Mount Gambier is a thriving city set in the unique and ancient landscape of volcanic craters, lakes, limestone and mysterious underground waterways. Mount Gambier is located midway in South Australia between Adelaide and Melbourne - 450 km south east of Adelaide; 435 km north west of Melbourne. It is 15 kilometres west of the Victorian border.
You will need transportation to get around to see the sights outside of Mt Gambier. You can hire cars from the Mt Gambier airport.
If you wish just to stay in town, you will not need a car.
The annual Mt Gambier Show is held on the second last weekend of October. It is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but Thursday does not have rides and stalls open. Thursdays are free, as are Saturday nights, after the fireworks (about 9pm). The Show is very popular with the locals and is larger than the usual country show.
One of the most well known features of the Mt Gambier are is The Blue Lake, located in a volcanic crater, and is the main source of water for the city. During the year the color of the lake changes from an deep steel blue colour to a bright iridescent blue. The Blue Lake is one of three crater lakes located on the southern edge of the city: the others are Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake. There are picnic grounds around Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake and some easy climbing trails around this area. Boating and water-skiing activities occur on Valley Lake.
Be aware that the Lakes area (including the Valley Lake and the Centenary Tower) and Marist Park are locked at dusk nightly. The road around the Blue Lake is badly lit at night time and is windy in parts; part of this road is signed at 40km.
Sinkholes: This region is famous for the sinkholes found throughout the city. Cave Divers dive underneath the streets of the City, in the Engelbrecht Cave, but have undertaken extensive training, diving is not available to the general public. Umpherston Sinkhole is located in the town itself and contains a beautiful hanging gardens garden that is well tended.
Engelbrecht Cave: Previously, Engelbrecht Cave was not a tourist attraction, as the private owners used to treat the cave as a rubbish dump. In 1979, the Lions Club of Mount Gambier decided to start a new project to restore and maintain this cave whilst beautifying the cave to make it as a tourist attraction. After many months, the project was successfully completed and the projects owners handed the cave over to the local council. Inside Engelbrecht Cave, you will notice that there are viewing platforms as well as diving sites, as the cave is very popular amongst cave divers. For divers, the Cave Divers Association offers free and detailed maps, including information at the visitor centre.
Umpherston Sinkhole: one of the most stunningly beautiful marriages of man and nature. It is no ordinary hole in the ground, but a natural wonder in its own right, forged from millennia of acidic groundwater eroding the porous Gambier Limestone. An Australian icon of the most bazaar type, the Sinkhole was established as a recreational garden for the people of Mount Gambier and visitors to the region to enjoy.
Once a cave, the Umpherston Sinkhole was created when the top of the chamber fell to the floor of the cave, creating the perfect environment for its enchanting "sunken garden". Originally beautified by James Umpherston around 1886, it is open at all times, from dusk each evening the area comes alive with possums as they venture into the floodlit gardens to feed.
Mount Schank is a volcanic cone formed by explosive eruptions, pyroclastic flows and lava flows. A highly prominent volcanic cone, it is generally regarded as the youngest volcano in Australia and is believed to have been active as recently as 2,000 years ago. It is thus still classified as dormant and not extinct. Mount Schank is 158 metres in height, it has a walking track to the crater rim with views over the surrounding district. The track continues down into the central core of the volcano.
Coonawarra wine region
51 km north of Mt Gambier is the historic town of Penola and the Coonawarra Wine region. This famous red wine producing region is approximately 1 kilometer wide and 17 kilometres long and is home to some of the very best red wines available. Synonymous with classy Cabernet Sauvignon wines, The Coonawarra owes its wine-making success to its Terra Rossa soil, a red-brown topsoil laid over a thin layer of calcrete (calcium carbonate) sitting on a white limestone base.
Wine sampling is free and the cellar door staff are always friendly, well informed and passionate about the wines. Coonawarra is located approximately 10kms north of Penola on the Riddoch Highway. Coonawarra is 60kms east of Millicent via Penola, and 80kms east of Beachport via Kangaroo Inn.
Penola is the oldest town in the south-east region of South Australia and cherishes its historical buildings. Penola is also the "home town" of the Coonawarra, one of South Australia's most productive wine growing areas. The town is also famous as the central location in the life of Mary McKillop, Australia's first saint.
Petticoat Lane, the oldest residential part of Penola, allows you to wander through a village of historic timber and stone cottages which retain much of the charm and character of yesteryear. Red gum kerbing as well as rose and lavender plantings enhance the lane's character as an example of days gone by. Petticoat Lane is a State Heritage Area.
29 km south of Mt Gambier is the picturesque Cape Northumberland and the village of Port MacDonnell on the shores of Discovery Bay. The rugged coastal scenery and good fishing attract holidaymakers who like to get off the beaten track. On the way to Port MacDonnell you will pass Mt Schank, a perfectly shaped extinct volcano crater.
Cape Northumberland, South Australia's most Southerly Point, boasts a magnificent rugged coastline, natural vegetation and uninterrupted ocean views. The local surf beach is Brownes Bay about 10km east of Port Macdonell. This beach is very popular with locals but is not patrolled. If you have a small or lowered car it is easy to be bogged in the sand.