Strategically located 450 kilometres from both Adelaide and Melbourne, Mount Gambier is an obvious stopping-off point for on-the-move grey nomads.
With a population of just over 30,000, the South Australian city boasts excellent shopping and service amenities and half a dozen or so van parks … but it’s neither the facilities nor the van parks that will linger longest in the memory.
The city is built on an ancient landscape of volcanic craters which play host to a number of volcanic lakes. Most visited of them all is the 70-metre-deep Blue Lake which famously changes colour from steel grey to brilliant turquoise blue every summer. There are a number of lookouts from which to view this amazing natural phenomenon.
Blue Lake has filled the largest of three volcanic craters in Mount Gambier. Visitors will also enjoy the walking trails and recreational areas around Crater Lakes and Valley Lakes Crater.
The area’s geological formation means that limestone caves and underground waterways are in abundance. The plentiful water supply beneath Mount Gambier ensures the city is pretty much always beautiful, lush and green,
You won’t need your ‘caving’ gear to visit Umpherston Sinkhole, a collapsed cave which has been transformed into a magnificent terraced garden deep within the limestone. Similarly, the Cave Gardens, which are floodlit at night, are famed for their dazzling roses. The Engelbrecht Cave complex of caves are also in the city itself … and more water-filled caves and sinkholes, including Ewens Ponds and Piccaninnie Ponds, can be found further afield.
Although Mount Gambier was not officially declared a city until 1954, it has a rich and fascinating history. The City Centre Walk is the perfect way to view the settlement’s impressive heritage buildings, which are unique because of the use of local limestone and dolomite.
Another great way to get your bearings is to walk up to the Centenary Tower to marvel at the view over the city and the surrounding farmland. To the south, the cone-shaped Mount Schank will be visible, rising as it does 158 metres above sea level.
If you’re interested in a 20-minute drive out to the extinct volcano, there are a couple of walking trails to take you up to the very summit. Nearby is Little Blue Lake, a water-filled sinkhole, which is a great place for a cool swim after a hot hike.
Who would have guessed that caves and craters could be so much fun?
Meadows, Adelaide Hills
Brighton Surf Life Saving Club