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Mount Gambier, SA

Impressive rural service centre famous for its Blue Lake

Mount Gambier, the second largest city in South Australia, is recognised as the jewel of the state's south-eastern region. It is an important rural centre which is characterised by a large number of attractive, historic buildings and the major attraction of the Blue Lake. The city's primary appeal lies in exploring the lakes and sinkholes - unique and remarkable formations - as well as admiring the impressive number of significant historic buildings.


Mount Gambier is located 435 km south east of Adelaide via Murray Bridge and Naracoorte. It is 417 km west of Melbourne via Ballarat.


Origin of Name

The Buandig Aboriginal people called the area 'ereng balam' or 'egree belum' which probably meant the home of the eagle hawk. The first European to sight the area was Lieutenant James Grant on 3 December 1800 who named it Gambier's Mountain after Admiral Lord James Gambier who had commanded the fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen.


Things to See and Do

The Blue Lake
The Blue Lake is one of those remarkable natural phenomena that has to be seen to be believed. Between November and March (when the lake is intensely blue) to experience the lake, particularly on a sunny day, is to experience one of nature's mysteries.

There are a number of fascinating boards located at the car parks above the lake. Each offers information about the lake.
* How the Blue Lake Was Formed
There is a board titled Blue Lake - an explosive volcanic crater which explains that the Blue Lake is a maar (which consists of rim of ejected material (basalt and ash) resting directly on the pre-eruption land surface ... the crater is one of the youngest volcanoes in Australia). It goes on to explain that the limestone in the area was laid down between 15-40 million years ago. It was covered by 20 metres of lava 4000-5000 years ago. Groundwater percolated through the lava, was heated and converted into steam and, under pressure, blasted through the lava throwing rocks weighing up to 20 tonnes across the surrounding countryside. Layers of ash were deposited and the Blue Lake was formed.
* Blue Lake - a precious water supply
A sign explains that "The Blue Lake, Mount Gambier's water supply, is an exposure or window of the regional groundwater system. Water levels in the surrounding area are similar to that in the lake. The lake is replenished by infiltration of local rainfall and stormwater, together with lateral groundwater flow, through the limestone aquifer. The lake is flat bottomed with an average depth of 70 metres. The water level has dropped two metres over the last 25 years. The lake is an extinct volcanic crater with a surface area of 70 hectares, a circumference of 5 kilometres. It holds 36,000 million litres. Evidence suggests that the Blue Lake volcano last erupted about 5000 years ago. It is about 20 metres above sea level and, because of its great depth, its bottom is about 30 metres below the level of Mount Gambier's main street.
* The Story of Adam Lindsay Gordon 
Between 1853-1867 the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon lived in the district. He worked as a mounted policeman, a drover and a horse breaker. He was recognised as an exceptional horseman. There is evidence that, for a bet, he took a horse and leapt the old post and rail fence which ran around the edge of the Blue Lake. The land beyond the post and rail fence was no more than a metre across and it was edged by a 60 metre drop into the lake. It is reported that Gordon leapt the fence on his horse and landed safely on the narrow ledge. Then he managed to get the horse to leap back across the fence. This event is recorded on an obelisk on MacDonnell Bay Road which dates from 1887.

