17/05/16 From Hamilton, we headed 134 kilometres west across the South Australian border to Mt Gambier and set up the van in the showgrounds. Two days extended to three to allow us to see the local attractions. We liked the town, its gardens and autumn leaves reminding us of Toowoomba, back in Queensland.
The Blue Lake and Valley Lake on the edge of town are quite spectacular crater remnants of volcanic activity believed to have occurred only 5,000 years ago. They are among the youngest volcanoes in Australia. It would have been an impressive sight for the locals when they blew their top. Both lakes are filled with ground water to the level of the surrounding water table, and Blue Lake supplies the town with very good quality drinking water.
Leaving the Kruiser at the showgrounds, we took a drive the second day to Nelson on the coast just across the border in Victoria, and looked around the Discovery Bay Coastal Park where Di had fun spotting lots of bird life. Following the coastline back into South Australia, we stopped off at Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park and Ewens Ponds Conservation Park, both considered to be wetlands of international importance. The crystal clear waters of both ponds have been slowly filtering through the limestone over thousands of years, forming the ponds’ features and creating spectacular and deep underwater environments for diving and snorkelling. It was way too cold for us to consider getting in, but we could still appreciate the scenery from dry land.
Still following the coast road west, we went through the tiny coastal villages of Brown Beach and Riddoch Bay to picturesque Port MacDonnell where we had a great meal at Periwinkles Café on the foreshore. Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area. The remainder of the afternoon’s sightseeing was cut short by a sudden thunderstorm that came across during lunch, and we headed back to Mt Gambier and the van.
The third day included a visit to the Umpherston Sinkhole, also known as the Sunken Garden, a short distance from our showgrounds camp. It was once an underground cave formed through dissolution of the limestone by rain and ground water, and the top of the chamber later collapsed downwards creating the sinkhole. The build-up of soil over time created a perfect environment for a garden at the bottom. A similar sinkhole is in the centre of town right beside the town hall, called the Cave Garden, and features a light show at night.
“A volcano may be considered as a cannon of immense size.” — Oliver Goldsmith, Goldsmith’s Miscellaneous Works (1841)