Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park

  • Toilets
  • Disabled Toilets
  • Scuba / Snorkelling
  • Walking Trails
PDF Park Brochure
Photo by Joel Durbridge, Artscape Photography
Piccaninnie Ponds SA map

The crystal clear waters have been slowly filtering through the limestone and forming the Pond’s features over thousands of years. Snorkel across the top of The Chasm and peer down into the dark depths below or dive down into the large underwater cavern known as The Cathedral.

Tag your Instagram pics with #piccaninniepondsconservationpark to see them displayed on this page.

Piccaninnie Ponds SA map

The crystal clear waters have been slowly filtering through the limestone and forming the Pond’s features over thousands of years. Snorkel across the top of The Chasm and peer down into the dark depths below or dive down into the large underwater cavern known as The Cathedral.

Tag your Instagram pics with #piccaninniepondsconservationpark to see them displayed on this page.

About

Explore the spectacular underwater world of Piccaninnie Ponds which is recognised as a wetland of international importance.

The freshwater rising to the surface under pressure has eroded a weakness in the limestone to form The Chasm. This same process has formed the large underwater cavern known as The Cathedral creating its majestic white walls of sculptured and scalloped limestone. Be sure to visit the Lower South East Marine Park which also offers plenty of diving experiences.

On land, take a walk along the beach and see the freshwater springs bubbling up onto the sand.

There is also a walking trail through coastal wattle and beard heath to the ponds outlet. On the way, view the southern ocean and the lower south east marine park. The walk then leads inland via boardwalks into silky tea-tree and cutting grass to a lookout where views of the wetland and bamboo reed and bulrush can be seen.

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Contact details

Natural Resources Centre - Mount Gambier

Phone: (+61 8) 8735 1177

Getting there

Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park is located 32km south east of Mount Gambier or 482km south east of Adelaide. Access is via Piccaninnie Ponds Road.

Pets in parks

Pets are not permitted within this park. There are however, a number of South Australian National Parks where you can take your dog on a lead. 

Facilities

There is an interpretive information shelter, toilets, disabled toilets and a divers' changing shelter within the park. 

Useful information

  • Mobile phone coverage can be patchy and unreliable in this park, especially if you are in low-lying areas.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Traditional owners

Prior to European settlement, the Bunganditj Aboriginal people called the land around this area home.

Aboriginal South Australians are the first peoples of our State and have occupied, enjoyed and managed these lands and waters since the creation. For SA's First Peoples, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

Aboriginal peoples' oral histories and creation stories traverse the length and breadth of Australia’s lands and waters, including South Australian Parks. These stories interconnect land and waters with complex meaning and values and hold great cultural significance. We recognise and respect Aboriginal people's ownership of their stories and that they hold rights and obligations to care for Country. It is through these rights and cultural obligations and a shared goal to protect the environment for generations to come that DEWNR is committed to meaningful collaboration and involvement with Aboriginal peoples in the management of our shared parks.

History

The south east of South Australia has been extensively modified since European settlement, by agricultural, silvicultural, pastoral and urban development. Loss of wetland through drainage for agriculture has been substantial. Approximately 11% of former wetlands in the south east still exist, but only 14% of this area of remaining wetlands contain permanent open water. The wetlands within this park are therefore of particular conservation importance. 

See and do

Bushwalking

There is a walking trail through coastal wattle and beard heath to the ponds outlet. The walk then leads inland via boardwalks into silky tea-tree and cutting grass to a lookout where views of the wetland and bamboo reed and bulrush can be seen.

Bushwalking is a fantastic way to connect with nature, keep fit and spend time with family and friends. 

South Australia's national parks feature a range of trails that let you experience a diversity of landscapes. Our trails cater for all levels of fitness and adventure and our classification system makes it easy to select an experience suitable for you.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is currently not permitted in this park. 

Stay in the park

Camping is no longer permitted in Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park, as the campground site has been restored to the wetland.

Snorkelling and diving

Piccaninnie Ponds is a popular site for both snorkelling and cave diving. It contains three main features of interest to cave divers. 

  • The First Pond - an open depression about 10m deep with a silt floor and much aquatic life.  
  • The Chasm - a sinkhole over 100m deep
  • The Cathedral - an enclosed area with limestone formations and a depth of about 35m.

Underwater visibility is excellent and may exceed 40m.

Snorkelling and cave diving at Piccaninnie Ponds is by permit only and must be booked online before arrival.

Flora

Six vegetation communities have been identified in the ark. Of particular significance are those associated with the unique wetland fen environments. Other significant communities include the western wetland fen vegetation of silky tea-tree and bottlebrush tea-tree and the aquatic plant communities of the freshwater ponds. 

Other vegetation found within the park includes reeds, sedge swamp, open heath and tussock grassland.

