Kilsby Sinkhole Tours
SOUTHERN OCEAN DRIVE: SEE THE FLEURIEU, LIMESTONE COAST AND KANGAROO ISLAND
From the land of natural wonders on the Limestone Coast, to the untouched wilderness of Kangaroo Island and the sea and vines of the Fleurieu Peninsula, there’s something to discover around every bend. Download the Southern Ocean Drive map, and hit the road to uncover some of Australia’s best wineries, most breathtaking beaches and jaw-dropping geological marvels. Here’s our guide to the best things to see and do between Mount Gambier and Robe along the Southern Ocean Drive.
MOUNT GAMBIER TO ROBE
Piccaninnie Ponds and Kilsby Sinkhole
Descend into an underwater oasis and explore crystal clear waters, lush underwater forests and serene grottos. Just 20 minutes’ drive from Mount Gambier, the otherworldly Piccaninnie Ponds are world-renowned by divers, with three unique diving hotspots all fed by freshwater natural springs. Plunge into the water and explore a surreal submerged forest where aquatic plants grow up to 15 metres below the surface and swim by majestic walls of white limestone carved out over thousands of years. Pack your wetsuit and dive in to explore the 10-metre-deep First Pond before venturing on to the breathtaking 35-metre-deep Cathedral and the gigantic 100-metre-deep Chasm. Divers are well catered for on the Limestone Coast with renowned dive-site, Kilsby Sinkhole, just half an hour away. Please note, you’ll need a diving licence to snorkel or scuba dive.
Mount Gambier is a geological wonderland, home to extinct volcanoes, dazzling sapphire waters and an underground garden of Eden. The town’s crown jewel, the famed Blue Lake, was once an active volcano but today, molten rock has given way to a 72-metre-deep lake filled with cobalt water. It’s less-known little cousin, aptly named Little Blue Lake, is equally impressive and you can dive right into its blue depths. A favourite with the locals, this impressive swimming amphitheatre is surrounded by breathtaking sheer 10-metre limestone walls and boasts crystal-clear freshwater. Mount Gambier’s wonders continue underground in the centre of town where you can descend into a subterranean oasis at Umpherston Sinkhole. Here, you’ll discover a beautiful sunken garden set in a collapsed limestone cave that is now blanketed with flowers, plants and lush green grass thanks to a few local green thumbs. Check out our guide for more things to do in Mount Gambier.
Hidden beneath an unassuming cliff-face 20 minutes’ drive from Mount Gambier lies a magical cave dripping with glistening stalactites and stalagmites. Once an ancient shoreline, the sea has long since receded leaving behind a 30-metre-wide chamber adorned with pink and brown dolomite crystals. Tantanoola Cave’s impressive interior has been thousands of years in the making with countless hanging stalactites and floor to ceiling crystal columns, making it one of Australia’s most beautiful caves. Learn about the history and geology of the cave from a local guide before donning your explorer’s hat and delving in to explore the underground wonderland for yourself. This cave is also one of Australia’s few wheelchair accessible caves.
Coonawarra and Penola
Take a break from the road and spend a few days sipping your way around South Australia’s red centre, Coonawarra. The ultimate destination for lovers of bold red wine, the limestone-rich terra rossa soil of this picturesque part of South Australia produces world-famous cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. More than 25 cellar doors pack the relatively small region, so set up camp for the night at Bellwether and spend a day tasting your way around renowned wineries including Penley Estate, Brand’s Laira, Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Katnook Estate. Feeling hungry? Nestled among the sea of vines, Penola is a picture-perfect country town dishing up a smorgasbord of food and wine experiences. Enjoy a long lunch overlooking the vineyards at Hollick Estates, stop in at Koonara Wines in the main street to taste a local drop or two, or venture further to Mayura Station and dine at The Tasting Room, the ultimate paddock to plate experience featuring multi-award-winning Wagyu beef.
Pull up at Robe and throw down your towel to soak up the sun at one of South Australia’s chicest coastal destinations. Robe is well worth an overnight stop on the Southern Ocean Drive, where you’ll lounge on long sandy white beaches, kick back in cosmopolitan cafes and glam galleries while feasting on some of South Australia’s best seafood. The famous Long Beach is a 14km stretch of sandy white bliss and a popular hang out spot for locals. Stroll along the beautiful Obelisk Coastal Trail, passing Robe’s historic old gaol ruins, jetty and marina or sample the smorgasbord of local seafood on offer (Robe is famed for its crayfish) and wind down with a local brew at Robe Town Brewery.