Best Free Things to Do in Mount Gambier

Mount Gambier is a large South Australian regional town & right near the border of Victoria. It is well-known for its impressive sinkholes, dormant volcanos, and stunning crater lakes.

With its diverse landscape and a large range of outdoor activities, Mount Gambier is a fantastic holiday destination for solo travellers, couples, families, and everyone in-between.

Certain activities and attractions around Mount Gambier do require entrance fees and bookings. However, you do not necessarily need to pay your way through to experience the beauty of Mount Gambier.

There is a range of interesting free attractions around Mount Gambier, which can easily fill up a day or two’s schedule.

In this article, I have listed my top free things to do in Mount Gambier to help plan your trip.

You can visit all these attractions within a day, but two days might be required if you wish to take time around each of these attractions.

Mount Schank

Mount Schank is an impressive dormant volcano and only a 15-minute drive from Mount Gambier city centre.

It is estimated that the last eruption of Mount Schank was about 5000 years ago & this volcano has been dormant since. Being one of the youngest volcanos in Australia, the crater from this volcano eruption is still very well preserved.

Visitors can take a 1 km uphill walk from the carpark to the crater rim for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the entire crater and the surrounding farmlands.

This walk is advised as a 30-minute walk (one-way), but it likely will take you much less than the recommended time, as long as you have a decent fitness level. If you are very fit and not taking any breaks, you should be looking at completing this return walk within 30 minutes.

There is also a loop walk around the crater rim for a 360-degree view of this impressive crater. This loop walk around the crater rim is about 2 km and takes about 1 hour to complete on average.

If you are feeling adventurous, there is also a path to take you from the crater rim to the crater floor to experience some serenity from within this beautiful crater. This walk will take about 1.5 hours (return).

Blue Lake

As the name suggests, Blue Lake is a stunning BLUE lake!

When I visited Blue Lake in May 2022, it had that deep, sapphire blue colour that radiants from every single angle of this tranquil lake. It was just incredible.

With that being said, the colour of Blue Lake does change throughout the year.

I have been told that Blue Lake looks murkier in the colder months and appears more vivid and blue in the warmer months. So far, no one can clearly explain the exact science behind this phenomenon.

Like many lakes around Mount Gambier, Blue Lake is a crater lake and a result of the most recent volcanic eruption, thousands of years ago. Since the crater floor is much lower than the water table, a lake has then formed what is now known as the Blue Lake.

Apart from being a huge tranquil lake, the water quality in Blue Lake is also really good. Therefore, Blue Lake has been used as Mount Gambier’s water supply since the late 1800s.

Since Blue Lake is the water supply for Mount Gambier, swimming or any water activities within Blue Lake are prohibited. Nonetheless, there is a circular walk around Blue Lake for people to exercise and enjoy the remarkable view of this peaceful lake.

The loop walk around Blue Lake takes about 1-hour to complete. You can get some good views of Blue Lake along this circular walk. However, this walk is mostly behind a wired fence with sections blocked off from the lake.

I didn’t find this walk rewarding. Unless exercise is your main goal for joining the loop walk around Blue Lake, I don’t suggest taking the entire loop walk.

In fact, there are multiple well-designed lookouts around Blue Lake. You can certainly drive around the lake to visit only the lookouts. I found this approach more appealing when visiting Blue Lake.

Valley Lake

Near Blue Lake, you can find another beautiful crater lake but on a smaller scale – Valley Lake. Although right next to Blue Lake and with similar geological features, Valley Lake presents a very different vibe.

Since Blue Lake is all fenced off from the public, it somehow has this sacred, mysterious, and glamorous feel to it. In comparison, Valley Lake is this quiet, approachable, and down-to-earth little cousin of Blue Lake.

At Valley Lake, you can get into the lake and enjoy some water activities (it’s a bit muddy though). There are picnic facilities, toilets, and a playground as well. It is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic while appreciating the beautiful landscape and wildlife here.

Centenary Tower

Built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Mount Gambier in 1800, Centenary Tower was initially opened to the public in 1904.

Sitting at the summit of Mount Gambier, this 9-metre high Centenary Tower provides an unparalleled view of the city of Mount Gambier, its amazing crater lakes, and the lush green Limestone Coast.

Since this Centenary Tower is up on the summit, there is a steep 10-15 minutes uphill walk from the carpark before reaching the tower. This walk is on an even bitumen road. It might not look as difficult from the carpark, but be prepared.

With that being said, if you do find this walk challenging, feel free to take as many breaks as you would like. With the beautiful Valley Lake on one side and the stunning farmlands on the other, the views along this walk are also impressive.

Entry to the Centenary Tower does require a small fee (AUD 2 at the time of writing & the experience is well worth that price). However, the Centenary Tower does not open every day. The only way of telling if it is open is by looking at the flag. It is only open when the flag is flying on top of the Centenary Tower (it can be seen from the carpark).

If you do arrive here on a day when the Centenary Tower is not open, you can still climb up to the summit. Although you won’t get an unobstructed 360-degree view of Mount Gambier, you can still get a great bird’s eye view of Mount Gambier, Valley Lake, the small craters around, and the nearby farmlands.

Mount Gambier Visitor Centre

Mount Gambier Visitor Centre is one of the most interesting and educational visitor centres I have been to.

Near the entrance of Mount Gambier Visitor Centre, you will be greeted by a full-sized replica of the H.M.S Lady Nelson. This is an attraction on its own. Feel free to take a photo and learn about its history before heading into the visitor centre.

Once you are within the visitor centre, the friendly staff will help you with any travel queries you might have & provide you with many helpful suggestions on visiting the Limestone Coast.

At the back of Mount Gambier Visitor Centre, there is a fantastic discovery centre. It has an impressive range of rocks and fossils on display, which is great for learning the geological formations and history of the Limestone Coast.

