Mount Gambier - Cities, Towns and Localities
between Adelaide and
Mount Gambier is the commercial centre of the
south east region of South Australia. Proclaimed as a city on the 9th December,
1954, it is set in a ancient landscape of volcanic craters, lakes, caves and
The streets and buildings of the city are built around the slopes of an extinct
volcano, some 27 km from the Southern Ocean, with the city almost to the lip of
the "Blue Lake".
Mount Gambier and its neighbouring Mount Schank were first sighted and name in
1800 by Lieutenant James Grant, whilst on a survey mission, in command of the
brig HMS Lady Nelson. It wasnt until 39 years later that Stephen George Henty
became the first white man to gaze upon the lake that existed in the crater of
Soon after, settlers and pastoralist settled in the area, attracted by the rich
volcanic soil of the surround plain. In the early days, founded by Hastings
Cunningham, the town was known as Gambiertown. In 1854 Cunningham subdivided a
section of 77 acres for town purposes. Government agencies and private
landholders continued the orderly development. The first Town Council was formed
in 1876, and continue to grow right through to it being declared a city in 1954.
Today, the volcanic lakes region of Mount Gambier is a State Heritage area. The
Blue Lake, which is one of the lakes within the three craters of the volcano, services the needs of the city as a source of potable water.
Many thousands of tourist visit Mount Gambier to explore the region, and take the
opportunity at seeing the Blue Lake. The colour of the water in the lake changes
through the year from grey to an intense blue of startling beauty, in late November. As summer
transitions through to winter, the colour of the lake fades, taking on a grey
appearance during winter.
City of Mount
Check out our listing of
Mt Gambier accommodation.
In addition to our listed online travel guide information, contact the local
tourism visitor centre for your destination for more attractions, tours, local
maps and other information.
|Some of the
popular and unique attractions include The Blue Lake, The Craters Lakes,
Umpherston Sinkhole, Centenary Tower etc. Another great way to explore and
experience some of the attractions is with some of the tours. Contact the
visitor centre for available tours.
The Lady Nelson
Jubilee Hwy East,
MOUNT GAMBIER SA 5290
The Discovery Centre is great for the
family, presenting the history and geology of the area through some interactive
displays. Take a walk through time and see how it was before European
settlement. Your self-guided tour begins with the ancient sea, then venturing
out on to the Wetlands Decking to see giant creatures. Enter the Discovery Room
and see how it was 200,000 years ago. In the spectra vision theatre, see the
ghostly figure of Christina Smith as she steps down from the photograph to
recount her experiences, the stories from her life and the early aborigines. You
will then walk through onto the glass floor of the Cave Walk, and into the
Geology Room with where you will see and hear the Neon Volcano explode. There is
the Brig of the Lady Nelson, where you will see and hear Lt. Grant retell his
story of discovery and there is also the theatrette where you can sit and watch
the current film.
Off Bay Rd, MOUNT GAMBIER
The historic Centenary Tower is the
highest point in the district. At 190 m above sea level, the walk is a steep 20
minute bitumen walking track and has rest points along the route. It is part of
the circuit around the crater of the Valley/Browne's Lakes. Illuminated at
night, there are magnificent views to be had of the Crater Lakes, city and
surrounding district. The Tower includes a display of early photographs of the
Crater Lakes area.
The foundation stone was laid on 3rd December, 1900, and opened in 1904,
commemorating the first sighting of Mount Gambier by Lt. Grant on the Lady
Nelson in 1800. On the 3rd December 2000, two plaques were unveiled in the Tower
car park commemorating the Bicentenary and the refurbishment of the Tower.
You know when the Tower is open, when the flag is flying. Entry fee apply and
there are some refreshment and souvenirs available for sale.
Umpherston Sinkhole - The Sunken Garden
Jubilee Hwy East,
MOUNT GAMBIER SA 5290
The Umpherston Sinkhole is named
after James Umpherston who had purchased his farming property in Mount Gambier,
back in 1864. The sinkhole was created when the top of the chamber
collapse to the cave floor. In 1884, Umpherston established a "sunken garden" in
the sinkhole, which he named "The Caves".
His garden was a hit with visitors, with people frequently visiting from Mount
Gambier and the surrounding districts. There was a small lake within the
sinkhole and Umpherston even organised boating activities. When he died in 1900,
the garden fell into disrepair over the following years. The South Australian
Woods and Forests Department was to purchase the property in 1949 and
established sawmills nearby. Over the next 30 odd years, the former garden soon
became nothing more than a rubbish dump. Increased agricultural activity in the
region resulted in the water table dropping and the lake in the sinkhole also
In the latter half of the 1970s, the staff of the South Australian Woods and
Forests Department set about restoring the garden, returning the garden to its
former grandeur, making it once again a popular tourist destination. The renamed
South Australian Forestry Corporation handed the garden over to the City of
Mount Gambier in 1994, and the garden was added to the South Australian Heritage
Register in October, 1995.1, 2
Today, this unique attraction continues to draw locals and curious travellers. A
ramp provides the initial access, followed by steps. As you descend, you get
glimpses and overviews of the entire garden, with the terraced levels, planted
with hydrangeas, tree, ferns, and hanging ivy. A fun place for families with
children, it is at dusk when a new magic is created. Those in the know, arrive
with torches and bags of fruit or bread, and as if from nowhere, possums emerge
for the free feed.
The sunken garden has undercover shelter, BBQ and group seating.
- Indigenous History
(People of the Reeds), lived in the region between Beachport and the Glenelg
River. They were the largest group in the South East region. During winter they
lived inland, but during the hot summer they moved to the coast. Men were the
hunters and women the gatherers. They used tools and weapons. Whilst seafood was
the main part of their diet, larger animals were also hunted and killed for
food, which was then shared out according to a strict priority. They constructed
"wurlies" with a wooden framework which were then covered with branches and
sometimes skins. Others were made of logs in beehive shape and then turfed over.
With the arrival of Governor Phillips in 1788, followed by soldiers, convicts
and settlers, life changed forever for the Aboriginal people.
The First aboriginal people came to Australia at least 50,000 years ago.
Craitbul, giant ancestor of the Booandik People, long ago made an oven at
Mount Muirhead to cook for his wife and family. In hearing the groaning
voice of the bird spirit "Bullin" warning them of the evil spirit "Tennateona",
they fled to another site where they built another oven (Mount Schank).
Again they were frightened off by the threat of the evil spirit and moved to
"Berrin" where they again made their oven (Mount Gambier). One day, water
rose and the fire went out. They dug other ovens, but each time water rose
putting out the fires. This occurred four times (the Valley Lake, Blue Lake,
Browne's Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake). Finally Craitbul and his family
settled in a cave on the side of "Berrin's" Peak.3
Mount Gambier Tours
Aquifer Tours - Mount
Cnr of Bay Rd and John Watson Drv, MOUNT GAMBIER SA 5290 Ph: 08 8723 1199
This is a fascinating tour that takes
you via a glass-panelled lift, then through a tunnel to a viewing area, close to
the surface of the "Blue Lake". A great way to experience and learn about the
geology and the aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.
City of Mount
Civic Centre, 10 Watson Terrace, MOUNT GAMBIER SA 5290
Ph: 08 8721
Includes information for tourist.