Have you ever explored Mount Gambier? Did you know it has sinkholes, natural springs and a huge crater? Next time you’re passing through South Australia, be sure to stop and check it out for yourself – you don’t want to miss it!
When we say Mount Gambier was our favourite place on our lap of Australia, people are usually shocked, expecting us to say a popular beach or national park instead. But Mount Gambier is a town like no other.
You can climb down steps into crystal-clear blue swimming holes, dive in underwater caves, snorkel in natural springs with insane 11/10 visibility, and even explore sinkholes in the middle of town that have been turned into underground sunken gardens.
Whether you’re looking for scuba diving challenge or prefer to take it all in from dry land, here’s seven of these incredible sinkholes to explore next time you’re heading through Mount Gambier.
Little Blue Lake (Easy)
Little Blue Lake is a popular tourist sinkhole just out of town. Due to its popularity, the council has built a walkway down to a floating pontoon at the bottom where you can then enjoy the beautiful swimming and diving hole.
Hells Hole (Hard)
As the name suggests, this is a near-black 30m deep diving sinkhole to challenge the brave! You will need the correct qualification and permit from the local council to dive here, which you can obtain by emailing Forestry South Australia at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once there, you’ll lower yourself from a pulley system down into the hole to enter this underwater world. For those just wanting to check it out, you can gaze down on Hells Hole from above.
Umpherston Sinkhole (Easy)
This spectacular sunken garden is a sinkhole in the middle of town! Yup, that’s right, and it’s completely free.
It was once a typical limestone cave, which was formed by the corrosion of limestone rocks by seawater waves, and the sinkhole was naturally created when the chamber’s roof collapsed.
The Umpherston Sinkhole was made into a garden by James Umpherston in 1886. It’s open from dawn to dusk and, as the sun sets, the Umpherston Sinkhole comes alive with hundreds of possums that descend on the tranquil garden to feed. Certainly quite a sight, and a relaxing place not to be missed.
Cave Gardens Sinkhole (Easy)
This is a beautiful sinkhole in town with a waterfall and garden perfect for a stroll. It contains several lookouts and a suspended viewing platform at the top. It is believed that this sinkhole was the original water source for the early settlers in this area. Sometimes you’ll even see a waterfall flowing down to the bottom.
Ewen Ponds (Easy)
Upon arrival you can’t even see any ponds – just a car park with toilet and information boards. But you’re about to enter a wondrous underwater world, where visibility is up to 80m!
Looking down into the water you can instantly see the bottom and all the bubbles coming up. Never in our lives have we seen water so clear. There are three ponds in total and from the main pond you can swim into the other two – all for free.
Piccaninnie Ponds (Easy)
These ponds are so popular you’ll need a permit to snorkel or dive. Again this pond has insane clarity, and is also great for divers who can go down and explore the underwater chasm named the Cathedral.
Those who snorkel can see its vibrant greens, insane blues and the creatures that call these waters home. On the surface it’s a wetland so be sure to look out for all the wetland birds that inhabit the area.
Permits can be issued on a single or annual basis. The fee for snorkelling is around $14 for a single permit and $54 for an annual permit. Diving is $37 for a single and $76 for an annual permit. You must purchase your permit before arrival which you can do online through the National Parks SA.
The diving time slots are for 60 minutes and there is a limit of two sessions per person, per day. Bookings are essential.
Diving permits are only issued to divers who are current financial members of the Cave Divers Association of Australia (CDAA) and rated at sinkhole category.
Mt Schank (Hard)
Mt Schank is a volcanic cone. It is a young volcano, geologically speaking, which represents the most recent volcanic activity on the Australian mainland.
There are a few scenic hikes you can do to view the crater. To view it from the top involves a steep 900m return climb to the rim, where you can sit down and enjoy the view into the crater.
You can also walk around the rim on a 1.9km return hike, which will give you a surreal 360-degree view.
There is also the 1.3km return crater floor hike where, once at the bottom, you’ll feel a sense of solitude and isolation surrounded by cliffs.
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