Exploring Around Mount Gambier

On this easy going and relaxed trip, we have spent the last two days exploring the area around Mount Gambier. Yesterday, we looked around the region closer to town and today, further to some places further away along the coast near Port Macdonnell.

Mount Gambier is known for its unique geological features, including its limestone formations. The region’s limestone is a type of sedimentary rock that is made up primarily of calcium carbonate. It was formed over millions of years through the accumulation of marine fossils and shells in a shallow sea.

The limestone in Mount Gambier has been extensively quarried over the years, with the rock being used for a variety of purposes, including building construction, road construction, and agricultural purposes. The limestone is also used in the production of cement, lime, and other construction materials.

One of the most famous limestone formations in the region is the Umpherston Sinkhole, which is located in the heart of Mount Gambier. The sinkhole was created when the roof of a limestone cave collapsed, creating a large circular depression. Today, the sinkhole has been transformed into a beautiful garden, with ferns, flowers, and trees growing on the walls of the sinkhole.



Blue Lake is a large volcanic crater lake near the town. It is situated in a steep sided caldera with the highest peak forming the ‘Mount’. In geological terms, the volcanoe is quite recent with eruptions occurring around 5000 to 8000 years ago.

Blue Lake lake is approximately 70 meters deep and holds over 36,000 million litres of water. During the summer months, the water in the lake appears a vibrant blue, while in the winter months, it becomes more of a dark grey colour. The reason for this colour change is still not completely understood, although it is thought to be due to the different temperature and light conditions at different times of the year.

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There are several lookouts around the rim of the volcano, including the popular ‘Centenary Tower’. It is an historic structure that was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of European settlement in the region.


Twenty five kilometres north of Mount Gambier is Glencoe, a small settlement in this Limestone Coast region of South Australia, The settlement was established in the mid-19th century as a farming community and has a rich history dating back to the early days of European settlement in the region.


Glencoe is named after the Scottish village of the same name, and many of the early settlers in the area were of Scottish descent. Today, the settlement is home to a small community of around 200 people and is known for its scenic countryside, historic buildings, and charming rural atmosphere.

The Glencoe Station (ranch) was first established in 1844 by Edward and Robert Leake as a sheep station. Leake brothers named the settlement after Glen Coe, Scotland where the infamous massacre of Glencoe took place in 1692. Originally from Tasmania, they brought with them the Saxon Merino sheep and then later built the Glencoe Woolshed in 1863 which still stands today as it was and now serves as a museum.


The woodshed is now a museum that is owned by the National Trust. It lets you  journey back to the era of the early Pioneer Pastoralists. The shearing/wool shed is unique as it was never converted to a mechanised shearing and it has now been made into a museum of original and historic blade shearing and wool handling processes. Built in 1863, this fine building has hand adzed, cathedral like arched Blackwood beams with supporting posts of pit sawn Blackwood. 




Today, it was only 25 minutes for us to get to Port Macdonnell. Along the way, we stopped at Mount Shank ready for a walk to the top of this volcano. However, the weather radar on my phone was showing a band of rain coming across so I gave the walk away and we drove on. I’m glad we did as there was about 45 minutes of heavy rain and I would have been soaked. Mount Shank is actually the newest volcano in Australia (not that we have many) and was well recorded in verbal Aboriginal history.

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There is not much in this port town today, but this once once he second busiest port in South Australia. The original jetty was replaced many years ago. Australia’s only saint, Mary McKillop is reported to have sailed from here as a young g woman on her way to fame and fortune, only to end up with a vow of poverty as she joined a Roman Catholic religious order. Somehow the church found she had performed a number of saintly doings and she was beautified relatively recently. 


Port Macdonnell had a moment of fame (and terror) one day in 1943 when a German sea mine floated onto the shore at high tide. The mine caused such local alarm that a number of houses were temporarily evacuated by the local constable. The mine was covered with barnacles and seaweed. It was disarmed a few days later by a naval demolition party from Adelaide and is now located in the grounds of the old customs house. I doubt that Port Macdonnell has seen anything remotely exciting since. 


The very grand Customs House building combined a police station, court house, post and telegraph office and residence, and a customs house. It was constructed in 1863 for £2605, assuming that the town’s future looked very rosey. Over the years it has changed significantly. It was used as a police station until 1958.

After a lunch in the local cafe, we heard north along the coast. There is a long stretch of very flat faming land for kilometres with the beach consisting of a narrow strip of sand, backed by small dunes. There was an occasional rock outcrop that created something interesting to see. 



We travelled as far north as the lighthouse at Banks Head. It was originally manned by two keepers who lived in cottages in a sheltered area beneath the light. Like most light stations along the Australian coast, it is now fully automated.


Back in Mount Gambier, we stoped at the memorial park with its impressive war memorial. People here are very inclusive. Along the pathway are a number of memorials to almost everyone – not only those who died, but also to National Servicemen, Militiamen and all those who served in Vietnam. I always take note of names on war memorials. Here, there were the usual multiple names of men from the same family who died in WW1 and three names from the Vietnam war.


Tomorrow, we will travel further top the coast to our next overnight stop at Kingston SE.




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