MOUNT GAMBIER, SA
You’ll find Mount Gambier halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne in the flatlands below an extinct volcano on the Limestone Coast. It’s known for its unique natural assets: crater lakes (including the famous Blue Lake, at its most luminous in summer), underground caves and the Umpherston Sinkhole (pictured left) – once a cave before the top of the chamber collapsed, and now a gorgeously verdant sunken garden. This compact, laid-back city’s volcanic landscape is complemented by good restaurants, stores and cafes – try small-batch specialty coffee roasters Mikro – and an interesting institution in the shape of a 152-year-old prison. These days, James Stephenson and his wife Melissa run the Old Mount Gambier Gaol (above) as a boutique accommodation and event space that can host anything from birthday parties to art events and the largest concerts – think Jimmy Barnes, Xavier Rudd and Suzi Quatro – the region has seen. “It is an empty canvas to be able to do anything we want to try,” says James. Well-travelled but born and bred in the city, chef and hospitality gun James loves the ease of life he finds in Mount Gambier, with its relaxing town-like pace of life supplemented by a city buzz when the likes of Jimmy rock up.