interesting Dark Tourism Destinations In Australia

1. Wittenoom

Lost in the outback, you may chance upon the elusive ghost town of Wittenoom. Erased from Australian maps in 2007, this place remains concealed for good reason—they don’t want you to find it.

Once a bustling mining town, Wittenoom’s main export wasn’t gold or opals, but something far more sinister – asbestos.

Unbeknownst to its residents in the ’50s and ’60s, the dangers of asbestos were yet to be widely recognized. By the time the town shut down in 1966, irreversible harm had been done, leaving a curse upon its inhabitants.

Of the estimated 20,000 people who once called Wittenoom home, approximately 2,000 have succumbed to cancers and mesothelioma—a heart-wrenching testament to the consequences of unregulated industrial practices.

Dilapidated buildings silently bear witness to lives lived amidst violently toxic asbestos particles. Protection akin to a Mad Max character is essential to shield oneself from the tainted air.

Given the extreme risks involved, there are currently no dedicated tour companies for this particular dark tourist attraction. We therefore don’t recommend visiting this ghost town, but it can’t be denied that this is one of Australia’s darkest destinations.

Location: Unknown

Tags: Dark History; Disaster Tourism

2. The Kiama Blowhole

We’re as big a fan as any of natural phenomena and wonders, and Kiama Blowhole is no exception! This is an Australian tourism gem that’s bound to blow you away. Literally!

Found on the rocky shores of Kiama’s coastline, the Kiama Blowhole is a natural geological formation that has quite an explosive reputation. Depending on the tides, a rush of ocean swells pushes through a narrow oceanic cavern. The pressure forces a spray of water through a hole in the rocks that’s mesmerizing and terrifying to witness!

But despite its beauty and power, you won’t find the locals hanging around too close, and we suggest you follow their lead! The Kiama Blowhole has a deadly reputation and is best observed from afar.

It has a history of dragging unsuspecting tourists down into its rocky depths as the surge of water sucks back down into the hole.

This natural spectacle has been responsible for nine tragic deaths, which prompted the local authorities to erect barriers. We’d like to say this has helped, but the reality is the Darwin Awards don’t exist for nothing, and you’ll still find some people ignoring all warnings and hanging precariously close.

Be sure to read the signs and stay behind the barriers before you become the next line in “Dumb Ways to Die.”

Location: Kiama, New South Wales

Tags: Dark History

3. The Cascades Female Factory, Tasmania

Most people know the history of Australia and that it was colonized as a means of emptying prisoners in Britain.

As a result, the colonies were built up of populations of prisoners, from petty thieves to murderers. Throughout the country, there are plenty of historic places that remind us of Australia’s rocky beginnings, but the Cascades Female Factory serves as a rather significant reminder of the times!

Named for its scenic view, the Cascades Female Factory was established to incarcerate females for their crimes. But the system was unjust, and unfortunately, there were a few innocent bystanders shoved into the mix simply because they weren’t born into a wealthier household.

The woman incarcerated here endured unimaginable hardships. They were subjected to grueling labor, often involved in tasks such as spinning, weaving, and laundry. It might not sound bad, but the hours of strenuous labor only helped solidify the horrific living conditions.

While most of the buildings were eventually left to ruin, there’s still a significant echo of the past! Tours are available, so at least you’ll have someone around to hold your hand as you walk through darkened hallways and eerie rooms.

Location: Tasmania

Tags: Dark History; Prison Tourism

4. Z Ward

It wouldn’t be a dark tourism list without at least one asylum.

Located in Adelaide, Z Ward was once Australia’s very own Briarcliff Manor. It was a treatment facility for the mentally ill, but as we all know, all old, creepy asylums offer the same brochure-friendly description.

The reality is that the Z Ward existed in a time when the mentally ill were treated with lobotomies and electro-shock therapy.

Thankfully, it’s no longer an operational facility, instead offering dark tourism enthusiasts the opportunity to gain some interesting insight into the lives of the previously dubbed clinically insane.

Architectural enthusiasts might also get a kick out of the intricate design, which is actually quite the drawing card for regular tourists.

We’d love to say it ends there and that a trip to the Z Ward is just a historical outing, but we’d be lying. Of course, when you’re housing a chunk of the country’s criminally insane population, you’re bound to rack up some vengeful spirits! So it goes without saying that Z Ward has quite the haunting reputation too.

