15 Fascinating Things to do in Mt Gambier

Mt Gambier usually isn’t on the top of people’s bucket lists, but it should be. This unique town of South Australia has so much to experience and admire. Filled with geological wonders, hidden caves, and pretty lakes, Mount Gambier is a worthwhile long weekend adventure.

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You will find Mount Gambier in South Australia’s limestone coast region, a 4 hour and 37 minute road trip from Adelaide. It is home to beautiful gardens, volcanic craters and incredible cave systems.

Must See Mount Gambier Attractions

Umpherston Sinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole sits 20m deep and is a geological masterpiece draped in ivy and covered with exotic plants. You will not find a better place for a magical picnic than this whimsical garden floor.

Number on on the list of things to do in Mt Gambier is visit the Mount Gambier Sink Hole
Umpherston Sinkhole Mount Gambier Credit: Tia Cole

The sinkhole, which is one of the wonders of South Australia is great for a road trip. It’s free to visit, open all year with flood lights on until 1am.

If you are keen to see more sinkholes, the less well known Caroline sinkhole in the Penambol Conservation Park is less than 30 minutes’ drive from Mount Gambier and is home to a number of wombats!

Divers might also like to check out Engelbrecht Cave, a sinkhole cave, where qualified divers can explore the cave’s deepest reaches.

Tips:

  • Visit at night to say hello to the resident possums. Don’t come empty handed though, the possums love to be fed treats.
  • There are BBQ facilities in the surrounding the park
  • There is wheelchair and pram access to the first viewing platform. The lower level is accessed via stairs.

Where: Jubilee Highway East, Mount Gambier
When: 24 hrs

Cave Garden / Thugi

In the heart of Mount Gambier is another beautiful sinkhole, the Cave Garden / Thugi. Follow the path decorated with roses to the viewing platform where you can gaze down into the beauty of the chasm. If it has rained the day before, a small waterfall will become the star.

The garden is on the main street, so plenty of shops and restaurants nearby.

Tips for visiting Mount Gambier’s Cave Garden

  • Every night, once the sun sets, dreamtime stories of the Boandik people, the traditional custodians of the land, are told with the Cave Gardens Sound and Light show. It is free to watch and great family entertainment.

Where: 1 Bay Rd, Mount Gambier 
When: 24 hours

Centenary Tower

This iconic tower is the most popular lookout in Mount Gambier because of the 360 spectacular views and the sights of the glistening crater lakes. Seated above Valley Lake, the Centenary Tower is illuminated at night, becoming a magical sight itself and can be seen from various points throughout Mount Gambier town.

If it doesn’t happen to be open on your visit, the view is still incredible from the bottom of the tower, especially at sunrise and sunset

Tips:

  • When the flag is raised, the tower is open (it is generally open in summer from 10am-3pm) along with a souvenir shop, snacks and ice-cream
  • It is a short but steep walk to the tower so be sure to wear comfortable footwear

Where: Elliott Dr, Mount Gambier
When: 2pm-5pm Fridays, holiday periods see greater access

Blue Lake

The beautiful Blue Lake Mount Gambier lays within 1 of 3 extinct volcanoes within the town and is one of the most popular attractions as it glistens a unique, vibrant blue during the summer months.

Blue lake at Mount Gambier in Australia
Blue lake at Mount Gambier in Australia

The theory behind the lake’s radiant colour is because of the large amount of white calcite crystals that form on the surface, which reflect bright blue wavelengths when the sun’s rays hit.

The best time to visit is during November-March on a sunny day, as this is when the water will be the most vibrant

Other than the viewing platforms along the circuit, there are multiple places to view the lake’s beauty:
including Centenary Tower, Blue Lake Lookout and the Hidden Underpass. This last one results in the most beautiful panoramic view and the safety rail is decorated with engraved locks as if it has become tradition when visited.

Tips:

  • Unfortunately, you can’t swim at the Blue Lake as it is the town’s water supply
  • Surrounding the water is the 3.6km, dog friendly Blue Lake Circuit
  • The walking trail is illuminated at night

Book a tour with Aquifer Tours where you will be taken down a glass lift to edge of the lake and learn the stories of local history, European settlement, folklore and aboriginal legend of Blue Lake

Where: John Watson Drive Mount Gambier,
When: 24 hours

Valley Lake

Valley Lake is the perfect place to spend with the family as it has wide grassed areas for activities, is a popular place for water sports and you can enjoy a picnic or BBQ amongst the beautiful surroundings.

