With some of the country’s most magnificent wilderness, lakes, beaches, forests and caves sitting right here in our backyard, taking a walk on the wild side is almost a rite-of-passage around here.
Of course, we know time’s often tight (and so are your hamstrings) - so here a few short strolls to scratch that itch in some of our most beautiful natural landscapes!
Mount Gambier’s Crater Lakes area is loaded with trails that weave their way through some of the most stunning landscapes of this ancient volcanic wonderland.
The easy 3.6 kilometre walk around the rim of legendary Blue Lake (at its bluest Nov-Mar) is an absolute must, delivering incredible views at every step. Allow around 1.5 hours to do the Grand Circuit - and with loads of amazing lookouts en-route, you’ll want keep your camera handy!
Nearby, Leg of Mutton Lake is also prime for a short stroll, with an easy to moderate one-hour walk through stunning wilderness rewarding hikers with emerald greens in summer, pastel perfection in autumn, moody woodlands in winter and spectacular blooms in spring.
The very steep but relatively short Mountain Trail to Centenary Tower walk (4.2km, 1.2 hours) delivers stunning views of the city, volcanic landscape and beyond. While currently off-limits due to recent bushfire activity (as at March 2022), it will be back open soon for walkers of all ages and abilities. This one can be a serious test for the legs, but the 360 degree panoramas at the top are totally worth the effort!
Not far from Mount Gambier, Mount Schank’s 2.7-kilometre rim circuit trail (allow an hour) offers awesome views down into the crater and surrounding countryside. Follow the signposts from the car park to the top of the cone via a series of limestone steps before tackling the undulating path at the top.
Further south, Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park is a wetland of international importance, with natural limestone filters providing some of the clearest diving on Earth. Above ground, there’s also plenty to see, with an easy 2.4km (1 hour return) walk to the ponds’ ocean outlet offering plenty of sport, with springs bubbling down onto the sand and a fantastic wetland lookout en-route.
At the sublimely serene Lake Edward, you’ll find a shallow volcanic crater lake that’s known to locals for its prolific birdlife, fishing and boating. A dedicated trail around the perimeter delivers stunning views, with ample spots to roll out a picnic rug.
Further north, Bool Lagoon Game Reserve near Naracoorte is one of the largest and most diverse freshwater lagoon systems in southern Australia, and a magnet for birdwatchers worldwide. Take a stroll along the Tea Tree Boardwalk (30 minutes, 1km) and keep your eyes peeled for ibis, spoonbills and brolgas. The slightly longer Gunawar Walk (1 hour, 1.5km loop) also extends through marsh, reeds and rushes, and as frogs gently chime you’ll feel like you’re walking on water!
Canters on the coast.
With its dramatic cliffs and shimmering white beaches, Canunda National Park rewards walkers with some of Mother Nature’s maritime best. The 2.5km, 1-hour Cape Buffon Walk is an amazing glimpse at how the forces of nature have shaped the area, with epic sea stacks, reefs and native flowers providing plenty of eye fodder for those on foot. The slightly longer Seaview Walk (3.4km) will have you sniffing the sweet-smell of coastal daisies as echidnas and wombats and go about their daily routines, while the super-quick Willichum Lookout Hike (400-metres, 6 minutes) offers jaw-dropping views across this wild, untamed paradise.
The popular seaside village of Robe is extremely walkable, with a 12-kilometre all-access Loop Trail from Long Beach taking in awe-inspiring vistas, rugged coves and bays and plenty of maritime history, including the iconic Cape Dombey Obelisk. Allow seven hours to do the whole thing, or just pinch hit the best bits, depending on your energy levels.
We’re as famous for what’s under our feet as what’s up above, and at Naracoorte Caves National Park it’s easy to combine the two. In addition to its popular walking tours through jaw-dropping underground caverns (the one-hour guided tour of Victoria Cave is a great place to start), there’s also plenty of options on the surface.
Follow the 2.2-kilometre (1hr return) World Heritage Hike from Wonambi Fossil Centre to Victoria Fossil Cave to explore the park’s ancient history, or take the 700-metre (30 min return) Roof Top Loop Walk via Bat Cave and Blanche Cave.