The eerie atmosphere is enough to send shivers down your spine. But ghosts and sobering histories aside, Z Ward is an architectural feat and a surprisingly popular tourist destination. So as much as you may hate talking to your therapist, we promise, it’s the lesser of two evils.

Location: 63 Conyngham St, Glenside SA

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History

5. Uluru (Ayer’s Rock)

While not entirely mystifying, Uluru is a massive sandstone formation in the center of the ever-sunny Australian outback. At a glance, it’s easy to shrug it off as a natural phenomenon, but this rock marks an area rich with history.

Glyphs mark the red stones and tell stories of the Aboriginals that once called this land home.

In 1920, it was declared an Aboriginal Reserve, and it became a well-known waypoint in the inhumane acts perpetrated by the Australian government in the hopes of assimilating Aboriginal children into their society.

This dark history has made Uluru quite a popular tourist destination, which comes with its own dangers. You see, Uluru features in another tale of tragedy. That of Azaria Chamberlin, a baby who went missing while camping near Ayer’s Rock with her parents. For a while, the media latched viciously onto the idea that her own mother had brutally murdered her, only for the horrifying truth to reveal itself years later. Azaria Chamberlin, was in fact, eaten by dingos.

Other than its monolithic stature, the more you delve into the history surrounding Uluru, you’ll easily come to see why it’s an Australian dark tourism site worth learning about.

Location: Northern Territory’s “Red Centre”

Tags: Dark History

6. Port Arthur

If you’re a fan of eerie history prepare to have your curiosity piqued and your fight-or-flight instinct tested with a visit to the Port Arthur Penal Colony.

This haunting historical site once served as a penal colony in the 19th century where the main population consisted of dual-offenders and dangerous individuals.

The prison focused on new methods of rehabilitation that often meant the prisoners were forced to endure cruel and unusual punishments. It was eventually closed in 1877 and fires a few decades later left most of the prison’s buildings gutted and destroyed.

Despite this, a thriving town grew around it, and the Port Arthur Penal Colony became a popular dark tourism destination.

Its dark reputation was only made worse from there. In 1996 Port Arthur became the location of one of Australia’s worst killing sprees which left 35 people dead at the hands of one Martin Bryant.

Tours are available that will lead you throughout the colony by foot, and even to the Isle of the Dead, where most of Port Arthur’s deceased prisoners were buried.

Location: Port Arthur, Tasmania

Tags: Dark History

7. Quarantine Station

The world is no stranger to infectious diseases. And Quarantine Station was Sydney’s first line of defense against diseases like smallpox, typhus, and the bubonic plague.

Its origins date back to the 19th century, and its buildings have held up incredibly well against the test of time. In fact, part of the Quarantine Station has now become the “Q Station” hotel.

The hospital and morgue still stand as eerie reminders of the Quarantine Station’s tragic past. Well, that and the spirits that supposedly haunt their halls! What were you expecting? In a place where people died some less-than-heroic deaths, there are bound to be a few tortured souls wandering around!

Ghostly encounters have become an inseparable part of the Quarantine Station’s legacy. Visitors and staff have reported strange phenomena, unexplained sounds, and eerie apparitions.

It’s no wonder then that this place has gained a reputation for being one of Sydney’s most haunted sites. If you’re curious to meet some of the local spirits, be sure to join one of the Ghost Tours of the area.

The guides are well-versed in stories of close encounters and can teach you about the history behind the buildings.

You’ll learn about the tragedies of pandemics and about the heroic triumphs made by 19th-century those who fought tooth and claw to help keep society safe from infectious diseases. History and hauntings? Sign us up!

Location: Manly New South Wales

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History; Disaster Tourism

8. Coober Pedy, the Underground City

It’s time to go meet the mole people of Coober Pedy, and boy is their lifestyle fascinating! All jokes aside, Coober Pedy is Australia’s very own subterranean city which explores a new way of dealing with that unforgiving Australian heat!

Formed from old opal mines, Coober Pedy is a town that’s more fascinating than creepy. While you’ll still be able to find a few select buildings above ground, most of this town is situated deep in refurbished mine shafts.

Everything from stores to churches can be found in hallowed caverns of sandstone. It may not necessarily fit the bill for “dark” tourism, but it’s certainly an alternative tourist destination that we’d highly encourage our readers to visit!

Introduce yourself to the quirky charm of this underground town and embrace your inner Hobbit! We promise you’ll never look at dirt the same way again.

