Mount Gambier is the second largest city in South Australia, midway between Adelaide and Melbourne and 15 km west of the Victorian border. It is in the CST timezone (GMT+9.30), half an hour behind Victorian time.
Visitors can get to Mount Gambier by car (450 km from Melbourne and Adelaide). Bus services run from both cities. These services terminate at the Lady Nelson Tourist Information Centre. The Lady Nelson is not a bus terminal, but it does have toilets, shelter and a temporary taxi rank (only when buses arrive).
From Adelaide, bus tickets for Adelaide can be purchased at the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre (cash or cheque only). The bus service from Adelaide is run by Premier Stateliner. It can be just as easy to make a phone booking with Premier Stateliner. Thursdays and Fridays you can get from Adelaide to Mt Gambier at 8:15AM or 5:30PM. Sundays the bus leaves Adelaide at 2:45PM. Other days the service leaves at 8:15AM. The bus trip takes about six hours.
From Melbourne, the V-Line service runs Melbourne to Warrnambool on the train, then from Warrnambool to Mt Gambier as a coach service (it also goes via Portland). V-Line services from Mt Gambier are 'no reserve', you pay the driver on the day - bring exact change. V-Line services are generally not busy except during school holidays. They run once a day.
- 1 Mount Gambier Airport (MGB IATA) (about 10 minutes from the town). REX is the only airline which flies to Mt Gambier from Adelaide. The tickets vary widely in price from $120 to $270.
- You will need transportation to get around to see the sights outside of Mt Gambier. You can hire cars from the Mt Gambier airport.
- If you wish just to stay in town, you will not need a car. The motel strip on Commercial Street East is a 15-minute walk from the Town Centre. If you are just in Mt Gambier overnight for a party or a night out, it would pay to stay at one of the local pubs; you won't have to go very far to get back to your accommodation.
- Sights such as the Blue Lake can be driven or walked around.
- There are limited bus services around Mt Gambier. There are also two taxi companies, Blue Lake Taxis and Vears Taxis. Both are in the same price range. There is a taxi rank outside the Old Post Office/opposite the Cave Gardens on Bay Road and another outside the Lakes Village on Helen Street. Friday and Saturday nights it is reasonably easy to catch a taxi.
- Blue Lake -- The Blue Lake is located in a volcanic crater and is the main source of water for the city. During the year the color of the lake changes from an ocean grey to a bright iridescent blue. The Blue Lake is one of three crater lakes on the southern edge of the city: the others are Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake. There are picnic grounds around Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake and some easy climbing trails around this area. Boating and water-skiing activities occur on Valley Lake.
- Mt Schank -- is an extinct volcano located about 15 minutes' drive towards the sea from Mt Gambier. It is an easy climb and you can descend into the crater.
- Limestone Caves & Sinkholes -- The region around and including Mount Gambier is famous for its caves and sinkholes. Umpherston Sinkhole is in the town itself and contains a pleasant garden that is well tended. You can also visit in the evening, to see the possums. It is okay to feed them things like apple slices. They are very tame. Engelbrechts Cave is both a show cave and cave diving site - refer Diving in South Australia for more information re cave diving.
- Wineries: 50 km north of Mount Gambier is Penola and the Coonawarra wine region. This famous wine producing region is approximately 1 km wide and 17 km long. Wine sampling is free and the cellar door staff are always friendly, well informed and passionate about the wines.
- Oatmill Cinema is open from 10AM daily, depending on session times. Movies shown are on par with the times they are shown in the cities. Movie marathons are held Sunday nights on long weekends. Payment via EFTPOS is available. Like the city, Tuesdays are the cheap night.
- The Lady Nelson is the local tourist information centre and is full of useful information. You can find in on Jubilee Highway, just look for the giant boat. Also has a special tourist walk, but not really worth the money unless it is a rainy day and you want to entertain the kids.
- Bowling Alley is in the Odeon complex - look for the big bowling pin. Despite the fact that the Odeon looks pretty run down, the bowling alley is good fun and cheaper than city prices. Also has a collection of video games.
- Paintball Mount Gambier: 90 acres of natural bush. Games include: Hamburger Hill, Crossfire, Thugby, Double or Nothing, Corridors, Run the Gauntlet, The Hunt for Osama, Capture the Flag - and a lot more,.
