We first arrived at Little Blue Lake, also known as Baby Blue, as a powerful storm was moving across the region. It hadn’t rained all summer and the cold front suddenly blew in from the west, knocking us around the road, our frenzied windscreen wipers straining against their duty. We were determined to have a look, but could hardly even see the road to get us there. Yet, as we pulled into the car park, the rain started to ease. After a few minutes, it stopped altogether and sun poured onto the shimmering blue water. Was it a sign? We think so.
The pool sits in an unassuming paddock about 15 kilometres south of Mount Gambier, looking a little lonely and out of place. It makes more sense when you learn that Baby Blue is a sinkhole, formed by the gradual collapse of an underground cave. The pool has an average depth of about 35 metres and it isn’t unusual (but it is a little creepy) to see the odd diver suddenly emerge from below. In fact, this area is one of the best inland diving destinations in the world, with a Swiss-cheese network of 500 underground caves and 50 sinkholes to explore. For our purposes, however, surface swimming is just about the right speed.
Sheer 10-metre limestone walls make this an iconic South Australian jump and a rite of passage among locals. As a car full of tweens arrive from school, we think of a 10-year-old version of our friend Alice being pressured by her three older brothers to take the plunge. We watch kids peer over the edge as if they were looking into the Great Australian Bight. Instincts intact, they back away slowly, only to have their dad soar over the top of them and down into the pool. They look at each other and you can see the thoughts broadcast across their faces. Who’s next? Do we really have to do this?
Like many places, signs forbid jumping here and there are murmurs of council-enforced fines, though nobody seems too concerned. Jump at your own discretion. Alternatively, take the steps down from the car park side of the pool to a shiny new pontoon. This makes for a more gentle entry and is an easy introduction to the cool water.
A few natural terraces extend back towards the road, providing a great vantage to sit and watch, like a swimming amphitheatre. As the clouds continue to lift and burn away, the water becomes more and more blue. We look off to the east and see Mt Schank, an extinct volcano, looming in the near distance. This is not a landscape we ever expected to see in Australia, but we are so happy to have found it.
Best time to visit
November to May
How to get there
From Mount Gambier, follow the Riddoch Highway south-west, passing over the mountain and past the Blue Lake (Mount Gambier’s water supply). Follow the road for about 10 kilometres out of town and turn right on Mount Salt Road. Little Blue Lake is 3.5 kilometres further, on the right side of the road.
Easy. You could drive right into it if you wanted to.
For the last 20 years, the best-selling souvenir in Mount Gambier has been a little bottle of “Blue Lake Water”, selling for $5 a pop – a special memento to take home. We’d love to shake the hand of the genius who came up with that idea.
Images and copy from Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Hardie Grant Travel, RRP AUD $39.99. Available in stores nationally now. For more follow Caroline and Dillon @placesweswim.