Why is the lake blue?
A sign beside the lake points out that "The colour of the Blue Lake changes dramatically from grey to vivid blue over a few days in November each year. Then after summer, usually in late March, it gradually fades until the grey winter appearance is resumed."
There are a number of theories why the Blue Lake changes colour. One theory claims that when blue dye was used to clean and whiten clothes, that the blue filtered through the limestone and coloured the lake. Some visitors even started accusing Mt Gambier locals of putting blue into the water so it would become a tourist attraction.
A second theory argues that the water is home to microscopic blue organisms which rise to the surface in the warmer months.
A third explanation, offered in an old brochure on the town, argues that: 'The most likely theory is that light is scattered by calcium carbonate which saturates the lake. As the temperature rises at the surface level it causes them to precipitate out as extremely fine particles of a similar wavelength to blue light. This causes a scattering of the light at the blue end of the spectrum, making the lake appear blue.
There is an excellent Fact Sheet titled Everything you ever wanted to know about the Blue Lake - A comprehensive resource (type "why is the blue lake so blue" into Google and download the PDF from www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au). It explains the changing colour as follows: "The clear water in the Blue Lake turns vibrant blue in summer for two reasons. First, the higher position of the sun in summer means more light hits the surface of the lake. This increases the blue light that is scattered back out from the lake by small particles. Pure water tends to scatter light in the blue range, small particles (such as CaCO3 or calcium carbonate crystals) scatter light in the blue-green range and dissolved organic matter (tannins) scatter in the yellow-brown range.
During spring the surface of the lake warms, dissolved carbon dioxide is released into the air as a gas, the pH increases and this water becomes over-saturated in calcite which begins to precipitate out. Tiny calcite crystals form and fall to the bottom of the lake capturing organic material as they fall and ‘cleaning’ it from the water. Each year a new layer of calcite about 3 mm thick and organic material 1 mm thick settles on the bottom of the lake. It is generally accepted that there is an annual calcium precipitation cycle which has a role in clarifying the lake around November, which precedes the colour change to blue."

Centenary Tower
Located on Elliott Drive, at the highest point overlooking the city and its lakes, is the Centenary Tower which was built by public subscription (it cost £482/11/6) and is nearly 10 metres high. The foundation stone was laid on 3 December 1900. It was officially opened on 27 April, 1904. It was built of red dolomite and the walls are 60 cm thick. It celebrates the sighting and naming of Mount Gambier by Lieutenant Grant in 1800. Additional plaques were added in 1950 (the 150th anniversary) and in 2000. For more detailed information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/landscape/exploration/display/51260-centenary-tower.

The Other Crater Lakes
The Blue Lake is the most famous of the city's lakes but it is only one of a series of volcanic. The lakes include the Little Blue Lake, Browne's Lake, Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake. They are all located near the Blue Lake and it is easy to find the vantage points which offer views over the lakes. There are at least five vantage points around the Blue Lake and a similar number of viewing points around the other lakes which lie to the west of Blue Lake.

Lady Nelson Visitor & Discovery Centre
Apart from being an excellent visitor centre which shows a film, Across the Green Triangle, throughout the day, the Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre is home to a full-size replica of the Lady Nelson, the brig which sailed along the coast and was captained by Lieutenant James Grant RN, the first European to sight Mount Gambier. The Discovery Centre also includes "an ossified skull of Simosthenurus occidental - an extinct kangaroo species of South Australia ... Visitors can walk on the glass floor to see the illuminated fossil rocks beneath them. The visitor centre also has an undersea world, where visitors can check out the interactive displays and marine creatures. Another point of interest is the Wetlands, where you can learn about prehistoric animals and civilisations. There is also a geology room where visitors can catch a glimpse of the neon volcanic explosion."  It is located at 35 Jubilee Highway East, tel: (08) 8724 9750 or check out https://www.mountgambierpoint.com.au/attractions/lady-nelson-visitor-centre. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday - Friday and 10.00 am - 4.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Cave Gardens
Located off Watson Terrace, the Cave Gardens are a sinkhole in the centre of Mount Gambier. It was the sight of Mount Gambier's original source of water which was used by the first European settlers. There is an easy walkway around the edge of the cave. The steps, cut by a W.A. Crouch, lead down to a viewing platform which overlooks the small waterfalls which cascade into the sinkhole. The first settlers collected water in buckets. In 1909 a rose garden was planted around the edge of the cave.

