Dedicated ghost hunter? Victoria is the place to be. The state's extensive gold rush history has left a legacy of haunted hotels, ghostly gaols and abandoned asylums, many of which are open to the public, or can be toured by appointment. The unassuming facades of these towns are home to some of the strongest examples of preternatural activity in the country. Here are Victoria's best ghost towns, for both amateur and experienced paranormal investigators.

1. Steiglitz

Located between Geelong and Ballarat, Steiglitz is an almost-literal ghost town, home to only a handful of residents. Once a busy goldmining hub, it contained shops, hotels and hurches, and even had its own newspaper. Now mostly abandoned, it's a popular place for bushwalking and picnics. Visit on a Sunday or public holiday to explore the local Court House, where photographs and relics pay homage to the town's heyday.

2. Ararat

At the foothills of Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is a picturesque town containing one of the most haunted buildings in the country. Aradale Lunatic Asylum is Australia's biggest abandoned mental institution. Paranormal activity is regularly recorded here, with visitors able to tour the cell blocks by night (accompanied by a knowledgeable guide), or dive deep on an extended investigation. The particularly brave can explore the building's J Ward, which housed thieves, murderers and later, the criminally insane  including the notorious Chopper Read.

3. Walhalla

Nestled in the mountains of Gippsland is the small town of Walhalla. A bustling hub during Victoria's gold rush era, it's now frozen in time, and home to a handful of residents. Known for its heritage buildings, autumn foliage and spring blossoms, the town has been the setting for some unexplained phenomena. Jump on a ghost tour to hear eerie tales of local hauntings, or explore the sprawling cemetery, where 1100 souls rest eternally on the side of a hill, looking out over the town.

4. Maldon

For an idea of what life was like during the gold rush era, travel to Maldon, one of Australia's best preserved goldmining towns. A place where history is so carefully conserved is bound to have a ghost or two haunting about. Kangaroo Hotel is said to be home to spirited spooks and is able to be investigated during a ghost tour.

5. Dunolly

Dunolly and the surrounding district turned up more gold nuggets than any other region in Australia during the 1850s and '60s. Today, you can drop in to admire the architecture or take a hike in nearby state parks. The Court House and Town Hall open on request, with guided tours provided by local volunteers.

Ghost hunters, don't miss the Railway Hotel (built as the Criterion Hotel in 1861), which is said to be haunted by the spirit of an elderly woman.

6. Beechworth

Far from abandoned, popular Beechworth is known for its fantastic food and wine scene and beautiful heritage buildings. Scratch below the surface of the town's picturesque facade for a slightly more sinister history.

The now decommissioned Beechworth Asylum (formerly known as the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum) is reportedly one of Australia's most haunted places. Founded in 1867, it operated until 1995, with the ghosts of past patients spotted roving inside. Explore the asylum on a ghost tour, or take part in a three-hour paranormal investigation.

The Old Beechworth Gaol is over 140 years old and has a particularly interesting history, housing Ned Kelly, his mother Ellen, brother Dan and the rest of the clan shortly after their famous showdown with police in Glenrowan. Unexplained happenings have taken place on the gaol, which occasionally opens for night tours.

7. Geelong

Geelong Gaol ceased operations in the 1990s, reopening to the public as a museum shortly after. A total of six executions were held onsite and visitors regularly report hearing strange noises. Explore the building for yourself during a ghost tour or paranormal investigation.

8. Ballarat

Less ghost town and more regional city, Ballarat is still home to quite a few spooky sites. Take in the city's gorgeous gold rush era architecture by day. At night, layer up for a guided tour of the township or alternatively, be guided through the local cemetery. For something a little more contained, join the hunt for hauntings at Bishops Palace, a gothic-style mansion built in 1877. Or spend a special night in the allegedly haunted Craig's Royal Hotel. Breakfast, extensive paranormal investigation and a drink in a haunted cellar are included in the price.

9. Williamstown

As the oldest continuous settlement on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, Williamstown is steeped in rich maritime history and haunted tales. Now a bustling bayside suburb of Melbourne's inner-west, its streets were once filled with drunken sailors and shifty characters. Uncover hidden lanes, forgotten cemeteries and abandoned morgues on a lantern-lit ghost tour of King William's Town.


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