Less popular than the neighbouring Blue Lake it is a fantastic site for photographers who will love the incredible range of flora and fauna found here.

The crater lake sits within what was once Mount Gambier’s original botanic gardens and is extremely beautiful, especially during Autumn. Drive through the windy mountain roads to Potters Point Lookout for an almost aerial view of the lake.

Surrounding the water is a 1.5 hike and a conservation park, so keep a look out for the resident Koalas and Kangaroos. Valley Lake is considered to be a safer swimming spot than Little Blue Lake.

Tips: If you are travelling with kids they will enjoy the playground and cricket nets here

Where: Elliott Drive, Mount Gambier
When: Daylight hours

Little Blue Lake

Sitting within another inactive volcanic crater is the sparkling Little Blue Lake. Wander from the surrounding field down to the floating pontoon and swim in Little Blue Lake, only a 13 minute drive from ‘big brother’, Blue Lake. During the warm weather, this is one of Mount Gambier’s main attractions to both locals and tourists due to its beauty and swimming appeal.

Lucy Adamopoulos Little Blue Lake 255443
Little Blue Lake Credit: Lucy Adamopoulos

Tips:

  • Although swimming is permitted here, it is not patrolled
  • Divers who hold a Deep Cavern Grade Certification are welcome to cave dive here

Where: Mount Salt Rd, Mount Schank
When: 24 hours

Piccaninnie Ponds & Ewens Ponds

These natural wonders are known for their crystal clear, fresh water. You can look up at the clouds from 40m below, counting that the algae has not been too disturbed. Follow Glenelg River Road for 30 minutes until you hit the Piccaninnie Ponds Road turn off and be amazed at what you will find in the water.

Ewens Ponds Conservation Park Mark Fitzpatrick 155628
Ewans Ponds – Credit: Mark Fitzpatrick

Piccaninnie Ponds is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. Suitable for both novice or experienced cave divers. You will need to purchase a dicing permit from National Parks SA. If you would like to be guided on your visit contact Reef2Ridge for a snorkel or diving tour.

251981 Ewans Ponds Jack Brookes
Ewans Ponds Credit: Jack Brookes

Tips: If you are into cave diving, you can discover the 90m deep underwater cavern, the Cathedral. The best time to dive is during the morning before the algae is disturbed by other swimmers, so if you book a diving tour, we recommend a morning session.

Where: Piccaninnie Ponds Rd, Wye 
When: Daylight hours

Mount Schank

Follow the path of limestone stairs from the car park to the top of this inactive volcano and hike the 1.5km Crater Rim Walk for an incredible 360 view of the scenery, both in and around the crater.

Tips:

  • The hike is rated moderate difficulty
  • The trail down into the crater itself is not maintained, so proceed with caution

Where: 92 Mountain Path Road, Mount Schank
When: Daylight hours

Tantanoola Caves

The secrets of what lay within the Tantanoola Caves can only be seen on one of its wheelchair accessible 30 minute guided tours.

Tantanoola Caves DP
Tantanoola Caves

The inside of the cave is forever changing with new peach, brown and orange toned stalagmites constantly growing. Book a tour to see its geological decorations and learn how the cave was discovered by a young boy.

Tips: Nearby is the Tantanoola Cave Conservation Park, which has a 500m walking loop which highlights the face of Up and Down Rock.

Where: Princes Highway, Tantanoola
When: 10am-3pm – Tours run every 30 minutes

Naracoorte Caves

An hour’s drive from Mount Gambier is Naracoorte Caves. They are South Australia’s only World Heritage Site, with five caves open to explore on a guided or self-guided walk.

You can learn about the giant marsupials that once roamed the land before humans and see their fossils which are on display.

Naracoorte Caves
A sculpture of a giant short-faced kangaroo skeleton in Naracoorte Caves National Park

Tips: While the caves themselves are not wheelchair accessible, the Wonambi Fossil Centre and Bat Observation Centre are.

Children can play at the Fossil Hunters Nature Playground while you enjoy a coffee from Caves Café. Alternatively make use of the picnic grounds and barbeques.

