Mount Gambier has to be Australia’s most unique city.

Located in South Australia, Mount Gambier is not only the perfect stop off when driving between Melbourne and Adelaide but it should be a destination that’s on your bucket list.

There are hundreds of natural geological wonders that make this city absolutely mind blowing.

Here’s the reasons why.

Did you know Mount Gambier actually sits right on top of an inactive volcano? When we first heard about this magical city, we knew we had to visit which coincided with our road trip from Sydney – Adelaide via Melbourne.

From huge sinkholes, a lake that turns bright blue in Summer and diving spots that will give the cenotes in Mexico a run for its money Mount Gambier is Australia’s secret gem. 


Where is Mount Gambier?

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It’s the second most populated city in South Australia with nearly 30,000 residents and sits right in the middle of Adelaide (4.5hours away) and Melbourne (5 hours away). When we visited, we had come from 40C heat in Melbourne to a chilly temp in Mount Gambier. Although the city isn’t on an elevation, the temperature can be cooler.

Here’s 20 things to do in Mount Gambier as well as where to stay and eat.


Mount Gambier Accommodation

Wondering where to stay in Mount Gambier? Check out these three options which range in budgets.

Stay in a prison

old-mount-gambier-gaol

Fancy staying somewhere completely different? Why not stay in the Old Mount Gambier Gaol. That’s right, the old jail is now a cool hostel. Prices start at $33 for a 4 bed dorm or $112 for a double room with bathroom.

Prefer an airbnb? Get $55 off your first airbnb booking right here!

The Barn 

The-barn-mount-gambier-accommodationIf you’re looking for somewhere a little less jail like, then The Barn is Mount Gambier’s number 1 accommodation on Trip Advisor and starts from $145 for a queen room.

Camping

blue-lake-holiday-park-mount-gambier11Otherwise Mount Gambier has a few awesome campsites to choose from. We stayed at the Blue Lake Caravan Park right above the Blue Lake.

If you’re looking for some awesome accommodation deals in Mount Gambier check out the below!



Booking.com


Where to eat in Mount Gambier

If you’re looking wondering what are the best restaurants in Mount Gambier the below have made our list. natural-born-grillers-mount-gambier-foodEl Gringo aka The Mexican at Natural Born Grillers

Natural Born Grillers is a bit of an institution in Mount Gambier for serving up the best burgers. Their inventions are well of out the box; expect anything from a festive Halloween Frankenstein Burger, complete with a green bun, El Gringo aka Mexican Burger complete with corn chips as well as the Gangnam Style complete with Korean peanut slaw. They even offer gluten free and vegan options too.
presto-bakery-mount-gambier-pancakes
Delicious guilt free pancakes DO exist at Presto Eatery!
Other options include The Barn if you’re looking for more of a fine dining restaurant, Zambrero for Mexican,  Cafe Melzar or Presto Eatery for a decent healthy cafe in Mount Gambier and South Aussie Hotel for your standard Australian pub food.

 20 things to do in Mount Gambier

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1. Umpherston Sinkhole

umpherston-sinkhole-mount-gambier

There might be 50+ sinkholes in Mount Gambier but nothing will prepare you for the beauty of the Umpherston Sinkhole. In 1886 when the once limestone cave’s roof collapsed, James Umpherston created the most beautiful garden in Australia.

umpherston-sinkhole-mount-gambier-1

You can walk right down into the garden and admire it from different perspectives. At night time the garden comes alive as hundreds of possums come out to eat.

It did remind us a bit of the famous IK Kil cenote in Mexico but we thought the Umpherston Sinkhole is better!

Ik-Kil-Cenote-MexicoMexico’s famous Ik-kil Cenote reminded us a little bit of the Umpherston Sinkhole.


2. The Blue Lakeblue-lake-mount-gambier

Ticking off the top two attractions in Mount Gambier includes the Umpherston Sinkhole and The Blue Lake. The mind blowing Blue Lake is an absolutely incredible sight and is one of the four crater lakes around Mount Gambier.

It’s believed to be around 75 metres deep and stretches over a 1000 metres wide. One of the reasons why tourists comes to Mount Gambier is to witness the lake’s intensive cobalt blue colour which can only be seen during the summer months. It’s believed the lake changes from it’s usual grey colour when there’s a change in the water temperature.

Swimming isn’t permitted but it’s strongly advised to walk the 3.6km hike around the circumference of the lake to get a better understanding and perspective of this natural phenomenon in Mount Gambier.


