On the Limestone Coast of South Australia between Melbourne and Adelaide lies the gem of Mount Gambier. Surrounded by gum trees and nestled at the base of an extinct volcano, the Blue Lake bedazzles the beholder with its vivid blue colour every summer from November to March.
The first settler to set eyes upon this natural wonder was Stephen Henty back in 1839. Captivated by the Lake’s beauty, he returned in 1841 with his cattle and built stockyards and huts in the area. However his luck ran out in 1845 when Inspector Gordon chose a site nearby to build the first police station in the South East. Since Henty had no written legal rights to the land, he was forced to abandon it in 1846, leaving behind his stockman’s huts, which became the police barracks. The first legal owner of the land in 1847 was Evelyn Sturt, brother of Charles Sturt the explorer, who purchased several sections of the land at an Adelaide auction.
The city of Mount Gambier is set in an ancient landscape of volcanic craters, lakes and underground waterways set on a block of limestone.
In 1884 the huge complex of limestone caves under the city was first explored. The limestone was formed from millions of shells, bones and fossils and acts as a filter to the city’s water supply. Limestone is also an important product to industry; as a building stone, in road construction, glass, fibreglass and even tablets. However Mount Gambier’s main industry, due to the plentiful water supply, fertile soil and temperate climate, is plantation timber.
A perfect stopover when travelling on The Great Ocean Road, Mount Gambier offers so many opportunities for taking stunning photos. I enjoyed an entire day exploring Umpherston’s Sinkhole, one of nature’s miracles. Originally a limestone cave, the top of the chamber eventually fell to the floor, creating a perfect environment for a garden. In 1886 James Umpherston beautified it, creating a source of enjoyment for countless visitors ever since. Daytime, it’s a vision of greenery dotted with flowers and cascading ivy. After nightfall, it turns into a floodlit garden and nocturnal haven for native animals. You can stay for a picnic, BBQ, or simply enjoy the ambience.
Why is the lake blue only in summer? Visit the Lady Nelson Discovery Centre and find out. While there meet the ghost of Christina Smith, make a volcano erupt, and lend an ear to Lt Grant as he tells his story from his brig cell.
And when sipping aromatic coffee from one of the many cafes, remember you’re drinking water from the ‘True Blue’.
I stayed in a comfortable caravan park not far from the city centre. Mount Gambier is on the Princess Highway approx. 430 km from Melbourne and approx. 440 km from Adelaide.
More information can be obtained from The Lady Nelson Discovery Centre, or by phoning Toll Free: 1800 087 187.
You can also visiti www.mountgambiertourism.com.au
Text Eva Stovern. Photos Thom Stovern. Extract from ‘Caravan Chef on the road’. Please visit www.caravanchef.com