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Published April 14th 2014
See South Australia's second city
Mount Gambier's Heritage Listed Cave Gardens on a Misty Morning
Mount Gambier on the Limestone Coast is the largest city in the regions of South of Australia, second only in size to the city of Adelaide. Located near the Victorian border, many travellers drive from Adelaide to Mount Gambier and visit the Limestone Coast wineries before touring the immensely scenic coast road to Melbourne.
There are plenty of Mount Gambier attractions that are free to see, and it's an ideal place to take a break from your travels and explore. The town was founded around 1846 and soon became an important commercial centre in the region, while the prosperous mining, agricultural and forestry industries are reflected in the size and grandeur of Mount Gambier's imposing heritage buildings.
From the Cave Gardens and Blue Lake to the old Mt Gambier Hospital, people find that Mount Gambier has lots of things to see and do.
Mac's Hotel Mount Gambier, One of the City's Fine Heritage Buildings
As you wander the streets of the city you will notice bollards outside some buildings, with interpretive signage showing historical photos and details of the building's history. These mark locations on the City Centre Heritage Walk which takes you past sixteen places of historical significance. Pick up a free map of the walk at the tourist information office and enjoy a guided tour of these unique heritage buildings, some of the grandest on the Limestone Coast.
Tourists Await the Light Show in Mount Gambier's Cave Gardens
Cave Gardens The beautifully landscaped Cave Gardens are found in the city centre - formed from a sinkhole, you can follow a walkway down or simply enjoy the scenery from a viewing platform. Every night there is a light show which attracts many tourists into the bowels of the State Heritage listed Cave Gardens to enjoy.
Main Corner Complex The Main Corner Complex in the heart of Mount Gambier seamlessly integrates the classical beauty of old heritage buildings at the town centre with a strikingly modern entrance foyer. Accommodated in the complex are the Riddoch art gallery, and a series of free displays about Mount Gambier's history, indigenous culture, and a cinema with free screenings of Volcano - The Story of Earth Fire and Water.
The Blue Lake Becomes Visible Through a Morning Mist
The Blue Lake The Blue Lake is an icon of Mount Gambier's attractions - a crystal clear lake in an extinct volcano overlooking the city. Unfortunately when I arrived on a cool and misty morning the lake was completely invisible through a low cloud, but it didn't take long for some to disperse and allow a magical view of the still waters.
Not only is the Blue Lake a popular tourist attraction for many interstate and overseas visitors, but many locals were busily doing laps of the lake too; from fast family groups with prams to older people taking more sedate walks.
Inside Mount Gambier Hospital Before Demolition (Courtesy City of Mount Gambier)
Old Mount Gambier Hospital The old Mount Gambier hospital (photo here) may seem a surprising tourist attraction, but many fans of urban exploration (also called urbexers) visited the Mount just to see it. After being closed since the late 1990's the abandoned hospital was quite a magnet for people who wanted to explore the huge building and see the disused equipment. It was finally demolished earlier this year, but an architecturally interesting old laundry has been left standing with panoramic views of the city. There are suggestions to use it as a concert site, wedding venue, or even a fun park.
For Rail Fans Rail fans have long enthused over the Mount Gambier railway station and enormous goods yards, but recently the goods yards were lost to railways history - levelled in anticipation of a new commercial development. Now that there is no longer a rail service from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, the future of the classic South Australian Railways design station is uncertain. For more about lost railway stations on the Limestone Coast read this article.
The Umpherston Sinkhole is a little out of the city centre, and contains beautifully landscaped formal cave gardens that are free to visit. The history and geology of the sinkhole is described on interpretive signage, and it's an attractive place for all the family to explore. If you're daunted by the walk to the bottom of the cave there are plenty of gardens to see at ground level too.
On the Way
If you're travelling from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, be sure to stop by at some of the fine Limestone Coast wineries in the Coonawarra and Padthaway regions of South Australia. If you appreciate wines, you will find some excellent world class wines available for you to try.
Some Abandoned Places Have Enormous Character, Like This 1886 Disused Warehouse