City of Mount Gambier - City Heritage Walk
There is a useful City Heritage Walk brochure which can be downloaded at https://www.walkingsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/City-Heritage-Walk-Mt-Gambier-brochure-and-map.pdf. It lists a total of 32 places of interest most of which are along Penola Road and Commercial Street. The most interesting include:

1. Commercial Bank of South Australia
Located on the corner of Gray Street and Commercial Street West, the Commercial Bank of South Australia was completed in 1885. This handsome building is now the only bank built in the city in the 19th century which is still standing. The State Library website (see https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+15838) describes it as: "The building is an Italianate structure with prominent eaves with limestone dressings. The square projecting entrance porch surmounted by a balustrade serves as a balcony to the upper level. The banking chambers occupied the ground floor while the bank manager's residence was above."

2. Mount Gambier Hotel
Located at 2 Commercial Street West, the Mount Gambier Hotel was built in 1862 by Alexander Mitchell who carried the license over from Jen's Hotel. The veranda was added in 1902. It was sold in 1954 for a record-breaking £100,000. There is more information in the Historic Hotels brochure which can be downloaded at https://www.walkingsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Historic-Hotels-of-Mt-Gambier.pdf.

3. Old Post Office
Located on the corner of Bay Road and James Street, the Post Office was originally built as a telegraph office in 1865. By 1887 the postal and telegraph services had been combined. It is a rare example of a Georgian style public building. The two wings were added in 1906. It is listed as part of the State Heritage.

4. Norris Agency Building
Located next to the Bridgestone Car Tyre Centre, and built in 1900 to the plans of Alexander Haig for Mr. Sydney Norris, a local businessman. “The façade is pink dolomite with cement quoins and unusual lined decoration work above the windows and door each contained within a triangular classical pediment.”

5. S.A. Farmers Union Building
Located on the other side of Bridgestone Car Tyre Centre, and constructed in 1914 as a showroom and offices for the Farmers Union which had been formed in 1888 to provide grains, seeds and superphosphate to farmers. It has always been unpainted limestone with the upper floor having double pilasters with top volutes.

6. Former Savings Bank of S.A.
Located on the corner of Bay Road and Helen Street, and constructed in 1906 as the first independent country branch of the Savings Bank of SA. One guide points out “Note the different cut stone for the foundations, simulated turrets on the corners and by the door to break the façade appearance and the stone line above the lower window which then divides the façade into equal thirds.” It is State Heritage listed.

7. Christ Church Anglican
Located on Bay Road this unusual church was erected in 1865 to a design by W.T. Gore. Dr Browne of Moorak donated 50% of the funds needed to build the church which was built from pink dolomite with a distinctive gabled tower. In 1895 the chancel and organ chamber were added. As well there was a memorial porch and lych gate which were built in 1927. The Jubilee Hall was added in 1915. It is State Heritage listed.

10. Railway Station
Located on Railway Terrace to the design by Mr. R.H. Hewitt, the current railway station replaced the first station built in 1879 to service the newly opened Beachport line. The railway no longer services the town.

12. Her Majesty’s Gaol
Located at 25 Margaret Street, and now an accommodation venue and function centre, the Old Gaol came into existence in 1866 and closed in 1995. It is claimed that the youngest prisoner admitted to the gaol was a nine year old boy in 1895 and the most frequent prisoner entered the gates 43 times between 1867 and 1890. Check out https://southaustralia.com/products/limestone-coast/accommodation/the-old-mount-gambier-gaol for more details.

13. Old Court House
Located at 42 Bay Road, The Mount Gambier Court House is currently owned and operated by the National Trust. Their website (check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/mount-gambier-courthouse-museum ) describes it as “a landmark building, designed by George Thomas Light, the assistant colonial architect, and constructed of local pink dolomite. The design for the Court House was a strictly symmetrical masonry building with a central double height section, flanked by single storey wings of one room depth. The detail was simple but appropriate to the form of the building. The Court House was completed in June 1864. The building consists of a large central court room 36 feet by 26 feet, with four auxiliary offices and a cell. Each room has direct access to the court room, but no access to each other. The rooms are mostly furnished with original furniture. There are established displays, information and interpretive banners which tell the stories of some of the people who worked at the courthouse or whose crimes were judged there.” Premier Don Dunstan gave the building to the National Trust in 1975. It is open by appointment. Tel: 0403 815 393.

