Today we woke to a cool day with scattered showers. We were in the Portland, the birthplace of the state of Victoria. The region is steeped in history. Sightseeing and whale watching, fishing and a busy harbour are just some of the features. Unfortunately it was too cold to take advantage of an hour long tour in the historic cable car trams.
Instead, we headed to the Maritime Discovery Centre. Hanging in the rafters was this stuffed specimen of a great white shark caught in the local waters.
Back in the 1830’s whaling was the major industry in Portland. The skeleton in this photo is of a 14 metre sperm whale. Short-lived the industry ended in the 1860’s.
Having learnt a bit about the whaling and marine history, we headed to Cape Bridgewater. Along the way, we drove through a wind farm after lunching at a café by the sea.
Had a look at the sinkhole, which was not as spectacular given today’s weather conditions. And checked out the petrified forest –
There’s a bit of disagreement at just how this petrified forest was formed. Some believe it was a forest of moonah trees that was smothered by sand dunes. Others believe that it was formed by the natural erosion of stone in the ground…. regardless of how, it looks pretty amazing.
It was time to move on. Along the way, I had a power nap as TRH pointed Big Red across the border to South Australia and Mt Gambier.
Mt Gambier is located on the slopes of a dormant volcano. First order of business was to find the local Coles store. Shalini may be relocating here for work. We promised to check it out and send her photos. It looked like any other Coles.
Next, we visited the Engelbrecht Caves located in the middle of town.We elected not to go on the hour long underground tour, preferring to walk the surrounds. There is an interesting history to these caves which are still used by cave divers.
The entrance is via a limestone sinkhole. Originally it was used as a rubbish tip by the land owner who established the region’s first brewery.Exploration by highly trained cave divers has revealed a 600 metre long subterranean wonderland of lakes, air chambers and passageways. The water has seeped into the cave from an aquifer that flows beneath Mount Gambier on its way to the coast. This 32 kilometre trip takes about 500 years to complete, which works out at about 64 metres a year. This means the water that was trickling under the city at the time of European settlement has yet to reach the sea.
However, we elected not to go on the hour long underground tour, preferring to walk the surrounds. There is an interesting history to these caves which are still used by cave divers.
The Lady Nelson Discovery Centre was our next point of call. A beautifully put together self guided tour (free!) and timeline history of the region and the historic ‘tinderbox’ ship the HMS Lady Nelson. More about her in another post.
The Ancient Seaworld walk introduced us to the limestone geology of the area 40 million years ago.
Next, we had a brief look at the wetlands which teem with wildlife.
The Discovery Room’s exhibits were interesting and included a fascinating 1o minute video of Christina Smith’s journaling about her work and experiences with the local indigenous. We watched her step out of the photograph walk around her kitchen as she told stories of her life. It reminded me of seeing Princess Leia’s hologram in Star Wars. It was brilliantly done.
A Cave Walk over a glass floor featured fossils and aboriginal art.
A full size replica of the Lady Nelson stands proud on the lawn in front of this site. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in this area.
Our last tourist destination was to the Umpherston Sinkhole again situated in the middle of the town. Stunning gardens and historic vehicles from the milling and timber industry that abounds in the region to this day, led the way to the sinkhole itself. Beautiful sunken gardens containing two massive palm trees. It is possible to go down and immerse yourself in the gardens and even picnic there if you are prepared. We weren’t.
In 1884 James Umpherston created a Victorian garden in the big hole on his sprawling estate. He planted ferns, shrubs and trees, and launched a dinghy on the small lake that once covered a third of the sinkhole’s floor. After his death it fell into disrepair. In 1974 it was restored and has become a popular tourist destination. The lake no longer exists. However the gardens are exquisite. The colour in these photos looks a bit washed out – in real life they look beautifully verdant. Unfortunately I don’t have enough internet time to adjust it.
By this time we were ready to find accommodation for our last night on this road trip. Tomorrow we head home with a few more sight seeing pit stops along the way.
© Raili Tanska