Step inside the beautiful Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

Hey there, friend!

Since I’m currently journaling about the gorgeous region of Mount Gambier in South Australia and my last entry was about the Kilsby Sinkhole, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on another epic sinkhole we visited in the area last year.

Explore the Umpherston Sinkhole with me

The Umpherston Sinkhole in Mount Gambier (Balumbul) is a definite must-see and there’s a reason why it’s a popular tourist attraction!

I can’t explain how surreal it feels being within the picturesque sunken garden, it’s like you’re stepping into some magical fairytale land. Not to mention, the chance to meet the cute resident possums that live in the sinkhole.

Staircase down to the sunken garden inside the Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Staircase down to the sunken garden

What you can do there

  • View the incredible sunken garden from the top platforms overlooking the sinkhole
  • Take your time walking down the stairs, stopping by the platforms
  • Explore the landscaped sunken garden inside the sinkhole
  • Read the interpretive signs along the way for historical and geological information
  • Organise a picnic with friends and family between the gorgeous terraces
  • Feed the adorable possums at dusk
  • Wander the pretty park and gardens above the sinkhole
  • Enjoy the playground and BBQ facilities at the park grounds
  • Pop into the Umpherston Kiosk and Souvenirs for a drink and browse their products.
Resident chubby possums at Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Chubby resident possums

How to get there

Situated in the bottom west of South Australia, the small city of Mount Gambier is a popular tourist destination known for its amazing geological wonders.

From Adelaide, Mount Gambier is just under a 5 hour drive. Once you’re there, the Umpherston Sinkhole is located about 5 minutes away from the city centre, along the Jubilee Highway.

Cost to enter the sinkhole

This amazing experience won’t cost you a cent because it’s free to visit! There’s also plenty of free parking.

Opening hours

The sinkhole is open every day, all year round, from dawn till dusk. From the car park, it’s a short stroll to the sinkhole through a pretty park. If you want to make a day of it, there’s also BBQ facilities, picnic shelters and a playground.

People having a picnic at the Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
People having a picnic at the sunken gardens

What exactly is a sinkhole?

From what I can gather, it’s when water seeps into the underground limestone and creates a cavity below the surface. Over time, it gets to a point when the surface is no longer supported and it caves in.

Cave walls of the Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Cave walls

History

It all started in 1884, when retired farmer and landowner James Umpherston decided to landscape the sinkhole on his property so that it would be “a pleasant resort in the heat of the summer” for visitors. He obviously was an avid gardener!

It fell into disrepair for several decades after Umpherston passed away, until about the 70s when it was acquired by state forestry.

Restoring the sunken gardens

There was a lot of passion and excitement involved in the restoration of the sinkhole garden. Locals would volunteer much of their weekends to help bring it back to life, with a vision of developing something special for the community to enjoy.

The locals and state forestry have done an amazing job, don’t you think? It looks so lush with thick rows of hydrangeas—chosen because the resident possums don’t like the taste of them!

There’s tall palm trees, an abundance of vibrant bushes and ferns, and my favourite—gorgeous, long, dense ivy draping along the sinkhole walls. It’s definitely a plant lover’s paradise!

Magnificent landscaped sunken garden
Magnificent landscaped sunken garden

Size & depth

The sinkhole is massive, it’s about 20 metres deep and 50 metres wide. This is also what makes the gardens so impressive!

The amount of flora that surrounds you is unbelievable. When you’re looking in from the top, people down the bottom look like specks, and it makes you appreciate all of the hard work that has gone into creating this spectacular place.

There are a lot of stairs to climb to get all the way to the bottom and vice versa, however, there’s plenty of platforms along the way for taking photos, taking in all of the beautiful scenery, and a breather if you need it.

Sheryl inside the Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Me as a little speck at the bottom
Caverns inside the Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Caves within the sinkhole walls where possums live

Best time to visit

The Umpherston Sinkhole is home to adorable brushtail possums! If you pop in around dusk, this is when they come out for a feed.

Wildlife

Feed the possums

We didn’t bring any food with us as I didn’t know you could, however, other people brought bags of cut up fruit and vegetables with them.

The possums are chubby little buggers, they are obviously used to being fed because they are so friendly… and so so cute! Here are some videos of the friendly, chubby possums.


Dogs not allowed

The park surrounding the sinkhole is dog-friendly but because of the resident possums and other wildlife, dogs are not permitted inside the actual sinkhole.

My hubby and I played tag team, and took turns going into the sinkhole.

Beautiful plants within the gardens at Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Beautiful plants and flowers
The sunken garden at Umpherston Sinkhole. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Plenty of viewing platforms on the way down for taking photos

And that’s a wrap!

I hope you’ve had a great time exploring the Umpherston Sinkhole through this read. It’s a beautiful attraction to see in person, and I hope it has sparked your interest in planning a visit to Mount Gambier soon.

Don’t forget to bring a bag of small cut up fruit for the chubby possums!

Have you been before? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments or pop in any questions you might have; I’d love to hear from you.

Safe travels and happy exploring! Thanks for joining me, hope to see you again!

Sheryl

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10 Comments

  1. Wowww I’ve never seen a sinkhole so green and transformed into a garden that visitors could enjoy! What a creative way to engage the local (and touring!) community! Thank you for the heads up about the stairs

  2. When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure how you could have a whole post about a sinkhole. My mind was quickly changed when I saw the gorgeous gardens. Who knew a sinkhole could be transformed into a beautiful garden?

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