DRIVES AND ROAD TRIPS

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Stay and play – Mt Gambier, SA

With a mix of mesmerising natural attractions dotted around a vibrant centre, SA’s most populous regional city demands serious attention.

Mt Gambier explodes with natural goodies.

Where is it?

Mt Gambier is 435km southeast of Adelaide (4hr 45min drive) or 420km west of Melbourne (4hr 50min drive) in the Limestone Coast region.

Why go?

For easy access to astounding ancient attractions and landscapes. The addition of a world-class wine region ‘just up the road’ is simply a bonus.

That sinking feeling has a whole new meaning in these parts. Pictured: Umpherston Sinkhole.

The essentials – things to do in Mt Gambier, SA

Blue Lake

This huge crater lake, located within an extinct volcano, is a Mt Gambier landmark. It instantly grabs attention for its vivid colours; a rich turquoise blue from early November until late February and an obvious greyish tone at other times. A walking track around the lake’s circumference reveals its beauty from various vantage points. 

Blue Lake doesn't have the most creative name, but it sure is a captivating creation. Credit: Jaxon Foale.

Little Blue Lake

Unlike its bigger ‘sibling’, this vibrant volcanic sinkhole suits swimming, aided by the addition of stairs and a floating pontoon. Take note, though – the water is very deep. The lake is literally found in the middle of a paddock, off a main road. Alternatively, the area around less-heralded Valley Lake is perfect for a picnic.

Little Blue Lake grabs attention, too. Credit: Lucy Adamopoulos.

Umpherston Sinkhole

This was once a limestone cave before corrosion from seawater finally led to its roof collapsing. It created the perfect opportunity for the former cave to be turned into a scenic sunken garden, and now it’s one of Mt Gambier’s most-visited places both day and night.

Intriguing: Umpherston Sinkhole.

Cave Garden

Positioned around a spectacular sinkhole – yep, another one! – this centrally located garden includes various viewing platforms to admire its beauty. Blooming roses provide further treats for the eyes in spring as does a waterfall after periods of rain. And it’s worth visiting in the evening for the nightly sound and light show with its Aboriginal Dreamtime focus.

Engelbrecht Cave

The visual treats continue with a visit to this natural wonder, home to unique dry cave formations and an interesting if unsettling past that can be gleaned on a guided tour. Like much of Mt Gambier’s treasures, the cave is close to the CBD.

Continue along the natural trail with a visit to Cave Garden. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

Centenary Tower

This is your spot for sweeping panoramas of the region. The circa 1904 tower reveals wonderful outlooks from atop, including glimpses of Blue Lake and the area’s remarkable volcanic landscape.

The Riddoch Arts and Cultural Centre

Steering away from the city’s natural gems, and heading indoors, the cultural centre is headlined by an art gallery containing a rich, diverse, and comprehensive collection. It’s joined by touring exhibitions, and it all makes for a rainy day must.

Indoor essential: Riddoch. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission/Adam Bruzzone.

Must-visit attractions near Mt Gambier, SA

Kilsby Sinkhole

Located beneath a family sheep farm, this amazing geological wonder is highly regarded by snorkellers and divers for its clear waters and amazing visibility. Tours are available, including an informative option for those who wish to stay dry.

Distance: 15km southeast of Mt Gambier.

Diver's delight: Kilsby Sinkhole. Credit: Adam Stern.

Mt Schank

The eye candy continues with a walk around this dormant volcano crater’s rim, which reveals glorious views that stretch far and wide from its elevated position.

Distance: 15km south of Mt Gambier.

Hells Hole, Caveton

Continue the ‘sinkhole crawl’ with a visit to this awe-inspiring attraction, found among forest and seemingly miles from anywhere. A viewing platform showcases the heavenly creation, which is another popular diving spot in these parts.

Distance: 20km southeast of Mt Gambier.

Hells Hole is heavenly to look at. Credit: Michael Waterhouse Photography.

Port MacDonnell

The state’s southernmost town and self-described ‘Southern Rock Lobster Capital’ is flanked by dramatic coastline, so expect more treats for the eyeballs. It’s backed by a handful of excellent attractions.

Distance: 25km south of Mt Gambier.

More eye candy awaits at Port MacDonnell. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission/Adam Bruzzone.

Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park

These captivating caves have a host of intriguing features, most notably speleothems – otherwise known as cave deposits – that reveal eye-catching pink and brown hues. As a bonus, the caves are wheelchair accessible.

Distance: 30km northwest of Mt Gambier.

Tantanoola is yet another amazing natural wonder in the region. Credit: Rhisang Alfarid.

Penola

Spotted on the fringes of the Coonawarra wine region, the small town holds strong interest. Essential experiences include exploring the heritage cottages of Petticoat Lane and retracing the life of Australia’s first saint at the Mary MacKillop Precinct.

Distance: 50km north of Mt Gambier.

Coonawarra wine region

Without doubt, this is one of Australia’s best wine regions. The Coonawarra features terra rossa soil that’s perfect for whipping up distinctive, rich reds, led by cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Wineries are dotted throughout, making for hassle-free cellar-door hopping.

Distance: 60km north of Mt Gambier.

The Coonawarra is among Australia's best wine regions.

Random fact

The most recent volcanic eruptions on the Australian mainland occurred at Mt Gambier and nearby Mt Schank an estimated 5000 years ago.

Mt Gambier accommodation

Where to stay in Mt Gambier? Here is the answer…

BIG4 Blue Lake Holiday Park

Park type: Holiday

Edging famous Blue Lake and set on sprawling surrounds with landscaped gardens, this park is the perfect base for a Mt Gambier getaway.

There are loads of cabin options alongside ensuite, powered, and unpowered sites. And there are pet-friendly sites, too.

Lovely location: BIG4 Blue Lake.

Headlining the in-park facilities are a swimming pool with a designated toddler area, tennis courts, jumping pillow, large playground, games room, and a sizeable kitchen and dining area.

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Dive in for a memorable break.

Plan your Mt Gambier break with BIG4 now. Click below.

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