14. Roller Flour Mill
Located on the corner of Bay Road and Sturt Street, the Roller Flour Mill (now a hardware store) was built 1885 as a steam-driven flour mill. It was built in pink dolomite with twelve paned windows. Some of the equipment came from other mills owned by Thomas Henry Williams. A notable addition was that he installed new porcelain rollers. Williams was the first man to own a motor car in Mount Gambier.

15. Mac’s Hotel
Located on the corner of Bay Road and Sturt Street, Mac’s Hotel is located on a site where a hotel was first built in 1864. Archibald McKenzie built the current hotel in 1882. It was named after the first two licensees, Mr. McDonald and Mr. McKenzie. It underwent major renovations in 2000.

16. Former Varcoe Foundry
Located in Ferrers Street, this building is clearly marker – 1913 T. H. Varcoe - Iron & Brass Foundry - Engineer - Blacksmith. It was one of the early brass and iron foundries in town and is distinctive because it uses a rare yellow dolomite.

17. Jens Hotel
Located at 40 Commercial Street East, Jens Town Hall Hotel and Annexe was built in 1884 on a site which had been a hotel since 1847. The owner was Johannes Jens. It was distinctive because it was the first building in town to be lit by gas making machines and on opening night Chinese lanterns were hung from the upstairs veranda.  A limestone wing was added in 1927 and a tunnel was built under Commercial Street to allow staff to reach the hotel unnoticed. For many years it was the most prestigious hotel in town with movie stars, politicians and even royalty staying. It is listed on the State Heritage Register. For more detailed information check out https://www.walkingsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Historic-Hotels-of-Mt-Gambier.pdf.

18. Jens Annexe
Located over the road from the Jens Hotel, and characterised by impressive ironwork on the veranda, the annexe was built in 1902 as a Coffee Palace. It was purchased by the Jens family in 1922 and the upper storey used as staff quarters for the hotel. The two buildings were connected by an underground tunnel.

19. The Gardiner Fountain
Located in the garden between Jens Hotel and the Town Hall, and made in Carlton at a cost of £600, this charming large marble fountain was given to the town in 1884 by Captain Robert Gardiner. It is claimed to be the first marble fountain made in South Australia. Gardiner was the grandfather of the famous ballet dancer, Sir Robert Helpmann.

20. Town Hall
Located in Commercial Road just beyond the Gardiner Fountain, the Old Town Hall, with its prominent clock tower, is an impressive building which was constructed out of dolomite and limestone. It was completed in 1882. An Institute was added in 1882 and a theatre in 1906. The tower clock was a donation from a Mr T. C. Ellis of Benara Station. It is listed on the State Heritage Register.

21. Institute Library & Hall
Located next to the Town Hall and constructed in 1869 with the upper storey being added in 1886, this significant local building was used as a library and, between 1911 and 1926, as a silent movie theatre. It is State Heritage listed.

22. City Hall
Located at the rear of the Institute building and clearly signposted off Commercial Street East, the City Hall was constructed as part of the Library in 1869. Major alterations and additions were completed to the City Hall in 2003-2004.

23. Riddoch Art Gallery
Located on Commercial Street East and built in 1906, this beautiful building was used as a movie theatre from 1926 until 1966. Live productions continued until 1981 when the Sir Robert Helpmann theatre was opened. Major renovations and additions occurred between 2009-2011. It is listed on the State Heritage Register.

