Mount Gambier Attractions

Free Mount Gambier Attractions | Travel Guide

Mount Gambier wasn’t a place particularly on our travel radar until friends told us about this town built on a dormant volcano. That we had to see! So recently we visited this unique town and I have to say we were very impressed. Our travel guide will let you know what we loved and thought were the best low cost and free Mount Gambier attractions and things to do in Mount Gambier.

For those like us that didn’t know, Mount Gambier sits on top of an extinct volcano surrounded by geological wonders. It is also a thriving regional city, the second most populated in South Australia. Volcanoes, sinkholes and crater lakes as well as shops, restaurants, galleries, museums and more Mount Gambier tourist attractions will impress even the most seasoned traveller.

Located mid way between Adelaide and Melbourne, the distance from Adelaide to Mount Gambier is 435 kilometres and 420 kilometres from Melbourne to Mount Gambier. Driving from either Adelaide or Melbourne takes about 5 hours.

As we travel with our dog and know others to do too, we like to use this icon 🐾 to show the Mount Gambier things to do that are dog friendly.

Umpherston Sinkhole

Mount Gambier Attractions | Things To Do For Free

Arts and Culture

Centenary Tower

Centenary Tower on the summit of Mount Gambier was opened to the public in 1904. The tower and its lookout is reached by a short but very sheep walking track. The reward for making the climb is panoramic and uninterrupted views of the crater lakes.

The lookout can be enjoyed 7 days per week. The tower’s opening days and hours vary depending on the availability of volunteers. When it is open, a flag is flown on top of the tower.

Opening Hours: Lookout 24/7. Tower is open when the flag is flying.

Centenary Tower Admission: $2 per person

Address: Elliot Drive, Mount Gambier

Free Bike Hire

Mount Gambier city council has free bike hire and with many attractions being close to town riding a bike is a great way to experience the area and see the sites.

Opening Hours: Weekdays 9am – 5pm. Weekends 10am – 3pm

Admission: Free. Imprint on credit card is required.

Address: Bikes can be picked up from The Lady Nelson (Information Centre), The Main Corner or the Library

Craitbul and Volcano | Free Screenings at Riddoch Art Gallery

Caitbul and Volcano are the Aboriginal Dreamtime story and a documentary on the geology of the local and surrounding areas. Both are well done and are very informative. We highly recommend making the time to attend a screening before checking out the geological landmarks of the area as the films will give you a better understanding and appreciation of what you are seeing.

Opening Hours: Screening Times – 1pm and 3pm weekdays, 11am & 1pm weekends

Admission: Free

Address: 1 Bay Road, Mount Gambier

The Lady Nelson and Discovery Display | Mount Gambier Visitor Centre 🐾

The Lady Nelson was a ship commissioned in England in the late 1700s to map the coastline of Australia. A replica stands proudly outside the visitor centre and here you can find out more about the history of Lady Nelson and her voyages of discovery.

The Discovery Display tells some of the history of the local area and has some interactive displays. The visitor centre also has information on local attractions and Mount Gambier accommodation.

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, Weekends 10am – 4pm

Admission: Free

Address: 35 Jubilee Highway East, Mount Gambier

Crater Lakes 🐾

Mount Gambier is an extinct volcano and atop of it is four craters. We had no idea volcanoes could have more than one crater! The four craters are known collectively as the Crater Lakes, a spectacular natural feature like nothing we have seen anywhere else in Australia.

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Address: Varies (see information on each lake below)

Crater Lakes Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Blue Lake 🐾

The Mount Gambier Blue Lake is the most well known of the Crater Lakes. Named for the bright cobalt blue of its water from November to March.

Swimming and water vessels are not permitted on the lake. It can viewed and enjoyed from a number of lookouts and a walking trail around its perimeter.

Blue Lake Trail 🐾

The 3.6km walking track around Blue Lake. Along the trail are the Apex, Rotary and Cactus Gardens Lookouts giving different scenic views of the lake.

Address: Bay Road, Mount Gambier

Lookouts 🐾

Blue Lake Lookout, Adam Lindsay Gordon Lookout and Rook Wall Lookout on Bay Road all have views of Blue Lake. Be sure to use the tunnel walkway when crossing on foot from one side of Bay Road to the other.

Address: Bay Road, Mount Gambier

Brown Lake 🐾

Brown Lake dried up in the 1980s when the underlying water table lowered. Today is a grass area with tall trees popular for picnics.

Address: Haig Drive, Mt Gambier

Leg of Mutton Lake 🐾

Leg of Mutton Lake is the other dry crater lake. It lies between the Blue Lake and Valley Lake.

Leg of Mutton Lake Trail ,🐾

This trail is 1.6 kilometres long and starts at the Adam Lindsay Gordon Lookout.

