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Looking for what to do in Mount Gambier? With so much to see and do in Mount Gambier, it can be tough to know where to start. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Mount Gambier, so you can make the most of your time in this beautiful city. From caves and sinkholes to scenic lookouts and beautiful lakes, there’s something for everyone in Mount Gambier.
So get ready to explore one of South Australia’s most underrated tourist destinations.
- A Brief History Of Mount Gambier, Australia
- Best Things To Do In Mount Gambier South Australia
- The Blue Lake
- Blue Lake Aquifer Tour
- Umpherston Sinkhole
- Feed The Possums At Umpherston Sinkhole
- Spend A Day At Valley Lake Recreation Area
- Valley Lake Wildlife Park & Boardwalk
- Engelbrecht Caves
- Enjoy The Many Walking Trails
- Lady Nelson Discovery Centre
- Cave Gardens
- Centenary Tower
- Little Blue Lake
- See Mount Schank Crater
- Meet The Echo Farm Animals
- See Mount Gambier On Bike
- Day Trips From Mount Gambier
- Mount Gambier With Kids
- Planning Your Mt Gambier Visit
A Brief History Of Mount Gambier, Australia
Mount Gambier is the second most populated city in South Australia, located on the sloping hills of an extinct volcano. The volcanic activity created a unique landscape with many geological wonders, such as the Blue Lake and Umpherston Sinkhole.
RECOMMENDED READING: Plan the ultimate trip to Australia with our Australia Travel Guide!
Best Things To Do In Mount Gambier South Australia
Mount Gambier is a popular place to visit on a day trip from elsewhere in SA or on a trip over the border from Victoria, especially if you have extra time at the end of your Great Ocean Road drive!
As a kid, we used to visit regularly from my hometown of Portland in Victoria, located around an hour away so it was exciting to get back for a visit with our own kids after exploring some of the best places in Victoria.
Here are some of the best things to do at Mount Gambier that you won’t want to miss, whether you are visiting for one day or staying for a while:
The Blue Lake
The Blue Lake is a geological wonder in Mount Gambier that draws huge crowds each day to see the deep cobalt blue water from the stunning viewpoints around the volcanic lake.
The beautiful Blue Lake in Mount Gambier is a monomictic crater lake located within an inactive volcano and one of four Crater Lakes originally on the Mount Gambier maar. Now only two remain, Blue Lake and Valley Lake, with the other 2 lakes having dried up over time.
The colour of the lake changes throughout the year, with the exact cause unknown. However, during the summer months (such as our recent visit – no this photo has not been edited!), the lake is a vibrant bright blue. While during the cooler months, the lake is more of a steel grey.
Summertime is definitely the best time to visit Mount Gambier if you want to see the lake at its most vibrant!
While there is no swimming allowed in the lake, there are several viewpoints and a walking loop around the perimeter of the lake to appreciate its beauty.
Blue Lake Aquifer Tour
The Blue Lake Aquifer Tour takes visitors on a journey through underground tunnels and chambers to explore the hidden depths of the lake. Visitors can learn about the history, geology and biodiversity of the lake from an experienced tour guide.
Located in the centre of Mount Gambier is one of the most unexpected attractions – the Umpherston Sinkhole. This natural attraction, also known as Balumbul or the Sunken Garden, has been transformed into one of the most beautiful gardens and a really cool experience to explore within the sinkhole.
Once an underground cave system formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, the ceiling of the cave collapsed, creating the perfect environment for the lush gardens that you see now. The gardens were first developed back in the late 1800s by James Umpherston.
Stroll through the brightly coloured flowers and admire the massive walls of vines hanging from the top of the limestone cave sinkhole.
It is free to visit Umperston Sinkhole and it remains open from dusk til dawn. There is a small cave area hidden behind vines, so make sure you don’t miss the entrance behind the stairway.
Surrounding the utopia-like gardens, you will find picnic areas, BBQ facilities, a small playground, and a parkland area, as well as the Umperston Kiosk. This is easily one of the best free things to do in Mount Gambier.
The entrance into the sinkhole is via quite a few stairs, however, there are viewing platforms from the top also.
Interesting Fact: There are over 50 cenotes (sinkholes) within the Mount Gambier and Limestone Coast area!
Feed The Possums At Umpherston Sinkhole
As the sun goes down, the local possums come out to play inside the gardens of Umperston Sinkhole, so if you are visiting at night time, bring some fruit with you. We heard that they love grapes and strawberries especially!
Just make sure it is fruit you are bringing to feed them to avoid getting the possums sick from processed foods that aren’t part of their native diet.
The possums will come right up to you for a feed. What a cool experience for all ages!
Spend A Day At Valley Lake Recreation Area
For the perfect family day out, the Valley Lake Recreation Area is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Depending on the time of year you are visiting, Valley Lake is popular for water activities such as jetskiing or standup paddleboarding.
