Mount Gambier is the sapphire of the Limestone Coast. A truly scenic town boasting natural icons from the famous Blue Lake to the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. It is a place deeply immersed in the unique heritage of the region, where farming has been the backbone industry for generations.
You can reach Mount Gambier in four and a half hours from Adelaide or closer to five hours from Melbourne, rendering the 24,000-strong rural centre a perfect meeting point for the two states. The rich soils of this spectacular spot support a timber industry sustained by radiata pine plantations, as well as livestock, grain crops and vegetables.
The fertile lands of the Limestone Coast raise some of Australia’s most prized cattle. Situated 40 minutes out of town, Mayura Station offers a panorama of lush grazing land and idyllic hills. The dining destination is one of the state’s most highly regarded gastronomic experiences, and if you are travelling to Mount Gambier around dinner time, it makes the perfect introduction to the region.
Once you have reached Mount Gambier, you can find some of the best local fare at The Barn where the menu highlights include kingfish and salmon carpaccio with green curry dressing and pomegranate seeds, as well as select range of The Barn’s dry aged steaks.
Thyme @ The Lakes is one of Mount Gambier’s newest dining experiences, focusing on local produce presented in an internationally-inspired cuisine. At one of the highest points in the town, the views will help you get your bearings while satiating your senses.
If you fancy doing your own foraging, Mount Gambier Farmers Markets are held every Saturday from 9am to 12pm at the enchanting Cave Garden. The best ingredients are gathered here for you, where you can meander from stall to stall sampling the splendour of the Limestone Coast. Expect the best in everything from potatoes to berries, while collating an enviable antipasto platter for your Saturday wine down.
The Limestone Coast is home to six award-winning wine regions within a short drive of Mount Gambier, ranging from boutique family operators to big businesses. Your options are Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Padthaway and Mount Gambier, which was established as its own region in 2003. Recognised globally for its pinot noir and white varieties, you can savour the benefits of limestone-filtered water, rich volcanic free-draining soils and mild growing conditions as you wander between cellar doors.
Once you have had your foodie fix, take in some culture at the Riddoch Art Gallery. First opened in the Mount Gambier Institute in 1887, it is the largest regional gallery in South Australia. Providing a space for local artist and groups, the gallery displays state and national touring exhibitions. Of the 1500 items presented, you can expect to gain an understanding of the Limestone Coast’s intricate history and take in Aboriginal art from Utopia, as well as a large collection of 20th Century Australian art.
And then there’s the racing. The Mount Gambier Racing Club is the largest in the Limestone Coast. The full-time training centre holds 10 meets a season and keeps the surrounding towns on their toes for the Scott Group of Companies Mount Gambier Gold Cup Carnival.
Friday, May 10 will see the track filled with locals and tourists from 10.30am to 5pm with a showcase of local food and wine, entertainment and a Fashion At The Races competition worth the drive. The qualifying event offers more thrilling prizes than ever, with titles for the taking in Best Dressed Womenswear, Runner-Up Best Dressed, Best Millinery, Best Footwear Women’s and Best Dressed Menswear.
Keep your eyes out for the FATR registration booth in general admission on the day and sign up for the state’s favourite racing fashion competition.
The racing program features a Calcutta, Cocktail Party and Breakfast with the Stars, with plenty of opportunities to place a bet with the numerous TAB and Book Maker points on the field. Pre-sale tickets start at $15 for general admission, but at the Mount Gambier Racing Club, your hospitality options are extensive.
Trackside Marquees for 20 can be booked in the Mounting Yard, Staf's Marquee is available for a private experience by the track, the Home Straight Catered Marquee will make a memory of your special social or corporate event, and the O'Connor & Graney Members Lounge provides dining experiences on the upper level of the main complex.
When it comes to selecting your accommodation, you have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the town’s history. The Old Mount Gambier Gaol offers a refurbished insight into the ‘English Prison’ which functioned from 1866 to 1994. However, if you prefer a home-style experience, Colhurst House serves as an opulent bed and breakfast in an 1800s mansion set in picturesque gardens.
It seems wherever you are in Mount Gambier, you are always guaranteed a view. Start planning your racing weekend escape here.
Photos via SouthAustralia.com