Usually, when you travel through small but quaint towns, night entertainment (other than dining and drinking at the pub) is almost virtually non-existent. Sight-seeing and tourism will just have to wait until the sun rises and the natural light shines brightly enough for you to see. However, if you are a night owl, Mount Gambier is just the place for a little bit of interesting, family-friendly night sight-seeing. The icing on the cake is that entrance to these landmarks is free.
After a satisfying dinner, you can now take your pick from visiting the beautifully lighted up Cave Garden in the middle of the city at Watson Terrace or visit the Umpherston Sinkhole on Jubilee Highway East to play with the possums who venture out for their nightly feed. If you are travelling with family and children who are used to a later bedtime, sightseeing at night is a welcome respite to the usual television shows back in the motel.
1) Cave Garden Our first stop was the Cave Garden. For early settlers, the sinkhole was an original source of water. At that time of the night, the city centre is eerily quiet. However, head towards the redeveloped City Hall and you can't miss the spectacular sound and light show that runs nightly at 8pm and 8.15pm or 9pm and 9.15pm during daylight savings. The sound and light show projects and tells the Aboriginal Dreaming of the Cave Garden and Dreamtime stories. Once you peer into the sinkhole, you will see laser lighting and bright colour emanating from the cave, the shadowlike images from the sound and light show creating a mystical environment.
We ventured towards the suspended viewing platforms for a magnificent view of the cave. The fact that it was lonely and dark and the immediate area peaceful and calm added to the sense of adventure.
We came back again the next day to view the trickle of water from the storm water run-off which made it look like a tiny waterfall, as well as the landscape. However, the day-time viewing could not compare with the ethereal mystic from the lighting and sound effects from the night before.
If you are in the vicinity, drop by and have a look at the City Library directly opposite of the Cave Garden. The interior and design makes you feel as if you were in a bookshop instead of a public library. With artfully displayed books and a trendy looking café, the library is definitely a comfortable way to spend your time during a rainy day.
The Umpherston Sinkhole was created through the dissolution of limestone when the top of the chamber of the cave fell to the floor of the cave. Originally beautified in 1886 by James Umpherston, the sinkhole is now a beautifully landscaped garden with natural cave walls and lovely hedges mixed with the untamed beauty of the cascading vines and water-etched limestone. I was amazed at the grandeur of the sinkhole, the gardens flood-lit during the night-time.
Children will love visiting at night as this is the time when the possums come out to feed. The possums are not shy creatures; when descending the wooden stairs to the bottom of the cave, a few curious ones came up right to my feet and wiggled their noses at my toes. At the bottom of the cave, they are lined up all along the walls of the cave, camouflaged by the brown cave walls and the darkness but if you strain your eyes and focus they will magically appear.
There is an interesting history to the sinkhole, with information signs at the top which you can read before your descend. In 1995, the garden was added to the South Australian Heritage Register. It is highly recommended to return again during the day-time; the possums would have disappeared as they are nocturnal but you can clearly enjoy the beauty of the flowers and landscaped gardens. It is little wonder why the sinkhole is popular with the locals in summer for barbeques and picnics; its unique beauty has to be seen to be believed.