Summer Secrets: How to Beat the Heat Beyond the Beach
Naracoorte Swimming Lake

Summer Secrets: How to Beat the Heat Beyond the Beach

Last Updated February 5, 2024

Ah, summer! Sure, we all want those long, blissful days at the beach to last forever, and all humbleness aside, our stunning coastline is a genuine magnet for sun-loving families...

But in between all the water and waves, it’s good to know there’s places you can go to escape the searing heat and sunburn – especially when the kids are running you ragged! From sea-change to tree change and everything in between, here’s a few inland favourites that’ll have the whole family hitting the refresh button and washing the sand out in style!

Laze by the Lake.

As parents, we all know how quickly sun-kissed smiles can be replaced by two salty siblings, especially when the sand starts to stick. And how about the teen you can’t drag away from wi-fi? Perhaps you all just need a lazy day by the lake? Grab that giant inflatable flamingo and shake out your towel... These freshwater frolics have your name written all over them!

Both Naracoorte Swimming Lake and Millicent Swimming Lake (it's important to check opening dates and times) are perfect spots to dangle your toes and graze on the grass, with picnic gear a must.

Naracoorte Swimming Lake
Naracoorte Swimming Lake (Naracoorte Lucindale Council)
Millicent Swimming Lake, Graeme Mellor
Millicent Swimming Lake (Millicent Swimming Lake)

Totally man-made and seven times bigger than an Olympic pool, Naracoorte Swimming Lake offers lush lawns and an ankle-deep section for toddlers, with loads of room to splash in safety - or put those trusty pool toys to good use! For added convenience there’s also an on-site playground, BBQ and kiosk, making this local icon pretty hard to leave when the heat’s on. Oh, and if those teen tummies are already rumbling when you roll into town, that’s easily fixed… Just hit up KALV & Co for a killer bacon and egg roll or wrap, or Sweet Espresso for a chilled smoothie, pizza or salad. Tick!

The cool, clear waters of Millicent Swimming Lake are equally impressive, with a shallow beach and toddler area, plus a pontoon for keen teens and energetic adults. With a number of towering trees close to the waterline, you’ll find plenty of shady spots to snooze or leaf through a book while watching your little mites splash the day away. For good eats and coffee close by, try The Shearer’s Cook for all-day-breakfasts, grazing boxes, cakes and slices, and Andy’s Bakery for sweet buns and pastries, smashing pies and seriously good coffee.

In Mount Gambier, the low-key Valley Lake/Ketla Malpi never disappoints! A prime spot to let the kids get all wet and wild, it’s also conveniently plonked next to a large playground and wildlife park, with loads of shady green spaces for ball kicking and picnics. With an inviting little grass-fringed beach just metres from your deck chair, adrenalin seekers will also be glad to know you can launch your kayak, boat or jet ski here for a bit more watersport action.

Of course, this is Mount Gambier and the options are endless when it comes to feeding your tribe. Nothing quells a road trip riot more than a tummy full of treats, right? Get your ice cream fix at Badenochs Ice Cream Cafe to melt away that summer heat! This deli is a favourite with the locals and not only stocks countelss flavours of good old fashioned ice cream, but serves up fresh sandwiches and scrumpcious hot food, plus a colourful selection of sweets and treats! And if that isn't enough, just next door you'll be spoilt for choice with Scroll Queen's assortment of deliciously carby, sweet and delectable scrolls. Others in town include Metro Bakery and Café (think: fresh-baked goodies plus full breakfasts, lunches and dinners) and Presto Eatery for brunch and coffee (and cocktails for you!).

Valley Lake Playground, Mount Gambier
Valley Lake/Ketla Malpi Playground, Mount Gambier
Little Blue Lake (Joanna Rogers / SATC)
Little Blue Lake (Joanna Rogers / SATC)

Just out of town, strong swimmers and thrill-seeking teens will relish a day out at Little Blue Lake. Not only is this one of the most Instagrammable spots in the Limestone Coast (no seriously, un-confiscate their iPhone now), but also one of the coolest, with a consistent temperature of around 12C in any given season. At about 40 metres wide, up to 47 metres deep and ringed by cliffs on all sides, the water here is clean and clear, and a prime place to chill on a hot day – just be mindful of crowds in summer! Check our Sinkhole and Swimming Hotspots article for all the details.

Penola Swimming Pool, Megan Tilley (@montethefrog)
Penola Swimming Pool (@montethefrog)

Picnic at the Pool.

No doubt about it, our lakes deliver a refreshing remedy to all that salt and sand, but you’ll also be glad to know many towns are decked out with local swimming pools, making a country cool-down just as easy.