- Mt Gambier's SEABL basketball team the Pioneers, Mount Gambier's only national sporting side, play at the Icehouse on Friday and Saturday nights (depending on the draw). Tickets are $12 for adults, concession and pensioners are $8 and children under 16 are free. The Icehouse is at the very end of Commercial Street West and seats over 1000 people.
- The annual Mt Gambier Show is held on the second last weekend of October. It is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but Thursday does not have rides and stalls open. Thursdays are free, as are Saturday nights, after the fireworks (about 9PM). The show is very popular with the locals and is larger than the usual country show.
- Live gigs are common Fridays and Saturdays, check the chalkboards outside the pubs for more details. Often these gigs are cover or tribute bands. Well known acts who play in Mt Gambier are advertised well in advance and will often play at Shadows or the Showground. Open mic nights are also held are different locations. Live gigs are held at the Old Gaol frequently.
- The Sir Robert Helpmann is the theatre complex in Mt Gambier. Dance and local talent galas are often held here, live bands are not unless they are targeted to the older generation. The Sir Robert Helpmann is located in the Civic Centre, which also houses the library. For details about what's on, visit the Civic Centre during business hours Monday to Friday.
- 1 Engelbrechts Cave, 26 Chute Street Mount Gambier SA 5290, ☏ +61 8 8723 5552, firstname.lastname@example.org. M Tu Th F from 9:30AM, Sa Su from 9AM, closes 4PM. Also open Wednesdays on public holidays and during SA & Vic school holidays. Closed Christmas Day. Cave tours, cafe and retail sales of local produce. Cave diving access for CDAA qualified cave divers only. Adult $12.50, child $8, family (2Ad + 3Ch) $35.
- Commercial Street is the shopping street of Mount Gambier. Despite the smaller size of the city, this street is quite long. It takes about 15-20 min to walk from one end to the other. Stores on this street change often and most are not open on Sundays. Thurdsay is late night shopping and most stores are usually trading until 9PM.
- Centro shopping center hosts about 40 stores including a supermarket, K-Mart, the Reject Shop and EB Games. The centro shopping centre has a large food court there is plenty of variety in the food for sale. Centro shopping center is open Sundays after 11AM.
- Variety stores There are numerous variety stores in Mt Gambier. Go-Lo and Ned's located on Commercial street West, Cheap As Chips on Helen street, the Reject Shop can be found in the Lakes Village. A large Target can also be found on Sturt street (entrances from Compton street and Ferrers street).
- Markets Saturday is the Rotary Market on Julibee Highway East next to Harvey Normans (it is part of the former Fletcher Jones site). The Blue Lake Market is held Sundays on Commercial street West opposite Vansitart Park. Both markets have stalls selling local fresh produce, bric-a-brac, craft goods and plants.
- Clothes shops in Mt Gambier are quite abundant. Flesh Fence on Commercial street East is reasonably priced. Rockmans can be found on the main street. Centro has Jay Jays, Jeans West, Supre and Miller's. The Spot is the local surf store on Commercial Street West. There are also several sports stores, notably Sportspower which is the largest and Sportscene which has lots of variety.
- Petrol stations can be found at several locations on Commercial street. The Mobil on Commercial Street East and the Caltex on Commercial Street West are nicknamed "the 24 hour" for obvious reasons. If you venture out to Port Macdonnell it is advisable that you fill up before you head off, there is no large petrol station there, and the one which is there is open only during business hours.
Restaurants in Mount Gambier are reasonably cheap when compared to city prices.
- Belgornio's An authentic Italian restaurant with woodfired pizzas. In the Oatmill Complex. It gets very busy on Saturday nights, but well worth the wait.
- South Eastern The first pub on Commercial St East. Has a beer garden and a drive thru bottle shop. You can hire the undercover beer garden for free if you purchase a certain amount of food to share.
- Golden Chopsticks Chinese restaurant with good service.
- Spud Train A train shaped vending van which serves baked potatoes. Spudway is a bus selling spuds just like the previous company and can be found just a little bit down the road. Spudway has by far the better food.Look for the waving oversized potato/man on the weekends.
- McDonald's, KFC and Hungry Jacks are all on Penola road between Commercial Street and Jubilee Highway and are in walking distance of each other. Subway is on Commercial St East and in the Lakes Village. Red Rooster is on Jubilee Highway East. McDonald's is the only 24-hour restaurant in town.