In addition, 24 known species which occur in the park are at risk in South Australia.

Fauna

Over 60 species of birds have been recorded in the area, many of which live and breed in the park.

Five species of native mammals have been recorded in the park. Of note are the swamp antechinus, a critically endangered species once widespread in coastal wetlands.

Several fish species have been recorded in the Ponds including the short finned eel, southern pigmy perch and Yarra pigmy perch.

Volunteering

Friends of Parks Mount Gambier Area

There are 'Friends of Groups' throughout South Australia. Most national parks have a volunteer group passionate about environmental conservation. If you think you might be interested in volunteering opportunities within this park please contact our Volunteer Support Unit.

Safety

Bushwalking

The international Trail Users Code of Conduct is to show respect and courtesy towards other trail users at all times.

Ensure that you:

  • when hiking, wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen
  • make sure you have appropriate weather proof clothing
  • carry enough water to be self-sufficient
  • please be respectful of other users at all times
  • stay on the designated trails and connector tracks for your own safety, and prevent the spread of declared weeds to other areas in the park
  • ensure someone knows your approximate location and expected time of return
  • take appropriate maps.
  • Walk, hike or trek - what's the difference?

Fire

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Fire restrictions

  • Wood fires and solid fuel fires are prohibited throughout the year.
  • Gas fires are permitted, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

Please note: Wood and solid fuel fires are permitted below the high water mark throughout the year (except on Total Fire Ban days).

Water

You will need to agree to these terms and conditions when booking your dive or snorkel session.

Snorkelling

  • You must snorkel wearing a full length wetsuit fins face mask and snorkel.
  • A minimum of two and a maximum of four snorkelers per group are allowed in the ponds at any one time.
  • Do not wear a weight belt.
  • No testing or training in the ponds except by special arrangement.
  • Do not restricted areas as shown on the map.
  • You must enter the water at allocated time and you must leave the water before expiry time.
  • You must not enter the water with scuba equipment while only holding a snorkel permit.

Diving

  • You must be a current member of the Cave Diver's Association of Australia.
  • You must dive with a minimum of one other diver and a maximum of three divers (each diver must hold a separate permit).
  • If on a supervised first dive, you may dive with a maximum of four other divers, with one being the supervising instructor (each diver must hold a separate permit).
  • You must not dive deeper than 36.5 metres (120 feet)
  • You must only dive in The First Pond, The Chasm and The Cathedral.
  • You must enter water at the allocated time and you must leave the water before the expiry time.

Know before you go

Every national park is different, each has its own unique environment, it is important to be responsible while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please ensure that you:

  • leave your pets at home
  • do not feed birds or other animals, it promotes aggressive behaviour and an unbalanced ecology
  • do not bring generators (except where permitted), chainsaws or firearms into the park
  • leave the park as you found it - place rubbish in the bins provided or take it with you
  • abide by the road rules (maintain the speed limit)
  • respect geological and heritage sites
  • do not remove native plants
  • are considerate of other park users.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Maps

Fees

Entry fees

Come and enjoy this park for free. 

Fees apply for snorkelling and diving, make sure you book before you go.

Snorkelling and diving

A permit is required to snorkel and dive at Piccaninnie Ponds. Permits are issued to individuals on an annual or a single basis.

You must purchase a permit and book your dive or snorkel sessions before arriving at the park.

  • Time slots are one hour long, with a maximum of two dives or snorkel sessions per person, per day. Bookings are essential.
  • If you book two time slots, they may follow each other, but a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 people per diving or snorkelling group is allowed. A maximum of 8 people may be present in the ponds during any 1 hour time slot.
  • You must be out of the water before your time slot expires.
  • Diving permits are only issued to divers who are current financial members of the Cave Divers Association of Australia (CDAA) and rated at sinkhole category.
  • Proof of current CDAA membership and categorisation supplied by the CDAA is required.

Permit fees

Snorkelling

Adult: $14
Annual adult: $54

Concession: $12
Annual concession: $43

Child: $9
Annual child: $33

Annual family : $150
(2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. Any additional children to be charged at 50% of a Child rate.)

Diving

Adult: $37
Annual permit: $76

Booking 

When booking, you must complete the relevant indemnity form and provide the following details:

  • the names of the people who wish to dive or snorkel
  • preferred dive or snorkel date and time
  • the snorkelling indemnity receipt numbers of all snorkelers (Each snorkeler must complete their own indemnity form. Those under 18 years of age must have a guardian complete the form on their behalf.)
  • the diving indemnity receipt numbers and CDAA membership numbers of all divers.

Park pass

This park is not included in the park pass system. 

Camping and accommodation

There is no camping or accommodation available within this park. 

Other fees and permits

There are no other fees or permits associated with this park.