Roughly an even distance from both Melbourne and Adelaide, Mount Gambier could be easy to overlook. It isn’t on the normal freeway driving between the two capital cities, and if you haven’t heard of it before you might not know how many amazing attractions can be found in the area.
Mount Gambier sits on an ancient volcanic landscape, with plenty of craters, lakes and caves to explore. It’s also known for it’s limestone and makes up part of the Limestone Coastal region.
From lakes full of the bluest water you’ve ever seen, to underground caves, amazing swimming holes and sink holes, with great diving opportunities, there’s so much to explore in this mini city in the country.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit to Mount Gambier.
Where is Mount Gambier
Located about 4 hours and 45 minutes by car from both Melbourne and Adelaide, Mount Gambier is one of the first stops in South Australia if you’re travelling from Victoria. It’s only a short way over the border, making up part of the Limestone Coast, and is one of the biggest country cities in South Australia.
Mount Gambier is nice and easy to navigate, with wide, quiet roads and plenty of signage to help you get around.
Incredible attractions in Mount Gambier
There are so many natural attractions in Mount Gambier, you could easily spend days exploring the region. However, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, there’s also a good chance you’ll miss some of the best spots, as they’re hidden away and not immediately obvious.
The Blue Lake
Sitting in one of Mount Gambier’s extinct volcanic craters, the Blue Lake is one of the most popular and infamous attractions in the city. During the summer months each year, from December until March, the water in the lake is a very bright cobalt blue colour.
It’s not actually known exactly why the water changes colour in the summer months, but the conclusion is that it has something to do with the temperature of the lake heating up in the summer time. If you visit from April until November the lake is an unexciting grey colour.
There’s a walking trail around the whole lake which will take you to each of the lookout platforms along the way. The walk is about 3.6 kilometres long, but relatively flat and easy to walk.
Address: John Watson Drive, Mount Gambier
You’ve probably seen photos of this one before, but might not have known where it was found. The Umpherston Sinkhole, also known as the Sunken Garden, is a beautifully green and vibrant garden that has grown out of a crater in the middle of a park.
It was turned into a garden in 1886 by James Umpherston and has been a thriving little ecosystem ever since. The pathway from the top spirals around the garden, offering a few different lookouts along the way, with views over all different parts of the garden.
Open each day from dawn until dusk (roughly 6am until 1am), you can often get the garden all to yourself if you visit early in the morning. Or for a wildlife experience, visit at dusk when all the local possums begin to run around the crater.
Address: Jubilee Highway East, Mount Gambier
The Cave Gardens
The Cave Gardens is one of the smaller caves in Mount Gambier, but it is located right in the heart of the city. Inside the cave is another thriving garden, with all kinds of greenery spilling over the caves edges. A very short walk will take you around the rim of the cave, with a few different lookout spots stopping you along the way.
There is also a beautiful rose garden alongside the cave, which is most at bloom during the spring season. The roses are all different colours and absolutely beautiful right in the heart of the city. It’s a great spot for picnics, with lots of shade and grassy spots to sit.
Address: Bay Road, Mount Gambier
Little Blue Lake
Just as bright as it’s big brother in the heart of Mount Gambier, there is one thing that makes Little Blue Lake even better than the popular Blue Lake. You are able to swim in Little Blue Lake.
A short 11 kilometres out of Mount Gambier, there’s nothing around Little Blue Lake, just a deep sinkhole surrounded by South Australia’s dry countryside. It’s a great spot to take a dip on a hot day, and is also a favourite for diving in the area.
It’s a cool 12 degrees all year round in the lake, with the water temperature remaining constant throughout the seasons. The shallowest point of the lake is about 25 metres deep, with some of the deepest points reaching about 47 metres into the Earth.
Address: Mount Salt Road, Mount Schank
One of the best caves in the region, Engelbrecht Cave is a relatively new attraction in Mount Gambier. Only being established in 1979 by the Lions Club of Mount Gambier, before this it was actually used as a rubbish dump by it’s private owners.
These days, Engelbrecht is a popular diving site for cave divers, while also being great to explore on foot. There are 164 steps here that will lead you down through the cave, with many viewing platforms to check out at different points along the way.
If you want to explore more of the cave you will need to jump on a tour, which run on the hour during opening times but do vary seasonally. Generally the cave is open 6 days a week (closed on Wednesdays), between 9:30am and 3pm. Tickets cost $14.50 per adult.
Address: 26 Chute Street, Mount Gambier || Ph: (08) 8723 5552
Views over Mount Gambier
Overlooking all of Mount Gambier, with stunning views over the Blue Lake, Valley Lake and surrounding park land, Centenary Tower is a great lookout point to check out during your visit. Standing tall at about 190 metres above sea level, it’s the most scenic viewpoint in Mount Gambier.
Opening in 1904, this tower is more than one hundred years old, but still stands strong watching over the city. These days the tower is also used by fire spotters during the summer season to locate and extinguish bushfires before they get out of control.
Centenary Tower is open whenever the flag is flying from the top. Generally this is from 10:30am to 3:30pm on open days. The days that the tower is open changes throughout the year due to weather conditions. As a rough guide, the tower is normally open 3 to 4 days a week in the warmer months, and 2 to 3 days a week in the cooler months, with Sundays usually being the one constant open day. There is a small admission fee if you would like to go into the tower itself.
Address: Elliott Drive, Mount Gambier
Lady Nelson Visitors Centre
We always love a visitors centre, but the Lady Nelson Visitors Centre in Mount Gambier is particularly special. Out the front there is a replica of the Lady Nelson sailing boat that was the first ship to sail along the coastline of South Australia in 1799. Unfortunately it was destroyed in 1825 by some natives of the Island of Baba.
These days the visitors centre has all the information you could need for your visit to Mount Gambier, as well as the rest of the Limestone Coast. There is also a free discovery walk in the centre, with lots of interesting information about the Lady Nelson’s voyage, an under-sea world, and glass floor walk with all kinds of fossil rocks underneath.
Opening hours: Open 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday, and 10am to 4pm on the weekends.
Address: 35 Jubilee Highway East, Mount Gambier || Ph: (08) 8724 9750
Where to stay in Mount Gambier
If you’re looking for a campground style of accommodation we found a great camp at the Mount Gambier Showgrounds. The campground caters for everything from swags to caravans, is small and quiet, allows pets and offers both powered and un-powered sites.
There are toilets and showers available, which are both impeccably clean and in amazing condition. There was even a lovely smelling diffuser in the ladies bathroom! I mean that kind of detail when you’re camping is just so nice.
You can find them on WikiCamps by searching around Mount Gambier.
A couple of other great accommodation options include:
For a very unique experience you can also stay in the Old Mount Gambier Goal. With a choice between dorm room, double cells and family rooms, the jail has been decorated beautifully and is a very different type of stay than you would have had anywhere else.
In addition to all of the beautiful natural attractions around Mount Gambier, the whole region is dotted with hidden sinkholes, underground caves, amazing diving spots and lakes with the clearest blue water. Give yourself at least a couple of days to really check out all the different places this little town has to offer.
For the best time to visit we would highly recommend visiting during the summer months from December to March to give yourself the best chance of seeing the Blue Lake at it’s brightest and best. It’s a little bit overwhelming if it’s not that bright blue colour you’ve seen in all the photos.
What are your favourite places to visit around Mount Gambier?
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