Where: 89 Wonambi Road, Naracoorte
When: 9am-5pm

Engelbrecht Cave

The Engelbrecht Caves are truly amazing, which is why they are one of the top attractions in the limestone coast. The caves act like a labyrinth that tunnels underneath the heart of Mount Gambier. They are visually unique compared to others in South Australia.

Engelbrecht Cave DP
Engelbrecht Cave

On the cave tour, you will be introduced to one of the town’s oldest living creatures in the clear, underground lake from one of the underground cabins.

Fully certified cave divers and explore the caves sinkhole.

Tips: Tours are booked on arrival and times change seasonally. Check their Facebook page for details.

Where: 26 Chute St, Mount Gambier
When: 9.30am-3pm every day in the school holidays (usually closed Wednesdays)
Unfortunately, the caves are not wheelchair accessible.

Cape Northumberland – Australia’s first lighthouse

Half an hour away from Mount Gambier is where you will experience the most spectacular sunrise or sunset on the coast at Cape Northumberland.

Walk along the rocky shore and find the natural geological formations that have been carved by the ocean, creating animal like rock figures, including Rhino Rock. Remains of South Australia’s first mainland lighthouse can be found 2 minutes away at the Cape Northumberland Heritage and Nature Park.

Tips: Come during dusk or dawn to spot some fairy penguins

Where: Cape Northumberland Rd, Port Macdonnell
When: 24 hours

Port Macdonnell – Lobster Capital of Australia

If you want to try lobster fishing, 5 minute drive from Cape Northumberland and just 28km from Mount Gambier is the Port Macdonnell, Australia’s Southern Rock Lobster Capital.

Port MacDonnell credit Adam Bruzzone119413
Port Macdonnell Credit: South Australia Tourism Commission and Adam Bruzzone

Pop into Periwinkles cafe for a bite to eat if you fancy a lobster lunch, they do a great grilled lobster

If you would like to learn about the town’s fascinating past drop in at the German Mine, Port MacDonnell & District Maritime Museum or the Dingley Dell & Dingley Dell Conservation Park which was the home of the famous poet Adam Lindsay Gordon.

Where: Port Macdonnell, South Australia
When: 24 hours

Lady Nelson Discovery Centre

For more information about Mount Gambier attractions and history, visit the Lady Nelson Discovery Centre.

It is also an attraction itself with an fossified skull of Simosthenurus occidental on display, a glass floor with illuminated fossil rocks beneath and an under-sea world with interactive displays and aquatic creatures.

Where:  35 Jubilee Hwy East, Mount Gambier 
When: Weekdays 9am-5pm, Weekends 10am-4pm

It’s a good idea to have travel insurance to cover any cancellation or unexpected problems that may arise. We use and recommend Cover-More for all our travel. They also offer an Inbound plan for anyone visiting Australia from overseas.

Where to stay in Mount Gambier

Caravans parks and motels abound in Mount Gambier, which makes choosing one harder. Despite the number of properties, the good ones book out early in peak season.

Blue Lake Holiday Park

The closest choice to Blue Lake this holiday park has a wide range of options, from lovely small but modern cottages to 3 bedroom bungalows. Excellent facilities for kids with a jumping pillow and games room. Check prices or availability of Blue Lake Holiday Park here.

Aloha Central Premium Studios

This upmarket motel has large (45-65sqm) king and twin rooms with plenty of off-street parking.

Old Mount Gambier Gaol – Sleep in a cell

Visit Mount Gambier’s old gaol or stay the night to experience some unique accommodation. From original cell rooms to staff quarters there is a variety of rooms to choose from.

Grab a map from reception and go for a self-guided tour and explore the cell blocks, discover the original wall murals and read the interactive signage. Guided tours are also available by appointment for a more detailed experience.

Where: 25 Margaret St, Mount Gambier. If you are travelling by public transport free transfers to the Goal are available

Planning to explore South Australia? Head over to our Facebook Group for Australian Travel Tips or to ask a question in our friendly community.

About the Author: Tia lives by the words “act like the person you want to become”. This is what motivates her to step out of her comfort zone along with her passion for adventure. Tia values the little things in life like showing her son new ways to experience the world and writing away with her Jug pup cosied up in her lap with a vanilla latte in hand. 

Tia Cole

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