And you can finally answer that snarky question, “Have you been living under a rock?” seriously. Yes, mom. I have.

Location: Coober Pedy

Tags: Alternative Tourism

9. The Old Melbourne Gaol

These days, the harshest punishment we experience is having our phones confiscated, but the same can’t be said for Australians in the 19th century. You might literally have lost your head for some rather minor offenses!

The Old Melbourne Gaol was built in the late 1830s with the sole purpose being to punish those whom the city felt deserved it.

Unfortunately, this prison was not entirely picky as to which prisoners it housed. Its population consisted of Australia’s most notorious, like Ned Kelly, to some rather innocent orphaned children.

It became a strong reminder to the community of the city’s fist of justice. It operated for just under a century but saw more than 100 criminals beheaded!

At one stage, the museum even kept Ned Kelly’s skull as a memento, and while it has since been moved elsewhere, you can find his, and a dozen other death masks on display.

Historical and haunting are a beautiful combination, and the Old Melbourne Gaol definitely delivers on both!

Location: Shelbourne-Lockwood Road, Melbourne

Tags: Dark History; Prison Tourism

10. The Somerton Man

In the captivating world of cold cases, the Somerton Man is amongst one of the most infamous. In 1948, the body of an unknown individual was discovered leaning against a sea wall on a beach in Adelaide.

With no trace of identification, not even his clothing tags, he would become a jaw-dropping mystery that the world still aches for answers to!

He was found with a small piece of paper on his person that read “Tamam Shud,” which roughly translated to “Ended” in Persian. This, paired with another scrap of paper covered in an indecipherable sequence of letters, means even Sherlock Holmes would have been stumped with this one.

To this day, the meaning of this cryptogram remains elusive, much to the distress of professional codebreakers. Countless theories have been posited, ranging from espionage to illicit affairs, but no concrete conclusions have emerged.

The Tamam Shud Man has become an enduring symbol of intrigue, his identity and purpose forever shrouded in an impenetrable veil of mystery.

Obviously, though, the dead must be laid to rest. Eventually, the Somerton Man was afforded a decent burial in the West Terrace Cemetary in Adelaide.

His tombstone simply reads “Unknown Man.” We’re just waiting for the True Crime Millenials to get their hands on this mystery. We’re sure their years of social media snooping will help solve a nearly century-old mystery.

Location: West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, Australia

Tags: Dark History

11. Hutt Lagoon

This Australian gem looks like it came straight out of Barbie’s holiday itinerary. When you see the bubblegum-pink water of Hutt Lagoon, you’ll know exactly what we mean! That’s right, you read that correctly. Pink. Water. And an assortment of other unnatural hues, now that we think of it.

The Hutt Lagoon is a notorious tourism destination thanks to its mystifying colored water that fills the over 2km long saltwater lake.

This natural phenomenon is thanks to the presence of a unique microorganism called Dunaliella Salina, which gives the water of Hutt Lagoon its psychedelic color-changing abilities. Witnessing this surreal phenomenon is like stumbling upon a secret artist’s palette hidden in the outback.

It might not be creepy unless, of course, you have thalassophobia, but it’s certainly an alternative tourism wander in Australia that we can’t get out of our minds!

And yes, before you ask, the water is 100% safe to swim in. These color-altering bacteria are harmless, although we don’t recommend trying to drink the salty lagoon water!

Location: Mid-Western Australia

Tags: Alternative Tourism

12. The Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Victoria

We’re really treating you today, dear reader, with yet another mental asylum to add to our list of Australia’s must-see dark tourism sites. We’d like to cordially introduce you to the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, although you might not be glad we did.

The Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, much like many of its kind, was intended to help those labeled as mentally ill but ended up causing more harm than good. We can’t blame them, some of our ancestors also used to think that mailing children through the postal service was okay.

The imposing architecture of the asylum is enough to make you question your sanity and really stands out as a scar amongst the picturesque Victoria surroundings. With its towering walls and dark hallways, it’s no wonder that it has become a magnet for those seeking out the macabre and strange.

Of course, its history is marred with torment, torture, and brutal medical practices that have long since been outlawed. Unfortunately, it’s left a distinct impression on the building, and no matter what, you can’t help but feel your stomach drop at the thought of what patients here endured.

Or maybe that’s just the eerie feeling you’re being watched? After all, it’s not a creepy asylum without its ghosts, and the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum has plenty.

Location: Beechworth, Victoria

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History

Author

  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.