3. But swim in Little Blue Lake

Little-blue-lake-mount-gambierYou might not be able to swim in The Blue Lake in Mount Gambier but you can at the Little Blue Lake which sites 11km south west of the city. It’s around 40 metres deep but there’s a great pontoon to spend a lazy summer day to enjoy.little-blue-lake-mount-gambier-1Take your swimmers with you to The Little Blue Lake!


4. Echo Farm

echo-farm-mount-gambierOne of the top attractions in Mount Gambier is the family favourite Echo Farm. This old style farm experience allows visitors to go on a self guided walk around the 17 acres.

It’s home to animals such as; pigs, emu, sheep, cats, geese, wallabys, chickens and more. This is a great farm which allows you to experience the authentic Australian farm life in a natural environment.


5. Cave Gardens

cave-gardens-mount-gambier

Best to visit the cave gardens first before you head over to Umpherston Sinkhole because although they aren’t as impressive, it’s still mind blowing to see something like this in the middle of the city.

There’s a sound and light show which takes place every night at the Cave Gardens and also the Farmers Markets from 9-12pm on Saturdays.


6. Hike Valley Lake

valley-lake-mount-gambier

If you’re looking to do a short hike in Mount Gambier then try the 1.2km hike around Valley Lake which is definitely less crowded than the Blue Lake and a great quiet spot for the family to enjoy.


7. Scuba dive / Snorkel in the incredible Kilsby Sinkhole

kilsby-sinkhole-mount-gambier-1There’s a platform at the bottom of the sinkhole for the divers to enter.

There are so many snorkelling, cave diving, cavern diving and technical diving sites around Mount Gambier that they easily give Mexico’s cenotes in the Riviera Maya a run for their money.

kilsby-sinkhole-mount-gambier-1Mind blowing to think the entrance to this extraordinary sinkhole is at a sheep farm.

One standout is the Kilsby Sinkhole. Located on a sheep farm, this world renowned diving site has been used by the Navy and to train Police divers in the past.

The most interesting fact is when the sun rises, it completely lights up the entire cave as deep as 40 metres (you can actually dive down to 70 metres if you’re a qualified cave diver). You’ll be able to witness a spectacular light show as it dances around you. If you’re into scuba diving then put Kilsby Sinkhole on your bucket list right now.

kilsby-sinkhole-mount-gmbierImage by Richard Harris.

If you have an open water or above scuba diving qualification and over 18, contact Reef2Ridge to dive in the Kilsby Sinkhole. They also offer snorkelling tours as well.

Related post: Diving with sharks in Maldives on a budget


8. Visit the tree plantations

tree-plantations-mount-gambierWhen driving onto the outskirts of Mount Gambier there are miles and miles of tree plantations. Take a walk through them and bring your camera as there are some beautiful photos to be taken of the trees and some worthy instagram shots too.


9. Cape Jaffa Lighthouse (1h40m west)

cape-jaffna-lighthouse

The Cape Jaffa Lighthouse was originally 41 metres high and sat out at sea. Two lighthouse keeper families lived in this unique lighthouse and it’s now a museum which can be visited during the school holidays from 10-4pm.


10. Morrisons Jazz Club

morrisons-jazz-clubNamed after legendary Australian jazz trumpeter James Morrison, Mount Gambier recently opened its first Jazz club in fifty years. Morrisons Jazz Club has been styled on some of their favourite jazz venues in New York and is open from Thursdays to Sunday evenings.


11. Scuba dive in Pincanine Ponds

Piccaninnie-Ponds-mount-gambierImage by Liz Rogers of the spectacular crystal clear Cathedral passage in the Pincanine Ponds. 

The Piccaninnie Ponds are some of the most impressive world class cave diving systems in the world. Diving through the Cathedral above drops to 90 metres deep and there’s even one spot in the cave where the water is so clear, you can even see the clouds in the sky from 30 metres deep.

Reef2Ridge offer snorkeling and diving tours of the spectacular Pincanine Ponds.


12. Visit the caves

Along with the sinkholes, Mount Gambier is also famous for the awesome caves to visit. Did you know there’s over 800+ caves in the region? Here are some of the most popular caves to visit in Mount Gambier.

Tantanoola CavesTantanoola-Caves-mount-gambierTantanoola Caves were actually founded in 1930 by two children who lost their pet ferret. These caves are known as the only caves in South Australia which have peach and brown colours of the crystals thanks to the dolomite bedrock.

