A small flock of pelicans stand on a pipe leading into Lake Albert. A few of the splash into the water, to glide in pairs on the glassy early morning surface, or to soar elegantly into the grey skies. It is difficult to tell where the lake ends and the sky begins, such is the mirror effect. Bullrushes pierce the waters, like whiskers on a brush.
I am eating my breakfast, a “Hawaiian” meat pie from the bakery opposite and saying my farewells to Meningie and its pelicans. First time eating a meat pie with pineapple, but it works!
I feel like I could stay here a lot longer, despite Meningie’s lack of, well, everything. I don’t think the others agree. We drive out of town towards the Coorong, saltwater lakes separated from the ocean by a line of sandhills and made famous by Colin Thiele’s book Storm Boy and its two film adaptations.
The Coorong is a magical place with very little in the way of human settlement, just the scrub, the long lakes and the distant sandhills. We stop by a salt lake, partially tinged pink by the algae within, our feet leaving a white residue of salt on the car’s floor.
I want to stop and gaze out over the scenery. We pull up at one lookout, then continue on to the Jack Point Observatory Deck with its lookout over the Pelican Island breeding grounds. There is a trail to the lookout from the gravel road carpark and the views are well worth the hike under the burning sun. On the way back I see that many bushes are covered with snail shells, which colourfully patterned spiky spiders spin webs.
Returning to the car we continue onwards along the Coorong without any further stops. This is a place for cooler times, for camping and long lonely walks across the sand. Not for this trip.
After leaving the Coorong we stop for lunch at Kingston SE, first posing for photos with the giant Larry the Lobster. A fishing festival is in full swing with a full carpark of utes and caravans and prizes being called over the PA.
We treat ourselves with an order a half lobster and some locally caught fish and chips from Lacepede Seafood and eat it on a picnic blanket by the beach. While the others relax I take a walk along the long wooden jetty. Most of it is over the sand with half the beach covered with clumps of dried brown seaweed.
It’s a strange sky, the grey horizon merging with the waters of Lacepede Bay, looking as if a storm was brewing, the rains that have been flooding towards the north and west of the state.
We continue along the coast to Robe, a bustling seaside town. Finding ourselves in front of another seafood market we purchase another cooked local lobster, a whole one for the price that we’d paid for half at lunch!
Robe turns out to be very pretty and we are tempted to take a swim in the blue waters at the beach. If only it was closer to home we would definitely come back for a stay.
The road moved inland now, but the small city of Millicent also tempts swimming with an artificial lagoon pool that looks like lots of fun. The museum also seems like an interesting place to stop, but we are feeling too hot to get out.
After a ride past pine plantations we finally make it to Mount Gambier and a very nice accommodation that belies my earlier comments about motels.
With plenty of summer light remaining we unpack the car and then go for a drive to some of the sights. The first is the Sinkhole Gardens right behind the Town Hall. Mount Gambier sits on a limestone plain riddled with underground caves and this sinkhole provided the initial water supply for the settlement.
Today, the water comes from our next stop, the famous Blue Lake.
The city sits astride a dormant volcano. Inside one of the caldera craters, the Blue Lake is indeed a brilliant blue during the summer. The water is actually at the level of the water table and you can see the layers of limestone, basalt and ash from the eruption around 5,000 years ago.
The blue colour is thought to be caused by the calcium carbonate balance in the water.
After circumnavigating the lake caldera in the car we stop at the Mutton Lake lookout opposite, where the volcanic bombs of rocks are visible embedded in the ash.
Our final stop is the supermarket to purchase some salads to accompany the lobster and a knife to cut it. They make for a very pleasant dinner at the motel’s picnic table, the lobster proving to be even fresher and more delicious than the one at lunch.
Our food budget has been totally blown. Fortunately, we are now turning inland as we begin our journey north towards home.