Napier Prison – Napier, New Zealand - Atlas Obscura

Napier Prison

New Zealand's oldest prison holds a dark history and the scars of a deadly earthquake.  

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The hills of Hawkes Bay that overlook the small city of Napier loom with an air of importance. From wineries, scenic hikes, and bounties of art deco history, this east coast hub exemplifies the natural beauty of New Zealand. However, at the top of one particularly winding road, less pleasant memories lie behind the walls of Napier Prison.

The country’s oldest penal institution, the prison is also the only place you can still see the original path of the deadly 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake. It serves as a haunting reminder of the natural disaster that claimed 256 lives and left the coastal community devastated for years. 

Operational from 1862 until it’s decommissioning in 1993, the same building that saw four executions at the gallows also served as both an orphanage and a psychiatric institution. Though the site is steeped in history, some believe that certain moments never ended. It’s considered by many, one of the most haunted places in New Zealand.

Today, Napier Prison is open for daily self-guided audio tours, as well as paranormal events available by appointment. There are also a variety of escape room experiences inside. 

Know Before You Go

Parking is available on site. 

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