Naracoorte Caves World Heritage Fossil SiteNaracoorte-caves-mount-gambierNaracoorte Caves is South Australia’s only world heritage site as it perserves fossils which date back 500,000 years.

Princess Margaret Rose Caveprincess-margaret-rose-cave-mount-gambierNamed after Princess Margaret and also known as ‘the jewel in the crown’, the Princess Margaret Rose Cave is named as one of the most decorated caves in Australia (per square metre).

You can also go on a 3.5 hour river cruise from Nelson to Princess Margaret Rose Cave with Glenelg River Cruises.

Engelbrecht CaveEngelbrecht-Cave-mount-gambierTo think Engelbrecht Caves was once used as a rubbish dump by the landowners and now its known as one of the most beautiful caves to visit in Mount Gambier.

Engelbrecht Cave is also a popular scuba diving site in Mount Gambier as well. Apart from the numerous scenic spots at Engelbrecht Cave, you will find several underwater caverns and tunnels here. There is also a cafe on site selling food, drinks and a few souvenirs.

Related post: Why everyone should visit Wombeyan Caves in NSW


13. Dingley Dell

dingley-dell-mount-gambierFamous Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon lived at Dingley Dell from 1864 until 1867 which has since been turned into a museum and beautiful gardens. Tours are available everyday from 10-4pm.


14. The wreck of the Pisces Star (near Carpenter Rocks, 30 minutes south west)pieces-star-wreck-carpenters

With over 800 shipwrecks in South Australia, we love the Pisces Star which ran aground on its voyage from Perth 21 years ago. Get there at the right time of the day and time it with the tide to capture a photo like the above.


15. Laughton Park Gardens And Tearooms 

loughton-tearooms-mount-gambier

If you’re looking to spend the day chilled out amongst a beautiful gardens with a waterfall descending through to four ponds and into a lake then Laughton Park Gardens and Tearooms is the place for you.

Did you say tearooms? That’s right Laughton Park also has a tearooms serving up a classic Devonshire tea which overlooks the park. There are also BBQ areas as well.


16. The Lady Nelson Discovery Centre

lady-nelson-discovery-centre-mount-gambier-5One of the main attractions in Mount Gambier is The Lady Nelson Discovery Centre named after the Lady Nelson, the first ship to sail along the South Australian coastline.

The discovery centre offers information on all of the activities available in the area and also has its own ship on display as well as an undersea world where visitors can check out the interactive displays and marine creatures. There’s also a glass floor you can walk along to see the illuminated fossil rocks beneath them.


17. Snorkelling / Scuba diving in Ewen Ponds Conservation Park

ewan-ponds-mount-gambier

There are three ponds within this sinkhole with channels between them all, and only 10 metres deep so perfect for diving or snorkelling. What makes Ewan Ponds so unique is that the water is unbelievably clear and has been filtered through the rock from the limestone for thousands of years.

It also maintains a constant 16C all year round and because it’s so clear, it’s also one of the only places in the world where you can see some land plants growing under water. It’s also home to the endangered Ewens Pygmy Perch fish which can only be found in this pond, anywhere in the world.


18. Drink wine at Katnook Estate

Katnook-Estate-mount-gambierSpend the afternoon wine tasting at the popular Katnook Estate in the Coonawarra region. They have a huge selection of Katnook reds and whites to try.


19. The Big Lobster (1h40m west)

The_Big_Lobster-kingstonEveryone loves the Big things in Australia so just 1h40m down the road towards Kingston lies Larry The Big Lobster. At 17 metres tall, the larry was an invention by a local fisherman who originally wanted the lobster to be positioned over the top of the complex but due to council regulations it had to sit in front of it.


20. Visit the Petrified Forest at Discovery Bay Park (1h30m south)

petrified-forest-mount-gambier

It might be about an 1h30m drive from Mount Gambier but Discovery Bay Coastal Park is known for its huge rolling sand dunes, high coastal cliffs, swamps, freshwater lakes, coastal vegetation and wildlife.

A stand out geological attraction is The Petrified Forest. There’s lots of theories out there on how these one metre structures were formed but in fact they are hollow tubes of limestone which are the result of millions of years of rainfall.


If these 20 things to do in Mount Gambier doesn’t want to make you visit this incredible city, then we don’t know what will!

20 things to do in Mount Gambier

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20 things to do in Mount Gambier | Australia’s secret gem
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