The last time I visited Mt Gambier I think I was about Izzy’s age. It was with my grandparents. I remember how amazing it was to have so many unique natural formations so close to each other. Caves, lakes, sink holes, volcanic craters … and now I have that surreal feeling of being able to share those experiences with my own children.
On our first morning we were woken by the most amazing noise as thousands of corellas and galahs flew overhead.
The first place we explored was Mt Schank, a fairly recent volcanic crater in historical terms, only about 5000 years old. In fact most of the volcanic formations of Mt Gambier are around this old. The thing that makes Mt Schank special is that you can walk up the side of the crater and look down inside as it is quite a small crater. Izzy and I were curious so decided to take a stroll down inside the crater. This was an unmaintained track which was quite narrow and overgrown. So it was more of a stamp than a walk for me trying to scare of any potential snakes given we only had our ‘safety’ Birkenstocks and thongs on.
Umpherston Sinkhole is one of the places I remember vividly from my childhood. I think there was still water in the bottom when I came as I remember following an older path, now closed to the public, further into the sinkhole. The gardens were still amazing, like a hidden oasis sunken into the ground. It must have been quite amazing back in the day when Umpherston had a boat on the lake to make the most of the lush gardens from all vantage points. The kids loved all the paths and nooks behind the hanging gardens, as well as the rather bold pair of possums who were very active for the middle of the day. I guess it is always darker in a sinkhole.
Then of couse there is the famed Blue Lake with its vivid blue hues from November to March. Nobody seems sure why it changes colour but that does not stop it being the water catchment for the area and a stunning centrepiece to the town.
A more hidden gem just out of town is Ewens Ponds. We are grateful to friends Marijke and Craig for letting us know about them. I received a rather random text from Marijke telling me she is in Mt Gambier. Turns out Craig had spotted Mali at the caravan park which meant we could catch up for the night while out paths crossed. It was wonderful to be able to share an evening with them and their two gorgeous boys. I feel fortunate to have great school friends that no matter how long it has been between catch ups, we can pick up where we left off.
Anyway, back to Ewens Ponds. They are part of the aquifer system and are a series of three deep pools with amazingly clear water. You are only allowed to snorkel or scuba dive here and in small numbers. The water is incredibly cold. It seemed like everyone visiting had a full wet suit including hood, gloves and booties. That did not stop Izzy and Andrew going for a snorkel. Izzy spent ages exploring . I was only brave enough to pop my head in with a mask while hanging off the jetty. The older I get the more I struggle in cold water. It really was stunning though.
Tantanoola Cave was another destination for this leg. This was one of the first caves I ever visited as a child and although small, I remember being mesmerised by the dense formations. There is a small pool in the cave which when lit makes it seem like the cave has two levels . I was not sure if the kids would like it given we have visited quite a few caves on the trip but they seemed impressed by the beauty. It really is a stunning cave. It was discovered by a boy who lost his ferret in the cave when hunting for rabbits. He found the ferret after crawling into the small hole but also discovered this amazing cave.