Of course, slap bang in the middle of Mount Gambier, the legendary Umpherston Sinkhole is always worth a wander, with a short stroll down behind hanging vines unearthing a spectacular sunken garden that’s bursting with colourful roses, hydrangeas and other flowering beauties in-season. Look out for the local possums, who emerge daily around dinnertime.
Ancient and awesome, Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park is home to one of the most spectacular caves in the country, with a kaleidoscope of peach, pink, brown and cream awaiting those taking the 30-minute guided tour (then stroll at your leisure). Set into the cliff face of ‘Up and Down Rocks’, you’ll also want to check out the easy 500-metre walking trail above the caves (20 minutes) for seriously impressive views of the surrounding area.
At Hell’s Hole you’ll find yet another sunken wonder, with a 750m loop walk (30-minutes) snaking its way through native scrub before revealing a spectacular view into the deep, dark waters down below. Revered by cave divers across the country, this place is well-known to those in the know, so don’t be surprised if you spot a little movement from the precipice!
Walks in the woods.
In winter, don’t miss a walk down Ghost Mushroom Lane. From May to June, you’ll find an army of fluorescent funghi littered through Glencoe Forest, with a number of free self-guided trails (100-600 metres) an easy option for all ages. These spooky little night lights typically emerge after late autumn rains, emitting a luminescent glow after dark.
Just switch off your torch and let your eyes adjust before venturing into the very aptly named Fairy Tale Hollow, Fungi Hunter Alley, Ghostly Gully or Neon Forest. Keep an eye on the ForestrySA website for the latest seasonal information.
Just down the road, the Honan Mint Trails snake their way through scrub, swamps and stringybarks, with a stroll along any one of the three routes (2.7km to 5.7km) traversing one of the most scenic and floristically diverse native forests in the region. Follow the green, blue or purple trail markers from the Swamp Gum or Wildflower carparks, and bank away anywhere from 1 ¾ hours to 2 hours, depending which one you’re taking.
Just a little further north in Mount Burr Forest Reserve, an early morning stroll is enough to make the heart sing. Home to a menagerie of wildlife, from bandicoots and wallabies to wattlebirds and cockatoos, it’s worth checking in with Mount Burr Trails to find a path that puts you on the right track.
Mount Monster Conservation Park - named for it’s enormous granite outcrop - has an excellent Summit Walk (600 metres, 30 minutes return) that winds its way through pristine bushland that's simply crawling with wildlife. With views from the top that stretch for miles, it’s great spot to unpack your picnic basket, and soak in Keith’s legendary ‘purple paddocks’, while the slightly longer Gwen Ellis Walking Trail loop (1.2km circuit, 1hr) offers a great little detour for those with time.
The stunning Caroline Sinkhole in Penambol Conservation Park is full of finds, with the very aptly named Wombat Walk (4.5km return) another great option for wildlife lovers. Follow the trail past loads of little burrows, with twilight a prime time to see the animals out foraging. If you just can’t get enough of these lovable locals, Dry Creek Native Forest Reserve also offers a nice little walk through an active wombat colony before opening up to spectacular clifftop views of the Glenelg River.
With koalas, wallabies, and bandicoots all calling Telford Scrub Conservation Park home, it’s a great spot for walk on the wild side, with the 4.7-kilometre (2.5hrs return) Stringybark Forest Hike a popular extension of the 1.7-kilometre Forest Canopy Walk. As you traverse the treetops to the chatter of birds, keep your eye out for critters ambling through woodlands, ferns and gum trees.
Closer to wine country, Padthaway Conservation Park’s bevy of walks range from 1-5 hours return, with the Orchid Track a good option for nature lovers. This 1.7-kilometre loop weaves its way through an ancient sand dune system that’s home to some extraordinary native plants, including Limestone Spider Orchids (in season Sep-Nov), insect eating Sundews and Golden Wattles to name but a few. Watch for echidnas en route!
The list goes on…
This list is by no means exhaustive! If you’re keen to dig deeper you’ll find detailed information via our friends at Walking SA, who’ve taken time to list their favourite walks in our neighbourhood. Check out their 30 Walks on the Limestone Coast and additional Hikes and Trails pages to help map out your next on-foot adventure.