Australian Traveller - - The 100 -

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.

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