Penola’s 5-lane, 30 metre heated pool is a classy affair, with family friendly facilities including a toddler pool covered by shade sails, with good options to grab a quick bite nearby. Pull into Café Lito for a little ‘pitstop filler’ with their selection of milkshakes, coffees, cakes and bagels, or hit up Toffee & Treats of Penola for lollies, icecreams, giant lollypops and a swathe of other sugar-filled favourites.

In Nangwarry, the pool is free of charge, with shades and a BBQ to fry up a few snags in between dips. The Olympic sized Bordertown Swimming Pool is also a hit with families, with an on-site playground and plenty of shady picnic tables, plus the odd novelty water feature to keep little tackers entertained. In Keith, a 25 metre solar heated pool sits tantalisingly close to the Keith Caravan Park next door, with more great facilities, including a handy BBQ and kiosk.

Nangwarry Swimming Pool
Nangwarry Swimming Pool (Nangwarry Swimming Pool)
Children's Splash Pad at indoor aquatic facility
Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre (City of Mount Gambier)

Mount Gambier's Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre is an aquatic mecca and the perfect place to escape the scorching sun.

This state of the art multipurpose facility boasts an indoor 25 metre lap pool, learn-to-swim pool, warm water program pool and a children's splash pad, as well as an outdoor 50m pool. It's easy to spend hours in this place with sporting and health club facilities also available and an onsite café serving everything from hot food to coffee and cakes.

Hit a Winery

Let’s face it, wine cures just about everything, and if a crisp glass of Chardonnay is calling your name on a sunny afternoon, well… naturally it’s time to drop everything! Of course, if you’ve got a playful toddler or a hungry teen in-tow, a day in the vines can be a pretty tough sell, but with a little tenacity and some good forward planning, you’ll find plenty of options to keep everyone happy (especially you)!

In Coonawarra, Raidis Estate has family at its core, with a safe and fully enclosed lawn area that’ll give you the freedom to enjoy a glass while the kids go free-range. With loads of indoor and outdoor toys to keep little tykes busy and ‘Pizza and Tunes’ days on select dates through summer, keeping your hungry horde fed is as easy as ordering that second bottle. Oh, and how about the cricket pitch? Just call ahead to see if it’s open before packing your bat and ball…

Raidis Estate, Coonawarra
Raidis Estate, Coonawarra (Raidis Estate)
Bellwether Wines, Coonawarra
Bellwether Wines, Coonawarra (Bellwether Wines)

With an extensive produce garden and friendly farm animals, Bellwether Wines is a genuine hit for all ages. Before charging your glasses, order your grommets a healthy platter to feast on by the swing, in the treehouse, the sandpit or inside the kids sheep pen. Filling hungry teen tummies also comes pretty easy, with a selection of decadent platters and a big old brunch that’ll easily ward off their wi-fi withdrawals.

Oh, and if you didn’t catch Gerado the donkey as you were coming in, it’s worth pointing your flock in his direction (and the friendly highland cows’) when the wine tasting gets serious inside!

At Rymill Coonawarra, two duelling steeds provide an appropriate welcome mat for your tempestuous teens and toddlers, with enough to keep them from tugging at your arm for a while. After rifling through the toy box, little ones will relish feeding the fish in the front pond, while the expansive lawns (with shady trees) outside are a magnet for ball games on a sunny day. With loads of observation decks and even a self-guided tour, teens will also find plenty of space to escape, with iced coffee and platters to kill those expected eye-rolls.

Other great options that cater well for all ages include Balnaves of Coonawarra (think: kids snack boxes, picnics by the pond, comfy lawn lounges and grassy space), DiGiorgio Family Wines (shady cork trees, snack packs, lawns and outdoor toys) and Brands Laira (pastries, platters, toy boxes and play space).

DiGiorgio Family Wines, Coonawarra
DiGiorgio Family Wines, Coonawarra (DiGiorgio Family Wines)
Naracoorte Caves National Park (Adam Bruzzone / SATC)
Naracoorte Caves National Park (Adam Bruzzone / SATC)

Chill Underground.

One last word. If you didn’t already know… all the cool people go underground in summer. Like, literally! With milder temperatures beneath the surface, our honeycombed landscape offers ample opportunities to beat the heat upstairs in a world-famous assortment of caves and caverns that’ll appeal to just about everyone. Some of the very best include Naracoorte Caves National Park (think: spectacular stalactites, stalagmites and ancient megafauna), Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park (a subterranean kaleidoscope of colour), Umpherston Sinkhole/Balumbul (a green oasis and our most Instagrammed icon) and Engelbrecht Cave (two stunning caverns beneath the streets of Mount Gambier). Put simply, if you can’t beat the heat, get under the street… You’re welcome!

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