24. St. Paul’s Catholic Church
Standing on the hill above the Convent of Mercy, and accessible from Penola Road, is the impressive St. Paul’s Catholic Church with its huge tower. It was opened in 1884 and dedicated in 1885. The cost was £10,000. There was provision for a spire but that was never built. The bells were brought from Dublin. It is listed on the State Heritage Register.

25. Convent of Mercy
Located at 20 Penola Road, the Convent of Mercy (now known as The Convent) was established as a result of the arrival of twelve Sisters of Mercy in May 1880. They had travelled from Ireland via Buenos Aires. When they reached Beachport they continued on by train to Mount Gambier. The impressive convent was built in 1908 from local dolomite with limestone quoins. The Some Historic Building in Mount Gambier brochure explains “Note the fine stone gables with small niches for statuary, the well proportioned arched colonnades and upstairs oriel windows – the projecting bay windows with stone supports. This is one of the finest buildings in Mt Gambier. The convent closed in 1986.” It cost nearly £7,000 and was built by Henry Knight. It is listed on the State Heritage Register.

27. Wesleyan Lecture Hall, Sunday School and Methodist Church
Located at 17-19 Penola Road, these two handsome buildings were once the Methodist Church – a pink dolomite neo-classical style building which was built in 1904 and includes pilasters, facings and mouldings of white limestone. The base is of grey dolomite and the moulded base and jambs to the doorway are of red and grey dolomite. It is listed on the State Heritage Register. Further along the road is the Methodist Church which was built in 1862 by the Wesleyans to a design by George Pannell. The old lecture hall and Sunday school were beneath the church. The Manse was built in 1868 in Gray Street. The church became a Uniting Church in 1977 but closed in 1994.

29. The Mount Gambier Club
Located in Penola Street, the Mount Gambier Club is described in the Some Historic Building in Mount Gambier brochure as: “It was built in 1904 for a local distiller as chambers for lease. The wealthy pastoralists of the South East formed an exclusive men only club in 1913 and it has used the upper floor of Engelbrecht’s chambers ever since. They purchased the whole building in 1920. The Club is a beautifully proportioned classical style building with pediments, balustrades, window entablature, and perfect symmetry. Look down the sides and you can see it is made of Mt Gambier limestone blocks.” It had “comfortably furnished reading and writing rooms” and a billiard table.

30. Caledonian Hall
Located next door to the Mount Gambier Club, the Caledonian Hall is “a substantial classical revival building constructed in rock face limestone and grey dolomite, with rusticated bases to paired pilasters and heavy pediment and parapet treatment.” It is listed on the State Heritage Register.

St Andrews Uniting Church
Located at 26 Elizabeth Street, and constructed from a distinctive pink dolomite in 1871, St Andrews Uniting Church and characterised by buttresses, a small gabled port and a towering spire which was built in the 1920s after an earthquake in 1896 had damaged the original building. It is located on the top of a hill and can be easily seen from many key points around Mount Gambier. It has been added to over the years with a gallery being built in 1879, a porch in 1885 and a vestry in the 1920s. For more information check out https://www.churchesaustralia.org/list-of-churches/locations/south-australia/l-m-towns/directory/66-mount-gambier-uniting-church.

Engelbrecht Cave
Located at 26 Chute Street, the Engelbrecht Cave, which extends under seven city streets, was formed some 30-40 million years ago. Before it was restored in 1979, by the local Lions Club, it was used as a dump by one of the city's whisky distilleries. The Lions Club cleared it out and it became a tourist attraction. There are 164 steps into the cave (with numerous viewing platforms) and it has become popular with cave divers. The major viewing platform, where you can see the water under the city, is 27 metres below the surface. It is open from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm every day except Wednesday. There are 45 minute tours into the cave at 10.00 am, 11.00 am, noon, 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm. For more information tel: (08) 8723 5552.

