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Find a Park > Limestone Coast

Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park

  • Toilets
  • Disabled Toilets
  • Scuba / Snorkelling
  • Walking Trails


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

For online bookings enquires please email:

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.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs are permitted in most public places and are therefore welcome in South Australia’s parks and reserves. Assistance dogs must be appropriately restrained on a lead and remain under your effective control at all times while in a park or reserve.

As per the dogs in parks and reserves policy, if the dog is not an accredited assistance dog, they must be trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate that disability and meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for a dog in a public place. However, refusal may be given if the person with the disability is unable to produce evidence the dog is an assistance dog with the appropriate training.

Before taking your assistance dog into a park that does not normally allow dogs, it is highly recommended that you contact us so we can provide you with the latest information on any potential hazards within specific parks that may affect your dog. Please contact the park via the contact details provided under the contact tab or call the information line on (+61 8) 8204 1910.

Dogs not allowed

Dogs are not permitted in this park.

Discover which parks you can walk your dog in on our find a park tool or read 12 dog-friendly walks in Adelaide Parks by Good Living for inspiration.


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

The Bunganditj Aboriginal people are the traditional owners of this area.

Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, 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. 

There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations.  At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.

In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.

Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia. 

Plants and animals


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. 


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.

Flora and fauna species lists

To download flora (plants) and fauna (animals) species lists for this park, use the 'Create Simple Species List' tab under 'Flora Tools' or 'Fauna Tools'  in NatureMaps

European 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


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.

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.


Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources South East – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.




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
  • be aware of weather conditions and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day
  • 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?


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).


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


  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.


Park maps

Maps on your mobile

If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive national park maps on hand when you need them.

The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos and drop placemark pins. 

How to get it working on your device:

1. Download the Avenza PDF maps app from the app store whilst you are still in range (its free!).
2. Open up the app and click the shopping cart icon.
3. Click ‘Find’ and type the name of the national park or reserve you are looking for.
4. Click on the map you are after and install it (all our maps are free).
5. You will now find a list of your installed maps on the home page of the Avenza app.
6. Use our maps through the Avenza PDF map app while in the park and never take a wrong turn again.


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.


Adult: $14.50
Annual adult: $56.00

Concession: $12.50
Annual concession: $44.50

Child: $9.50
Annual child: $34.50

Annual family : $155
(2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. Any additional children to be charged at 50% of a Child rate.)

When booking, you must 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.)


Adult: $38.50
Annual permit: $79.50

When booking, you must provide the following details:

  • the names of the people who wish to dive or snorkel
  • preferred dive or snorkel date and time
  • the diving indemnity receipt numbers and CDAA membership numbers of all divers.

  • Book diving

For online bookings enquires please email:

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. 

PDF Park Brochure