- Australian Hostels
After hanging around for a while, some of our hostels have found some weird and wonderful stories attached to them. Feast your eyes on some of our quirkiest.
Fremantle Prison YHA staff are often told by guests about an inexplicable presence in one of their shower blocks. No one can quite put their finger on it, but there is definitely an occasional odd feeling in the cell block.
Some months after the hostel opened in 2015, two former prison guards who used to work at the women’s prison came to visit to pay their respects to the only woman ever hanged in Western Australia, Martha Rendell. Her case was controversial and many did not believe she was guilty.
They explored the hostel and then visited the cell block – turns out her former cell has been converted into a shower. The guards even asked if sometimes there is a strange feeling in the room, something which was not disclosed to them during their visit.
The tale goes that after Martha’s death, her spirit would pay her old home a visit from time to time… and it sounds like it still does, more than 100 years later!
Newcastle Beach YHA was opened as a gentleman’s club in 1885 before handing over the keys to the neighbouring hospital during World War One as part of the war effort, providing accommodation to nurses. YHA took over the property in 1998, but the nurses haven’t disappeared entirely.
“We’ve received half-a-dozen reports of a female ghost wearing a nurses uniform in Room 10 – the old matron’s quarters,” manager Damian says. “She usually appears at 2am to walk across to the balcony, opening and closing the door behind her, sometimes with a pet cat. We have many nurses who lived in the building come and visit and they’re still scared of the matron’s living memory… so we don’t dare tell them that she’s still about.”
Wealthy Victorian businessman William Rutledge built this Georgian-style stone dwelling in the 1840s before a new owner renovated the exterior in 1885. The heritage-listed cottage became Port Fairy YHA in 1977, welcoming generations of travellers driving the Great Ocean Road over the past four decades. The name? Emoh – ‘home’ spelled backwards.
If the walls of Tom McHugo’s pub could talk, they’d have more than their fair share of yarns to weave. Located just across the road from the Mercury newspaper’s landmark Macquarie St headquarters, the much-loved pub was a favourite watering hole of Tasmania’s journalists who’d congregate there to sink schooners and spill secrets. YHA now owns the establishment, attached to the newly renovated Hobart Central YHA.
The year 1942 heralded the opening of the Pioneer Theatre, an open air cinema to solve the issue of no air-conditioning in the Northern Territory at the time! Also known as the ‘Walk-In’, the cinema’s screen faced south to avoid lighting from the sun and moon. The house attached to the theatre is now known as Alice Springs YHA – a place where the premiere of A Town Like Alice was held in 1956 and where guests still watch films under the stars every night in 2018.
Long ago, Stradbroke Island was one really big island. Legend has it that an old boat full of drunken sailors ran aground on the island. The boat was carry precious cargo- rum and dynamite. The sailors though it best to detonate the explosives themselves, rather than an unsuspecting koala or roo trigger them. Thinking it best to save the rum themselves - chivalry ain’t dead - they detonated the explosives! The explosion was larger than the sailors expected - the sand dunes parted and water rushed in. And this is how one island became two: North & South Stradbroke Islands.
Stradbroke Island YHA calls North Stradbroke home. Come, stay, have a rum and toast to the sailors with us!
Harry Handby became the mayor of Port Elliot shortly after he opened the Arcadia guest house in 1914, treating himself to 270-degree views of Horseshoe Bay from the spacious veranda on the grand sandstone lodge. After decades as the Arcadia Hotel and a stint as a nursing home, the historic guest house re-opened as the modern Port Elliot YHA in 2010 – the only hostel anywhere on South Australia’s scenic Fleurieu Peninsula.
Canberra City YHA is not only the greatest place to stay in the capital, but a tangible representation of community and generosity. The 1960's saw YHA receive a lease for a site on which to build a national memorial hostel to honour those early volunteers who gave time and money to obtain and maintain hostels. Brilliant. Only downside was the $300,000 price tag!
The ‘buy a brick for Canberra’ campaign was launched, donations came flooding in from around the country and a Canberran architect, Ken Charlton, donated his services to literally get the project off the ground. All in all, they’re just another brick in the wall.