Umpherston Gardens
Located on the Jubilee Highway 3 km east of the city centre, Umpherston Gardens is a remarkably beautiful  sinkhole which has been landscaped with terraced gardens, hanging plants and palm trees. It is floodlit at night.
The sinkhole was named after James Umpherston who purchased the land in 1864. Umpherston was a local councillor, a parliamentarian and President of the Mount Gambier Agricultural and Horticultural Society for thirteen years. In 1884, when he had retired, he decided to create a garden in the sinkhole. He built a lake and had a boat which provided short rides for visitors. He built steps and carved a path into the walls. Sadly, when he died in 1900 the sinkhole fell into disrepair and became overgrown. In 1949 it was purchased by the Woods and Forests Department. In 1976 staff from the department decided to restore the gardens. They cleared out the rubbish that had been dumped in the sinkhole, restored the path access, trimmed the ivy and replanted the hydrangeas and tree ferns. In 1994 the Woods and Forests Department handed over the sinkhole to the City of Mt Gambier. It was added to the SA Heritage Register in 1995.


Other Attractions in the Area

The Apple Farm and Tearooms
Located at 77 Clarke Road, Ob Flat (it lies 10 km south of Mount Gambier) The Apple Farm is spread over 2 hectares and has over 1,000 apple trees. Apples are offered for sale in every imaginable form from apple juice and jams to pies and tarts. The apples ripen between February and May. It is open for weddings and special occasions. Check out https://www.theapplefarm.com.au for details.

Dingley Dell & Dingley Dell Conservation Park
Located on Dingley Dell Road 30 km from Mount Gambier and 2 km from Port MacDonnell (it is clearly signposted), Dingley Dell was the home of the famous poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon. It now contains examples of Gordon's work as well as his personal belongings.
In South East Sketchbook the journalist Max Lamshed, who was born in Mount Gambier, wrote of Dingley Dell: 'Adam Lindsay Gordon, the romantic poet, spent some of his happiest and most fruitful years at Dingley Dell. It stood in open scrubland which wattle splashed with springtime gold; where the music of wattle bird, magpie and thrush was never far away, and the growl of the sea came muted from the rocks of Cape Northumberland.
'He took his young bride, the gentle and understanding Maggie Park, to live there, and they were a familiar sight in nearby Port McDonnell (sic). He tall, long striding, with open neck shirt and cord riding pants, dark felt hat with long puggaree; she slight, dainty treading, holding her partner by the shirt pocket to give him a check.'
Dingley Dell was the home of Adam Lindsay Gordon from 1864 to 1867. There is a legend that Gordon won the cottage in a card game from its owner George Randall.
It is open every day from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and the Conservation Park is open 24 hours a day. For more information tel: (08) 8738 2221 or check out https://www.mountgambierpoint.com.au/attractions/dingley-dell.

Mount Schank
Located 12 km south of Mount Gambier, Mount Schank was named by Lieutenant James Grant after a friend, Captain John Schank. It is a remnant volcano which rises approximately 100 metres above the surrounding countryside.  There is a track which leads to the top and it is possible to descend into the crater of the extinct volcano. The walk from the Car Park to the top and around the edges of the old volcano is of moderate difficulty. There is a map and a fact sheet which can be downloaded at https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/heritage/state-heritage-areas/Mount_Schank. It explains the walks at the volcano: "While some visitors prefer to remain at the volcano's base, the walking track up its western side offers spectacular scenery of the surrounding district, with frequent rest stops along the way. This moderately challenging climb is rewarded at the top with a breathtaking view into Mount Schank's crater. For the more adventurous there is a further track down into the bowl of the crater, and another track that follows its rim. A few hours should be set aside to complete all walk options, and hikers should ensure that they have suitable shoes and supplies."
The Fact Sheet goes on to explain the geology: "The features seen at Mount Schank today are the result of two phases of volcanic activity. The first stage developed a significant scoria cone with an ash ring (maar) to the south and a basaltic lava flow to the west. The later phase created the main cone, which buried the original scoria cone and overlapped the maar. Work by the University of Adelaide Physics Department has dated the original Mount Schank eruption to 4,500 years ago ... The initial eruptions at Mount Schank occurred along a 1,200m long, north-west trending fissure in the underlying Gambier limestone and involved the venting of ash, followed by a lava flow. This fissure is now marked by a line of small scoria cones to the north-west of the mountain. Basalt lava flowed to the west and spread southwards over the flat terrain."

Tantanoola Tiger and the Tantanoola Hotel
Trying to establish the correct dates and the actual facts surrounding the Tantanoola tiger is almost impossible. No two versions are the same. Here are the variations on the story:

(i) It is claimed that the first sighting of the Tantanoola tiger occurred in 1883 when a young man riding near Tantanoola claimed he saw a large shaggy animal leap over a fence with a sheep in its jaws.

(ii) A second version claims that “In 1884 near Tantanoola a Bengal tiger supposedly escaped from a travelling circus. A search was mounted, but the tiger was never found."

(iii) Over the next few years, there were many reports of missing sheep in the area and some suggested that the sheep had become the prey of the missing tiger. There was an on-going level of hysteria. Children were escorted to school by men with guns. People refused to leave their homes at night. Loaded shotguns were carried by virtually everyone.

(iv) Eventually a local bushman, Tom Donovan, assisted by three other men, managed to shoot a large wild dog in 1895. There is some hard evidence for this version of the story because on 24 August, 1895 the Adelaide Observer reported:

Mount Gambier, August 21
The general subject of conversation in the town tonight is the shooting of an animal which is supposed to be the famed Tantanoola ‘tiger’. Mr Thomas Donovan came from Mount Salt this afternoon with the carcass of what is pronounced to be a large common European wolf, which he claims is really the Tantanoola ‘tiger’. He says that, accompanied by Mr. William Taylor, he left Nelson, on the Glenelg River, yesterday, and in the evening called at Mount Salt on Mount Schank Station and obtained leave from Mr Watson, the Manager, to camp and search for the animal.
At Mr Watson’s direction they went to a range four miles west of Mount Salt, where the beast was recently seen. Before sunrise this morning, while on the lookout, he saw a lot of sheep showing signs of having been disturbed some 300 yards away, and he then observed this animal worrying one. Creeping stealthily up they got within about 100 yards of it, and Mr Donovan with his rifle fired as it sat on its haunches looking at the sheep. It ran 300 yards before falling dead. They then took the carcass to Mr James Marks, of Mount Gambier, the local taxidermist, to stuff with a view to exhibiting it.
Mr Marks and some other good judges declare that it is a pure European wolf. Others, however, are inclined to doubt as to its species. Its height is about 2 ½ feet, its length from note to root of its tail 3ft 9in., tail 15 in., head 13 in. from tip of ear to ear, and its nose pointed. It also has a thick shaggy neck and brushy tail of wolf colour, dark brown along the back, gradually lightening to bright fawn. Belly, neck, and legs are smooth. Its paw would make a large track of the character of a dog.
"Whether it is the supposed ‘tiger’ or not cannot be said, and how a wolf could have got into the country is a great puzzle to everyone.”

This is recorded by the State Library of South Australia on the SA Memory website. Check it out at http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=276&c=786.
The stuffed animal was subsequently given to the Tantanoola Hotel which declared that it was the Tantanoola tiger. Amusingly, after the ‘tiger’ had been shot and stuffed sheep kept disappearing.
A policeman from Adelaide went to the area to investigate and in 1911 Robert Edmondson and David Bald were arrested for stealing and killing sheep. Was the mystery finally solved? Not a tiger/wolf/dog but some canny men.
In the end the enterprising Tom Donovan, ignoring all the contrary interpretations, had the animal stuffed and kept it in a private museum in Nelson. In 1905 it was placed in a glass case and put on display in the Railway Hotel which had its name changed to the Tantanoola Tiger Hotel.