There is a huge fenced adventure playground here that the kids will love, along with facilities for BBQs, picnics and public toilets. Or bring your football or frisbee for a play on the large open grassy areas.
Our kids loved the playground and had a great time letting out some energy before our drive back to Portland.
Valley Lake Wildlife Park & Boardwalk
If you are looking for free things to do in Mount Gambier, this is yet another great option! In fact, Mount Gambier is a great place all round if you are looking for a budget-friendly destination in South Australia.
Valley Lake Wildlife Park is a nature reserve just near the lake that has been created as a protective environment for many native animals in the area.
You can stroll through the wildlife park and see kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, birds and perhaps some less common wildlife such as shy echidnas or bandicoots.
The walk through the nature reserve is lovely too, with boardwalks, viewing platforms and bridges throughout. There are signs in place giving you tips to maximise your wildlife spotting. Just keep an eye out for snakes on the paths during the summer months. After all, the conservation park is designed to closely replicate the natural Australian bushland.
The conservation park is open from 7 am to 6 pm daily.
The Engelbrecht Caves, located just a couple of kilometres from the centre of town, is another fun thing to do in Mount Gambier and one of the most unique caves in the Limestone Coast region.
This is one of the few caves open for tourists to explore and it’s an amazing experience. The Engelbrecht Cave system was previously privately owned and used as a rubbish dump by owners.
Thankfully these days you can visit the sinkhole cave on a guided 45-minute tour to see the underground lake and learn about its history. This cave is a popular spot for cave diving too.
Other caves to visit in the area include Tantanoola Cave and Naracoorte Caves National Park.
Enjoy The Many Walking Trails
If you’re feeling energetic, the Blue Lake Circuit is a 3.6km walking trail around the lake with some spectacular views of Blue Lake and Valley Lake. The walk is easy enough for any fitness level and takes around 1 hour to complete, depending on how often you stop to admire the view.
If you’re looking for a more challenging walking track, the Mountain Trail will instead take you around the larger walking track of Valley Lake. This is a moderate walking track with some steep sections and stairs, over a distance of approximately 4.2km.
Other walking tracks include the Leg of Mutton Lake walk and the Pepperpot Trail, which are each around 1.7km in length.
Mount Gambier Visitor Centre
The Mount Gambier Tourist Information Centre is more than just a place to stop for local information and tours.
The building itself is part of the history of Mount Gambier and commemorates the first ship that said along the South Australian coastline. They have a replica of the ship in front of the Discovery Centre, so it’s easy to spot as you drive by!
The centre houses a museum, with some fascinating artefacts from the early days of settlement in the region, interactive displays and exhibits featuring the unique marine life of the area, as well as the local Boandik culture too.
And of course, Lady Nelson Discovery Centre is a perfect place to come if you want to learn about what is happening in town during your visit and get recommendations for more things to see and do from their qualified staff.
Another unexpected sight right in the centre of Mount Gambier is the Cave Gardens.
This foliage and floral display are located in a sinkhole with viewing platforms. While you can’t go down into the sinkhole as you can at Umpherston, it is a nice spot to take a stroll.
There are beautiful rose gardens and plenty of places for a picnic nearby.
Unfortunately, the bottom of the cave garden has collected a lot of rubbish and even a couple of shopping trolleys, which is unfortunate when some people try and ruin it for everyone, but it is still well worth visiting.
For some of the best views of Mount Gambier, head up to Centenary Tower.
This medieval-style tower may seem a little out of place in a small Aussie town, having opened to the public back in 1904, yet it remains one of the most popular attractions, with 360-degree panoramic views of Mount Gambier and the coastline.
The tower sits 190 metres above sea level and it is a bit of a hike to get up to the tower itself, but well worth it if you do.
To know if Centenary Tower is open for visitors, check to see if the Tower Flag is flying! There is a small admission fee to enter the tower, which also has a display of photographs of the area over the years within the tower building. There is also a cafe inside.
Make sure you head up early morning if you are visiting on a hot summer day, to avoid the hottest part of the day!
Little Blue Lake
Little Blue Lake is a beautiful water-filled sinkhole just a short distance south of Mount Gambier. Unlike the Blue Lake, you can actually swim here! It’s a popular swimming hole for locals and visitors alike.
While nowhere near the impressive colour of the big Blue Lake, it is still a beautiful spot. It is also freezing cold since the water is around 40 or more metres deep, so you will definitely cool off quickly on a hot day!
There are stairs and a floating pontoon platform down into the lake for easy access.
See Mount Schank Crater
The volcanic landscape of Mount Gambier is definitely one of the biggest drawcards that brings visitors to the city and Mount Schank Crater is one of those cool natural attractions that is worth a look. The dormant volcano crater is situated halfway between Port MacDonnell and Mount Gambier and is enormous!
Getting to the rim of the volcanic crater is around a 1.3km return walk with impressive views from the top. Or if you’re feeling really energetic, you can walk the 2.7km lap of the rim too.
