One of the must-see things to do in Napier has to be the Old Napier Prison tour. You'll be entertained by stories of victims, villains and heroes who have served time in the oldest prison in New Zealand . Not only that, but you'll also hear stories of prison escapes, ghosts, gang members, drug barons and mass murderers.
As I walked around the prison, I saw evidence of the 1931 earthquake with its undulating floors, twisted walls and unaligned ceilings. I even felt the chill on the back of my neck as I walked from death row past the graves of the executed and into the hanging yard.
I was told by the guide as I went round that over the years to 1889 there were four hangings at the prison, and my imagination ran a bit wild with thoughts of blood curdling screams filling the air as the gallows came crashing down. I was told that many local people would pay to come and watch the hangings, either from the gallery on top of a wall or from in front of the gallows, depending on how many spare shillings they had.
The wall surrounding the prison took two years to build, from 1903 to early 1906, and was built entirely from prison labour. You can even see the pictures carved by prisoners in the solid blocks of limestone.
Napier Prison opened its doors in 1862 and was home to 56 men, women, children and lunatics, as there was no orphanage or lunatic asylum in Hawke's Bay at the time.
When hard labour ended in 1974 prisoners just 'did time'. The main exercise yard has a mural painted by prisoners and the original toilets and showers are still standing.
The Old Napier Prison was left derelict in 1993, after the remaining prisoners were moved to another location.
Reopened in 2002, the Waaka family now runs the 'Napier Prison Backpackers and Tours ', and you can even spend the night in the grounds if you're feeling up to it.
The prison has an amazing history and the guides are full of fascinating stories about what went on at the site over the years. You can even get your mug shot taken and get locked up in solitary confinement. Definitely the best fun you can have without getting arrested!
Napier Prison Backpackers and Tours is at 55 Coote Road , on Bluff Hill, Napier, which is first left after the Centennial Gardens.
Napier Prison is just a few minutes walk to the town centre and Marine Parade.
There are two tours daily at 9.30am and 3pm.
Audiotourz are available every day from 9am until 9pm (last entry at 8pm).
Scary night tours are also available if you're feeling really brave.
For more information call 06 835 9933 or 021 114 4991.
Rachel Pinder stayed at Napier YHA, which can be found on the beachfront on Marine Parade, close to all Napier's seaside attractions, including the National Aquarium, Marineland, Ocean Spa, mini golf and museum. The hostel has spacious twin/double/shared and single rooms and a sunny cobbled courtyard (with a BBQ) for chilling out. There are a range of excellent facilities, including a fully equipped kitchen, a spacious TV/video lounge, laundry, storage and internet facilities. For more details, or to make a booking, contact manager Bob Stansbury on 06 835 7039 or visit www.yha.co.nz