Tantanoola Cave
Tantanoola Cave, located 33 km from Mount Gambier via the Princes Highway, is a single cave which has been formed in an ancient coastal cliff. It is notable for its excellent columns, shawls and helictites and for the unusual fact that it is a dolomite, rather than a limestone, cave. This produces formations coloured brown, cream and peach and, most famously, a formation dubbed the "Chocolate Fountain". The cave was first discovered by 16-year-old Boyce Lane in 1930 and since then has been a popular local attraction. It was taken over by National Parks South Australia in 1983. They upgraded the facilities adding handrails, improving the lighting and providing wheelchair access. The downloaded brochure explains: "Tantanoola Caves is one of Australia's few wheelchair accessible caves. Upon arrival, enjoy a special hosted experience as a knowledgeable guide introduces you to the history and geology of the caves and explains how its spectacular array of formations has developed over thousands of years. You are then free to explore the large cavern at your leisure and take photographs."
For opening times and cave tours tel: (08) 8734 4153. There is a comprehensive and detailed PDF on the park and the cave which can be downloaded at https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/find-a-park/Browse_by_region/Limestone_Coast/tantanoola-caves-conservation-park#about.

Glencoe Woolshed
Located at the corner of Glencoe Road and Woolshed Road, 24 km north west of Mount Gambier, Glencoe's central attraction is a superb National Trust Woolshed with a 36 stand stone shearing shed which was built in 1863. The area was originally settled by Europeans, in 1844, by Edward and Robert Leake who named the settlement after Glencoe in Scotland where a massacre had taken place in 1692. They built their shearing shed out of limestone and blackwood timber. The National Trust website notes: "Visit the Glencoe Woolshed and 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 converted 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. The Glencoe Woolshed is a remarkable building and provides visitors with a real insight into the history of agriculture in the region." For more details check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/glencoe-woolshed. It is open Monday to Saturday 9.00 am - 5.00 pm and Sunday 11.00 am - 5.00 pm. Tel: 0432 881 842 for more information.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was inhabited by the Boandik Aboriginal people.

* The first European to sight Mount Gambier was Lieutenant James Grant sailing the HMS Lady Nelson on 3 December 1800.

* The first squatters into the area were the Henty Brothers who had established huge property holdings around Portland in western Victoria.

* The Hentys moved sheep and cattle into the area in June, 1839.

* In 1844 the Hentys were moved off the land by the South Australian government.

* The government gave the land to Evelyn Sturt, a brother of the explorer, Charles Sturt.

* A Post office was opened in 1846.

* The Mount Gambier Hotel was built by John Byng in 1847.

* By 1848 a blacksmith and a general store had been opened near what are now known as the Cave Gardens.

* In 1849 a Dr Welh arrived with a handmill for turning wheat and barley into flour. He was later to build a substantial millhouse on Commercial Road.

* A town was formally established by Hastings Cunningham in 1854. He called it Gambierton. During that year 123 allotments were surveyed.

* By 1860 lots of land in the township were being offered for sale.

* The Post Office was known as Gambierton in 1861.

* The District Council of Mount Gambier held its first meeting in 1863.

* A Court House was built in 1865.

* The first edition of the Mount Gambier Standard was published in 1866.

* A Town Council was created in 1876.

* The city of Mount Gambier was created exactly a century later in 1954. It is now recognised as the most important centre in south-east South Australia.

* Today Mount Gambier is an important rural centre. Local industries include timber, sheep and cattle raising. Grain crops and vegetables are also grown.


Visitor Information

Lady Nelson Visitor Centre, 35 Jubilee Highway East, tel: 1800 087 187 and (08) 8724 9750. Open 10.00 am - 4.00 pm Friday to Monday and 10.00 am - 2.00 pm Tuesday to Thursday.


Useful Websites

There is a useful, official website. Check out https://www.mountgambier.sa.gov.au.

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