- Domino's Pizza is in the Woolworths Petrol Station, opposite the Federal Hotel. Pinky's Pizza can be found on Commercial street East. Pizza Haven is on Commercial Street West and has the best take away pizza. They also have a drive thru.
- For late night snacks, the Cave Garden Deli is open late on Saturday nights. It is next to the Cave Gardens sinkhole in town. They also sell Domino's pizza (but be warned, it's a bit chewy at 4AM). The 24 Hour Mobil on Commercial street East/Crouch street does Boss Dogs and besides McDonald's are probably the only source of food in the wee hours.
- Shadows Entertainment Complex Mt Gambier's longest lasting night club. Considered to be a 'dive' by the locals, but has cheap drinks, a reasonable size dance floor and top 40+ 1990s-2000s hits. Entry is free before midnight, after midnight it costs $8. Often gets busy about 2AM when the other pubs have closed for the night. Before 11:30PM it is very quiet and a good place to have some quiet drinks. Shadows does not have a beer garden, but it does have a designated smoking area outside.
- The Gambier Hotel also known as The G. The G has been voted as one of Australia's best pubs and is the most upmarket you'll find in The Mount. Sometimes has a cover charge depending on the entertainment. The G also does an extra breakfast.
- Flanagan's Irish Pub also known as 'Flannie's'. Good meals and often has a live band. It gets crowded very quickly as the pub is rabbit-warren like.
- Alexander's Entertainment Complex is a bar/pool hall. Popular with the younger crowd, is basically just a big hall with a bar in the middle. Gets very noisy very quickly.
- spuds. Spud Train: a train-shaped vending van which serves baked potatoes. Spudway is a bus selling spuds just like the previous company and can be found just a little bit down the road. Spudway has by far the better food. Look for the waving oversized potato/man on the weekends.
- Clarendon Lodge & Chalets. 4 self-contained chalets set between 650 walnut trees, picturesque lawns and gardens and 5 km to Mt Gambier's Blue Lake.
- Old Gaol, 25 Margaret Street, ☏ +61 8 8723 0032, toll-free: 1 800 626 844, email@example.com. This is an old jail that has been sectioned off into 27 rooms.
- Jubilee Motor Inn, 180 Jubilee Highway East, ☏ +61 8 8725 7444, fax: +61 8 8723 0355, firstname.lastname@example.org. $55/room.
- The Police Station is on Bay Road, just south of the main intersection of the CBD. This station is attended 24 hours a day.
- At night time it is safest to park on Penola road (in KFC) or in the 'ANZ carpark' (large carpark on Commercial street West. It has little alleyways which lead to Penola road). Police cars patrol this carpark periodically, while the KFC carpark is opposite Shadows and is well lit.
- The entire town is a 50 km/h zone except Wireless Road East and West, Sutton Avenue, Suttontown Road, Pick Avenue, Wehl Street North and South and Jubilee Highway where the speed limit is 60 km/h. Speed cameras are often located on Lake Terrace and Sturt street. There are fixed speed cameras on several of the traffic light intersections. If there are no signs, assume 50 km/h.
- The road around the Blue Lake is badly lit at night time and is windy in parts. Part of this road is signed at 40 km/h.
- The Lakes area (including the Valley Lake and the Centenary Tower) and Marist Park are locked at 8PM nightly. It is free to have the gates opened by the council, but it can be a long time to wait, especially at night. If you see a boom gate at any time, check for a sign which will state the closure time.
- There are several medical and dental clinics in Mt Gambier. The hospital is located on Wehl street north. The wait for out patients can be long and is comparative to city wait times. The chemists take turns in staying open until 9PM, the opening times are posted on the windows.
- The local surf beach is Brownes Bay about 10 km east of Port Macdonell. This beach is very popular with locals but is not patrolled and has no bathroom or change room facilities. If you have a small or lowered car it is easy to be bogged in the sand (there is no car park).
- There are payphones on Commercial Street east (near Eddie's Furniture), outside the post office on Helen Street, at the Lady Nelson and on Pick Avenue. Some venues still have the old blue or yellow phones inside their building, but these are prone to breaking down. Most places will allow you to make local calls in urgent situations.