A freelance writer and bargain hunter with wanderlust, recently moved to Perth from Brisbane.
Published December 20th 2012
Natural Blue Delights
Mount Gambier has many popular walking tracks, one of which is around the beautiful 'Blue Lake' with clear vivid colours, changing dramatically each year. One of the lakes within the volcano's three craters, the Blue Lake lives up to its name and turns from winter steel blue to a brilliant turquoise blue close to summer-time. It is the only lake that changes colour so dramatically each year.
The Blue Lake is the source of water to the city, and the colour changes due to the removal of humic substances from the upper part of the lake by calcite precipitation. I have seen many lakes in my lifetime but I had never seen one in such a crystal clear blue colour, a calming colour that drew my eyes to it. Unfortunately, no swimming or diving is permitted (understandable for a water source) so I could only admire it from a distance. If you want to get a little bit closer, you can go on an Aquifer tour. Aquifer tours are available from John Watson Drive; a fascinating 45 minute tour which takes you down a glass panelled lift down the original dolomite well shaft to see where water was originally extracted for $9 per adult or $4 per child.
Situated halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, avid hikers should try the following walks within the Kanawinka Geopark:
a) Blue Lake Circuit – a 3.6 km walk around the brilliantly blue lake. It is an easy, relaxing walk with a wonderful peaceful view, past a Cactus Garden, view of the Centenary Tower, the Leg of Mutton lake and the Pumping Station.
b) Mountain Walk – A 4.2 km walk beginning from Mark's Lookout Car Park. Another walk with spectacular views of the valley lake and the city.
c) Leg of Mutton Lake walk – This is the shortest, easiest walk around the circumference of the now dry lake bed.
Other craters around the area include the Valley Lake crater and the Leg of Mutton Lake. The water at the Leg of Mutton Lake was not as clear as the Blue Lake and I initially wondered how it got its name as I could not see anything goat-like about it. However, after staring at it for a while, I finally saw the mutton leg outline; a pretty interesting formation surrounded by varieties of deciduous trees.
The Valley Lake has excellent recreational and playground areas, perfect for a barbeque. With 16 free gas barbeques, large grassed areas and covered shelters, it is little wonder why it is popular with families, especially since there is a nearby wildlife park and boardwalk with indigenous species of flora and fauna.
Not too far away from the Blue Lake area is the Centenary Tower, opened in 1904. Entry to the tower for a small fee includes a volcanic audio visual and a display of early photographs of the Crater Lakes area. Unfortunately, the tower is only open when the flag is flying and requires a 500 metre height. After walking a short way, I noticed that the flag was down so I could not enjoy the spectacular view from the tower, 190 metres above sea level.
If you want to see where some of the water in the Blue Lake originates, head towards Jubilee Hwy West for a tour of the Engelbrecht Cave. First explored in 1884, the Engelbrecht Cave is a huge complex of limestone caves under the sea. Visitors can discover how cave drivers explore the site, how caves are formed and how the underground water filters through the limestone to the Blue Lake.
If you are still in the mood for more tourist spots, why not visit these night spots at Mount Gambier. You can stop by at the Lady Nelson Discovery Centre to learn about history, geology and to see ancient fossils on the exciting glass floor in the Cave Walk. You can't miss the full size replica HMS Lady Nelson outside the discovery centre. Learn about the voyage of discovery in the year 1800 and life on the early sailing ship.