The walking tracks aren’t overly well kept so do take care if you do decide to walk down into the volcano and keep an eye out for wildlife… including snakes, depending on the time of year you are visiting.
Meet The Echo Farm Animals
Echo Farm is a great option for visiting with kids! Located just north of Mount Gambier, Echo Farm provides a fun environment for children to learn about animals and nature.
This small working farm has a self-guided tour to meet the farm animals including chickens, goats, ducks, turkeys, pigs, sheep, wallabies, emus, donkeys and more. You can help feed the animals during your visit.
They also have homemade preserves, biscuits and souvenirs for sale.
See Mount Gambier On Bike
Hire a bicycle in Mount Gambier and enjoy the fresh air along one of the many bike and hiking trails. There are tracks to suit all difficulty levels and this is a great way to see the sights while getting some exercise at the same time.
There is a free bike hire service at the Mount Gambier Visitor Centre, Mount Gambier Library, and the Riddoch Arts & Cultural Centre.
To hire a bike, you will need to have a photo ID, such as a driver’s licence or passport and a credit card for verification.
Day Trips From Mount Gambier
Since the city of Mount Gambier is situated so close to the South Australia and Victorian border, this opens up a lot of cool options for day trips or as a stop along a longer south coast road trip if you are visiting and planning to stay for a few days. Here are some of the best Mount Gambier day trips:
If you are keen to explore some of South Australia’s neighbours, head an hour east of Mount Gambier and visit the beautiful seaside town of Portland, Victoria.
The birthplace of Victoria has some interesting attractions, including Cape Bridgewater and the Bridgewater seal walk, the petrified forest, Portland Powerhouse Motor Museum and the gannet colony.
A little over a two-hour drive from Mount Gambier is the coastal city of Warrnambool. The Shipwreck Coast is one of the biggest attractions here, with over 700 shipwrecks along this stretch of coast.
Visit for whale watching and explore historic sites like Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village or Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground. Tower Hill is also a great place to spot wild emus and koalas.
Port MacDonnell, South Australia
This small fishing town is situated just a short drive from Mount Gambier, past Mount Schank and home to some of South Australia’s best seafood. It’s well known for its rock lobster fishing. Enjoy fresh fish and chips while watching the sunset over the port.
Not far from Port MacDonnell is Cape Northumberland which is the most southern point of South Australia. There are some great viewing platforms here to see Frog Rock, Rhino Rock and the Cape Northumberland Lighthouse.
There are also walking tracks to make a day of it.
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Mount Gambier With Kids
Mount Gambier is a great place to visit with kids, with plenty of outdoor activities and family-friendly attractions to enjoy. There are several playgrounds around town, including the large fenced adventure playground at Valley Lake Wildlife Park and Railway Lands Nature Play.
You also have a great chance of spotting native Australian wildlife in the wild, with the unique landscape and climate.
If you’re looking for indoor activities in Mount Gambier for rainy days, there is a cinema, indoor play centre and library that will keep the kids entertained.
Planning Your Mt Gambier Visit
Ready to plan your visit to Mount Gambier? Whether you are staying for a night or a week, there is plenty to see and do. Here are the essentials you need to plan your stay in Mount Gambier, South Australia:
Where Is Mount Gambier?
Mount Gambier is located approximately 434 km southeast of Adelaide, South Australia and approximately the same distance from Melbourne. It is situated just 11km from the Victoria-South Australia border.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Mount Gambier?
The best time to visit Mount Gambier is during the months of October to March when temperatures are warmer and more pleasant. It will be at its busiest during January with the Australian school holidays
Getting Around Mount Gambier
The easiest way to get around Mount Gambier is by car. You can hire a car from Adelaide or Melbourne airport or any of the other big cities if you are visiting from elsewhere. This will make it much easier to get to all the different Mount Gambier attractions since some of them are located further from the centre of town.
Best Places To Stay In Mount Gambier
There is plenty of accommodation in Mount Gambier to suit all budgets, including family accommodation. Here are some of the best places to stay in Mount Gambier, SA.
- The Old Mount Gambier Gaol – If you want a really unique accommodation experience, the old jail has been converted into a hostel with family rooms and it’s a great budget accommodation for anyone who likes to stay somewhere memorable. It’s only a couple of minutes from the Crater Lakes district and the centre of town too.
- The Barn – It can be tricky to find accommodation to suit large families and groups, so The Barn is a fantastic option with accommodation to suit up to 9 people or smaller options for couples. Set on 5 acres of gardens, it is just 5 minutes from town.
- Blue Lake Holiday Park – This holiday park is located right near Blue Lake, with a playground and outdoor swimming pool and a variety of accommodation options.
There are also campgrounds, including free campsites, and several caravan parks in the Mount Gambier region.
These are just some of the things to do in Mount Gambier, Australia. From outdoor activities to historical and cultural sites, there is something for everyone. So why not plan a trip to Mount Gambier and enjoy all this great city has to offer?