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Mount Gambier

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Mount Gambier - Cities, Towns and Localities
Situated between Adelaide and Melbourne, 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 underground waterways.

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 wasn’t until 39 years later that Stephen George Henty became the first white man to gaze upon the lake that existed in the crater of Mount Gambier.

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.

On route to Mt Gambier, South Australia.

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.

Source: City of Mount Gambier

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.

Information Centre icon

The Lady Nelson Visitor & Discovery Centre
Jubilee Highway East
Ph: 08 8724 9750
Tollfree: 1800 087 187

Limestone Coast Tourism Visitor Centres

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Mount Gambier Attractions
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 Discovery Centre
• 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.
Centenary Tower
• 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 dried out.

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.
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Mount Gambier - Indigenous History
The Booandik’s (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

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Mount Gambier Tours

SA Tours • Outback  • Eco • Adventure • National Tours
Aquifer Tours - Mount Gambier
• Cnr of Bay Rd and John Watson Drv, MOUNT GAMBIER SA 5290 • Ph: 08 8723 1199 • Email
• 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.
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Mount Gambier Distance

Distance to Mount Gambier
• Following are some approximate distances by road to Mount Gambier:
• Adelaide 436
• Bordertown 183
• Kingston SE 157
• Millicent 50
• Naracoorte 102
• Penola 52
• Robe 131
• Portland, VIC 115
Distances given are only approximation, they should be verified with the appropriate maps.
The Australian Automotive Motoring Associations also offer select access to travel trip planners.
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• Mount Gambier Maps
Bing Maps - Mount Gambier, SA
Google Maps - Mt Gambier SA 5290
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Mount Gambier Other Links

• Mount Gambier Community/Local Government Links

1 The Grapevine Adam Dimech's Blog - The Umpherston Sinkhole. Retrieved 15 July, 2012 from
2 Government of South Australia: Heritage Places Database Details - Umpherston Sinkhole. State Heritage ID 14734, Heritage NR 13675, ID cod H3810019. Retrieved 15 July, 2012 from
3 Mount Gambier Tourism: Fact Sheets - Heritage & History - Mount Gambier & Lady Nelson History Timeline. Retreived 15 July, 2012 from
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