James Umpherston involved was one of two men who was involved in establishing the South Australian Agricultural and Horticultural Society. He had arrived from Scotland in 1839 and became a successful farmer. In 1869 he purchased 250 acres at Beswicks Farm, near Mt Gambier. It included the cave, which bears the Umpherston name.
Umpherston Cave, just east of the city on the Princes Highway, is named after James Umpherston, who arrived in 1860, and was a foundation member of the Show Society and lived on a property nearby. An interesting display on the steps leading into the cave explains its colourful history, and a Mack logging truck and an old bull-dozer are among logging displays in the beautiful gardens surrounding it.
When James Umpherston first purchased the caves, it was described as an eyesore. He turned it into a tourist attraction, with ferns, shrubs and trees. A broad footpath was cut from the highest point to the bottom of the cave and a wooden staircase erected where previously there had been a dangerous descent. A 1/3rd of the bottom of the cave was covered with water and a boat was let visitors and friends view the grandeur of the cave. On a small island in the lake, at the bottom of the cave, a Robinson Crusoe type hut was erected to create a fairyland scene.
Wooden steps are now hidden behind cascading vines take you down into the centre of the sinkhole and its picturesque garden full of hydrangeas.
Today it is one of Mount Gambier's most popular tourist attractions. It is free to look around but to experience the real charm of this sunken treasure you will have to wait until night falls. At this time about 40 brush tail possums venture out to feed. Tourists are able to go down and feed them any night of the week.