In the historic town of Ararat – known for its rich gold-mining past and 19th-century architecture – is the bluestone J Ward, part of the old Ararat Asylum. Used exclusively for the 'criminally insane', this is where the state's most dangerous criminals were sent, from 1861 until the site's closure in 1991. Daily 2½-hour tours offer insight into the horrific conditions and stories. It's one more for those into dark tourism, especially if combined with a visit to nearby Aradale Asylum.

Tours will inform you all about the executions and notorious inmates – including Chopper Read, who was sent here after he cut off his ear.

If all this doesn't sound creepy enough, visit at night as part of a ghost tour.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Victoria attractions

1. Aradale Asylum


On top of the hill on the outskirts of Ararat, the Aradale Ayslum is an abandoned psychiatric hospital. You can only visit on a tour (1½ to two hours),…

2. Seppelt

9.34 MILES

Dating back to 1851, Seppelt is one of the pioneers of Great Western's wine-growing industry. As well as tastings, the main reason to visit is for the…

3. Best's Great Western

11.45 MILES

A mainstay in one of Australia's most historic wine-growing regions, this respected winery was established in 1866. Its red-gum cellar door gives you the…

4. Halls Gap Zoo

22.21 MILES

Here you can get up close to Australian native animals such as wallabies, dingoes, quolls, Tasmanian devils and wombats, in addition to exotic species…

5. Fallen Giants

22.48 MILES

Just outside Halls Gap, this scenic cellar door offers tastings of its estate-grown shiraz, riesling and cabernet. It does cheese and produce platters (…

6. Grampians National Park (Gariwerd)

23.19 MILES

Rising up from the western Victorian plains, and acting as a haven for bushwalkers, rock climbers and nature-lovers, the Grampians are one of the state’s…

7. Brambuk Cultural Centre

23.55 MILES

Don't leave Halls Gap without visiting the superb cultural centre at Brambuk, 2.5km south of town. Run by five Koorie communities (including the…