Address: Bay Road, Mount Gambier

Valley Lake

Valley Lake 🐾

Valley Lake has water and is a popular area with a great playground, lots of grass, multiple free BBQs and picnic shelters. It also has a conservation area.

Valley Lake Conservation Area
Valley Lake Conservation Area

The conservation area lies behind a fence and is home to a number of Australian native animals. Wallabies, koalas and birds are often spotted by those with a keen eye.

The area has a number of meandering paths, boardwalks and observation decks to be enjoyed. There are information boards to read along the way.

Admission: Free (donation welcome)

Address: Davison Drive, Mount Gambier

Sinkhole Lakes and Sunken Gardens

There are many sinkholes in Mount Gambier. Sinkholes are created by when a limestone cave roof falls in due to erosion by water over a long period of time. The collapsing of the roof opens up the top of the cave forming a deep hole in the ground.

Sinkholes due to their exposure to sunlight, rain and other natural forces will over time become either a lake or a garden sometimes called a sunken garden.

A sunken garden can occur either naturally by nature slowly growing over the walls and floor of the sinkhole, now that it is exposed to the sunlight and rain. Or by avid gardeners creating a garden in the sinkhole. Lakes form in the sinkholes when either ground water or rain water fills it up.

Mount Gambier has sunken gardens (natural and man made) and sinkhole lakes for you to see and explore.

Caroline Sinkhole

Caroline Sinkhole

The Caroline Sinkhole is in the Penambol Conservation Area. Once you reach the carpark it is a short couple of hundred metre walk along a flat easy path to the observation deck out over the sinkhole.

This sinkhole has been left in its natural state. We rather liked the long vines hanging along its walls.

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Address: Carba Road, Caveton

Distance from Mount Gambier: 25 minutes or 25 kilometres

Caves Garden

Caves Garden

In the middle of the city is not where you would expect to find an attraction like Cave Garden and yet that’s exactly where it is. Area around the top of the garden is a lovely parkland with gorgeous rose gardens, pathways and green grass. 

There is a path with steps down into the Cave Garden sinkhole. An observation deck out over the sinkhole gives views to cave in the bottom of the sinkhole wall as well as of the cave garden. Look around at the walls at the variety of plants growing and for the natural bee hives. 

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Address: 1 Bay Road, Mount Gambier

Little Blue Lake

Little Blue Lake 🐾

Little Blue Lake named for its once bright blue water and size. A waterhole in a sinkhole who wouldn’t want to check that out. 

A popular cave diving and swimming spot, the stairs and pontoon make the lake easy to reach. The water is a chilly 12 degrees so best enjoyed on hotter days for a swim. Visibility in the water is poor and the depth is 25-47 metres so be sure to swim with others.

Today the water is a green colour possibly due to some pollutants. Told by someone who had seen the bottom of the Little Blue Lake that it is polluted with an old car body and huge numbers of drink cans and bottles. Please take your rubbish with you after your visit.

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Address: Mount Salt Road, Mount Schank

Distance from Mount Gambier: 17 kilometres or 15 minute drive

Behind the vines at Umpherston Sinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole (Cenote)

The most famous of the sinkholes in Mount Gambier, Umpherston Sinkhole also known as the Sunken Garden. Originally made into a garden by James Umpherston in 1886 as a haven from the summer heat. Back then it even had a small lake.

Today the Umpherston Sinkhole is managed by the local council and surrounded by parkland. There is kiosk and when open has coffee and snacks for sale.

The Umpherston Sinkhole is 20 metres deep and 50 metres across and it a wonderland. The landscape English style gardens and terraces along with hanging vines gives this garden a sense of magic. There are picnic tables and BBQs for visitors to use.

In the evenings residential possums come out and you can feed them fruit (not bread) for a close encounter. Also look around at the sinkhole walls for the many bee hives. 

We were very impressed with the Umpherston Sinkhole and its gardens. Walking behind the big hanging vines and enjoying the beautiful array of flowers in the gardens was a highlight.

Opening Hours: Dawn to dusk

Admission: Free

Address: Jubilee Highway East, Mount Gambier

Mount Schank

Volanco

Mount Schank 🐾

Mount Schank is a 100 metre tall volcano cone. There is a walking 1 kilometre track up to the rim and another 2 kilometre track around its rim. Moderate fitness is required as the ascent up the side is rather steep but not impossible and well worth the effort. We recommend wearing suitable shoes, sun protection and take plenty of water.

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Address: 92 Mountain Path Road, Mount Schank

Nature and Wildlife

Butterfly and Wombat Walks

The Butterfly and Wombat Walks are in the Penambol Conservation Park, same one as the Caroline Sinkhole. The drive includes dirt roads suitable for all vehicles however take it slow on Honeysuckle Road especially in a 2WD.