Cave Garden

As many of you may already know, Mount Gambier is famous for its sinkholes. These sinkholes are everywhere around Mount Gambier. If you wish to, you can easily spend a couple of days visiting these sinkholes alone.

Admission to many of the sinkholes near Mount Gambier does require an entrance fee. Out of the sinkholes near Mount Gambier and with no admission fees, I highly recommend Cave Garden & Umpherston Sinkhole.

Cave Garden is a beautiful sinkhole garden right in the centre of Mount Gambier city. Surrounded by colourful roses and well-trimmed shrubs, Cave Garden is something you can easily walk past and miss out on if you don’t know where to look for it.

Make sure you do take a walk down the stairs to admire this charming sinkhole garden up-close from its lower viewing platform.

Cave Garden also runs a nightly light show, which features Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. It can be a great nighttime activity & to learn about Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.

Note: Access to the floor of this cave is prohibited. Make sure you stick to the well-formed walking track and platform. People have been injured before when attempting to access the cave floor.

Umpherston Sinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole is a massive sinkhole garden in Mount Gambier.

At 20+ metres below the ground level and 50 metres in width, the sight of this sinkhole garden is just breathtaking from any angle.

Access to Umpherston Sinkhole is free, and you can also visit it at any time of the day.

It only takes a 5-minute drive from Mount Gambier city centre to Umpherston Sinkhole.

Since the sinkhole garden is surrounded by green shrubs from every angle, you do need to follow the ramp down to the top viewing platform before obtaining a good view of this remarkable sinkhole garden.

From the top viewing platform, the descent down to the cave floor will be via a set of well-maintained staircases.

For wheelchair access, it is possible to bring a wheelchair to the top viewing platform for a spectacular view of the Umpherston Sinkhole. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access from this point downwards because of the stairs.

Once you have descended to the cave floor, feel free to take a stroll around this circular sinkhole garden to admire its stunning curtains-like hanging vines, colourful hydrangea flowers, lush green fern trees, and beautiful waterfalls.

A visit to Umpherston Sinkhole can take as little as 15-20 minutes if you only wish to walk down for a quick browse. However, many people do spend a lot more time at Umpherston Sinkhole.

It is so easy to lose track of time when you are fully immersed in the beauty of this wonderful limestone sinkhole. Various benches are also available within this sinkhole garden for people to sit down and soak in this striking view.

In addition to the beauty of this sinkhole garden, Umpherston Sinkhole also comes to life just after sunset.

Many possums that reside in Umpherston Sinkhole come out for food each day after sunset. Feedings are allowed if you have some fruits to offer. These possums are already well accustomed to visitors, so they usually are very friendly and will come to you for food.

South Australia’s Southernmost Point – Cape Northumberland

From Mount Gambier, you can take a 30-minute drive and be at South Australia’s Southernmost Point for some spectacular ocean views.

Cape Northumberland is well-known for being South Australia’s Southernmost Point. However, I believe it should be better known for its impressive coastline.

The rugged coastline along Cape Northumberland offers a breathtaking view of the Southern Ocean.

Since there is nothing to break the ocean swells between Antarctica and Cape Northumberland, the forces and the sounds of these ocean swells crashing onto the rocky cliffs at Cape Northumberland are enormous.

The sharp cliffs at Cape Northumberland are as high as 30 metres above sea level. With the huge swells coming in, Cape Northumberland can get extremely windy. Thus, make sure you pack a warm & windproof jacket when visiting.

I could easily spend hours at Cape Northumberland, admiring its crashing waves and rugged coastline, if it wasn’t that cold and windy.

Cape Northumberland is an absolute must-visit for Mount Gambier & the Limestone Coast in general. It should be a place on everyone’s bucket list.

Access to Cape Northumberland is easy.

  • From Mount Gambier, you can follow the Riddoch Highway to Port MacDonnell & turn right onto Sea Parade at the end of Riddoch Highway.
  • Sea Parade will subsequently change to Lighthouse Road and Cape Northumberland Road.
  • Cape Northumberland is right at the end of Cape Northumberland Road.
  • You will likely know you are in the right place just by looking at the marvellous coastline from Shelly Beach to Cape Northumberland.

Mount Gambier Township

Last but not the least, exploring Mount Gambier’s town centre is also a fabulous activity when visiting Mount Gambier.

Mount Gambier’s town centre was built around the beautiful Cave Garden. This is because Cave Garden was the initial water supply for Mount Gambier back in the 1800s (currently dried out from dropping water table).

Just a short walk from Cave Garden, you can then visit the Riddoch Arts & Cultural Centre.

Riddoch Art & Cultural CentreOpens in a new tab. opens daily and is free to enter. Within this museum, you can find a range of art and artefacts on display.

There are also daily free film screenings within this museum (time varies between weekdays and weekends & feel free to check out their website for up-to-date screening timesOpens in a new tab.). It is an hour-long movie, focussing on the volcanic history of Mount Gambier. It is a great place to get an understanding of the geological formation of the Limestone Coast.

After visiting the Riddoch Arts & Culture Centre, make sure you also take a stroll along Commercial Street to check out its buildings, shops, and cafes/restaurants.

Commercial Street is one of the busiest streets in Mount Gambier. Along Commercial Street, you can spot many historic buildings along your walk. There is also a good range of restaurants and cafes along this street & it is perfect for a relaxing brunch or dinner.

Check out these Mount Gambier attractions here on my YouTube channel:

Bec's Travel Itinerary

I'm passionate about travel. I would like to use this platform to share my travel experiences. Please support me by subscribing to this blog. You can also find more travel related contents on my YouTube channel and Instagram. Thank you :)

Recent Posts

Discover more from Bec's Travel Itinerary

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading