Over the Christmas break, some of my relatives and I decided to take a short escape to Mt Gambier from Ballarat. Since my relatives were already living in Ballarat, it was a comfortable drive even with several rest stops along the way.
We left our house around 11 am and arrived at Mt Gambier at around 5 pm. We made our first rest stop along the way at the town of Lake Bolac, then on to Mount Rouse and later, Port Fairy.
We stopped for short break at Portland and had a look around the bay, eying off the carnival that was being set up near the waterfront. There is a nice little harbour here too. Portland seems to have a wood-chipping industry going on - there were huge piles of wood-chips around the harbour ready for shipping.
The seaside town of Portland, Victoria
Driving along the coast of South Australia near Port MacDonnell, before heading north towards Mt Gambier, provides some gorgeous views of the sandy cliffs.
The lovely ocean view form Port Macdonnell, South Australia
From Port MacDonnell, it was a relaxing drive to Mt Gambier itself. After we got settled into the Blue Lake Holiday Park (which we had booked that very morning), we drove over to the nearby Valley Lake. This is a popular spot for picnics, barbecues, or in our case, photographing the ducks and swans living on the water.
A great view while playing or picnicking at Valley Lake, Mt Gambier, South Australia (photo courtesy of author)
After that, we drove across the road (almost!) to the nearby and famous Blue Lake where Mt Gambier sources its town water supply from.
As it was nearly evening the Blue Lake wasn't as blue as implied. We took some photos anyway, had a wander, and agreed to come back in the morning when the sun will be higher.
Since the main road into Mt Gambier goes straight along the peak of the Blue Lake crater wall (and there are other craters nearby), the council built the carpark and the lookout on opposite sides of the road with an underpass between them. We all enjoyed this lookout and the drive into town - there were a few of these castle-looking shelters dotted along the road along the crater into town.
The lookout at Blue Lake, Mt Gambier
In the morning after a nice rest, we went back to the Blue Lake to see it in the morning light - it was of course much brighter and bluer in the full light of day. The carbonate dissolved in the water reflects the sun from the sky and tends to enhance that wavelength - making it actually a much more brilliant blue than even the sky is - certainly prettier!
The gorgeous, panoramic views of the Blue Lake (photo courtesy of author)
When we had finished taking too many photos (or maybe not!) of the Blue Lake, we went see to the Cave Garden in the middle of the town of Mt Gambier itself. Literally, this is a sinkhole with a small cave, and a garden, straight in the middle of the city! Next to the Cave Garden is the Mt Gambier City Hall and the municipal art gallery. The Cave Garden has a few winding paths toward the hole, with a viewing deck in the half-way down. Of course, there are flowering plants growing throughout the sinkhole and the council has installed botanical labels. In the evening the sinkhole turns into a sound and light show telling the history of the area and the Indigenous people.
Get closer at the Cave Garden in Mt Gambier
The next stop on our tour was the Umpherston Sinkhole. This is quite a large sinkhole with many gardens and some small caves. Historically this sinkhole has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s as a refuge from the heat. The stairs were restored in the 1970s after it was left unmaintained in the decades prior. In the evenings, the possums living in the caves out of the sinkhole walls will come out, and you can feed them fruit. We came back later that day to do just that!
You can see the curtain of plants on the side of the Umpherston Sinkhole, Mt Gambier
After lunch and a rest from the heat, we went to Mount Schank, a huge crater to the south of Mt Gambier, about 15 minutes drive out of the city. We spent a while here, trekking up and along the edge of the crater until about half-way since it was getting late and it is a long way around after all.
The huge crater at Mount Schank just outside Mt Gambier (photo courtesy of author)
On the way back, along Mount Salt Road, we stopped in a neighbouring sinkhole, Little Blue Lake which is used as a swimming hole and cave-diving site (Cnr Mount Salt Road and Stock Route Road).
The local swimming hole of Little Blue Lake near Mt Gambier (photo courtesy of author)
After our dinner which we made in the kitchen in the cabin in the holiday park, we returned to both the Umpherston Sinkhole to feed the possums and Cave Garden to watch the sound and light show.
This was our last day in Mt Gambier and we began the drive back to Ballarat the following day. Overall we had a good time seeing the sinkholes and lakes, we could save some money by preparing our own food in the cabin too. Mt Gambier is a nice little city with plenty of tourist attractions and facilities, making it and the surrounding area a nice destination for families, couples, or even a single traveller interested in fascinating nature.