The Butterfly Walk treks through grassy areas with flowers and plants that attract butterflies. The Wombat Walk wanders past common wombat burrows and is a walk best done in the late afternoon or early evening when wombats are active.

Each of the tracks are clearly marked with Butterfly or Wombat symbols on wooden poles. The Butterfly Walk is 1 kilometre or 25 minute a and the Wombat Walk 4.5 kilometres or 2 hours.

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Address: Honeysuckle Road, Caveton

Distance from Mount Gambier: 25 kilometres or 25 minute drive

Ghost Mushroom Lane

Mushrooms that glow in the dark. Sounds heaps cool, right? Well yeah! In May and June each year these amazing mushrooms are seen in the OneFortyOne pine forest. So disappointed we missed out on seeing the mushrooms because we visited in February.

The Ghost Mushroom (Omphalotus nidiformis) is a bioluminescent fungus that glows green at night bright enough to read by. It is native to Australia growing in decaying plant material.

Trails vary from 100 – 500m in length and are well formed and mark for night time walking.

Opening Hours: May and June only

Admission: Free

Address: Crn Kangaroo Flat Road and Ghost Mushroom Lane, Glencoe

Piccaninnie Ponds

Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park

Piccaninnie Ponds Karst wetlands to look at on the surface looks like any another wetland. But when you learn what is going on below the surface and how the water in the ponds got there you can appreciate how remarkable these wetlands really are.

Karst is a limestone landscape. Limestone is a rock that dissolves in water and over time with water erosion caves, sinkholes and underground streams become a feature of the landscape. Beneath the surface of the Piccaninnie Ponds Karst (limestone) wetlands is a 35 metre deep cavern called the Cathedral and a 100 metre deep sinkhole called the  ‘Chasm’ both created through thousands of years of water erosion of the limestone rock.

Snorkeling over the top of Chasm and diving the Cathedral are popular activities in the park. Both need permits. 

The water in the ponds is crystal clear fresh water that has travelled through the limestone rock for thousands of years. The water forms springs underground and these springs through pressure come to the surface feeding the ponds. Amazingly it is possible to see some of the springs coming to the surface on the beach in the form of water bubbling up through the sand. 

Collecting fresh water

During our visit to the ponds and the neighbouring beach we went on the search to find a spring unfortunately we were unable to find any. We did however try the fresh water running along the sand as a stream. It was an odd experience drinking fresh water off a beach just metres from the sea! The water had a slightly earthy taste but definitely not salty or sandy. 

Opening Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free to walk around. Diving permit fee is $40.50. Snorkeling permits are: Adult $15, concession $13 and child $10.

Address: Piccaninnie Ponds Road, Wye

Distance from Mount Gambier: 33 kilometres or 30 minute drive

Mount Gambier Camping

Mount Gambier Showgrounds 🐾

Mount Gambier showgrounds has a large flat grassy area with allocated spots. There are amenities that you can use which have been updated and are kept clean. During our stay gas for the hot water ran out 2 of 3 nights so don’t leave your shower for too late in the day.

The camp ground is well located for seeing the sights of Mount Gambier and surrounds. Onsite managers were polite and helpful. Book ahead especially if you want power.

Camp Fees: Unpowered $15 or powered $25 Per vehicle per night

Address: 1 Pick Ave, Mount Gambier

Kromelite Road Rest Area 🐾

Free camping Mount Gambier is non existent and this rest area 15 mins drive east out of town is the only allocated area where you can free camp or stop overnight anywhere nearby. You should know too that there are no toilets at this rest area.

Camp Fees: Free

Address: Cnr Princes Hwy & Kromelite Rd, Glenburnie

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17 thoughts on “Free Mount Gambier Attractions | Travel Guide”

  1. I want to cry. One of my big dreams is to visit Australia, a place that seems totally different from Europe. Unfortunately, I heard that it is very difficult to enter your country even as a tourist.
    Mount Gambier looks amazingly beautiful and I am convinced that it is worth spending some time there.

    1. It is difficult at the moment with Covid-19 but it will eventually pass and then you should definitely come. Australia is great and Mount Gambier is must do.

    1. Thanks Melanie. I know I often want clear simple information on what i can do with my dog as we travel. She is so keen to experience new places its nice to include her as much as possible.

  2. Wow, I love the look of Mount Gambier! Amazing area of surrounding natural beauty too. Myself and my husband would love to travel, our children are aged between 14 to 8 and it is just too expensive at the moment to even consider. One day though!

  3. What an incredible destination! An how fantastic that there is so much to see and do for free (including bike hire!). Australia is definitely on my hit list as my sister immigrated there when I was 4 and she was 17. This would be an amazing place to visit when I go to visit her (not sure how far it is though!). Thanks for putting in on my rada.

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