This volcanic area is made up of three main craters containing several lakes; amongst them are Brownes Lake, Valley Lake, Leg of Mutton Lake and the world famous Blue Lake.
Mention Mount Gambier and one immediately visualises the local phenomenon the Blue Lake. It is approximately 75 metres deep and is the only one with the inexplicable ability to change colour, as it does from November each year, reaching an intense turquoise blue until March, when it starts to return to a somber blue.
All lake's are suffering from a fall in water levels, primarily due to lack of rainfall during the last 20 years. Both Leg of Mutton and Browne's Lake are dry or near dry as they were back in the early 1800s. The Valley Lake crater with its wildlife park and boardwalk, adventure playground, barbecues, picnic grounds and shelters, provides great facilities for all.
The crater lakes area is of significant historical importance. The Craitbul legend tells about Aboriginal existence during the time the volcano first erupted. Many sites mark the coming of European settlement including Stephen Henty's Hut, the Centenary Tower, a memorial to the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon, who made a spectacular leap on his horse Red Lancer over a fence close to the rim of the Blue Lake and Rook Wall built in 1918 during a mammoth community working project. Interpretive signage throughout the area explains the geology, which is unique due to the volcanic activity and presence of limestone deep beneath the surface.
There are many short walks in this beautiful area including Valley Lake Walk, Blue Gum Walk and The Oaks Walk.
Blue Lake Circuit: Join the many fitness enthusiasts from early in the morning for the brisk three point six kilometre walk around the circumference of the Blue Lake or take a leisurely stroll stopping at the various viewing points on the way to see the beauty of this area. Start at the Pioneer Memorial parking area to the right of Bay Road. Walk in a clockwise direction pass the entrance to Aquifer Tours up the track to Apex Lookout for breathtaking views of the lake. On the left of the path is the broadcasting studios of WIN Television, then spectacular views of the countryside. Further along, the pathway dips closely towards the fence allowing another aspect to view the lake, The Tower and The Pumping Station. Walk past the PJ Browne Reserve then to the Rotary Lookout for another view. Mount Schank can be seen to the south. Continue to Cactus Garden, then to the Adam Lindsay Gordon Monument, which marks the place where Gordon courageously leapt on horseback, over an old guard fence onto a narrow ledge on the side of the Blue Lake. Walk down the steps near the tunnel under the road for a different view of the lake and the dolomite Pumping Station building or through the tunnel to The Leg of Mutton Lake Lookout. Rejoin the walk via the tunnel to the near side of the lake to appreciate the significance of Rook Wall, which was constructed in one day by 800 men in 1918.
Leg of Mutton Lake Walk: Start this one point six kilometre walk at the car park near the tunnel under the road. Walk down the access road to the lake area. Near the second bend in the track is the area once used as a tree nursery. Follow the track around the circumference of the now dry lake bed. This is not the first time this lake has recorded low water levels. It was near dry in 1859, but levels rose again soon after to regain the leg of mutton shape from which it has been named.
Mountain Trail: Begin this four point two kilometre walk at Mark's Lookout Car Park. Proceed in an anti-clockwise direction along the trail between the Valley and Leg of Mutton Lake Craters. Take in the beauty of both craters from The Saddle, which sweeps down steeply each side of the track, then past the car park and Old Hospital providing spectacular views of The Valley Lake and the city. From Potter's Point an optional side walk leads down the hill to the RSL (Return Soliders League) Lookout. Continue along the exposed ridge called the Sugarloaf, which overlooks nearby city developments. At the pathway fork, choose between the Blue Gum Trail, the easier walk to the right, which bypasses the Centenary Tower, or The Mountain Trail which continues up to Centenary Tower for superb views of the craters, the city and countryside. Continue to the car park and Lions Lookout before walking around the edge of Devil's Punch Bowl, one of several blowholes in the area.
Rook Walk/Pepperpot Trail: Start this one point seven kilometre walk at the car park near the tunnel under the road. Walk up the steps to the stone rest house then continue up the steps behind the Rook Walk, past the surge tank and The Stephen Henty Lookout on to the Hoo Hoo Lookout overlooking the Leg of Mutton Lake. Follow the markers past the car park, around the eastern side of the ground tank and down the hill towards Keegan Drive. Walking almost parallel to Keegan Drive, cross the lawns to meet the road at the water tower then follow the direction markers through the park, down the verge onto the track to the lowest point of The Saddle. Continue along the top of The Saddle to Mark's Lookout and on to The Leg of Mutton Lookout before returning back to the start.
The Wildlife Park and Boardwalk: Begin this one point two kilometre walk at the car park near the boat ramp at the edge of the Valley Lake, entering the Wildlife Park through the main gates. Follow the track to the left, which leads onto the boardwalk over the lake surface. In this area an abundance of water birds and animals can be seen at various times of the year. Continue the walk back into the heart of the park. Take the track to the left for views from higher ground or to the right, which leads up into the bushland area. Walk quietly in this area, as many animals including koalas can be present. An abundance of birdlife can be seen from the raised boardwalk, which provides a closer look at the bushland canopy and views over the park. Follow this track down the hill, over the swamp via the boardwalk back to the start of the walk.
Tours visiting Mount Gambier are available departing from Adelaide and all other states of Australia.