Mount Schank, 2017 Capital of South Australia



Population: 317

Mount Schank is a dormant maar volcano in south-east South Australia, but while the volcano is inactive the local dairy industry continues to thrive.

The volcanic cinder cone is a striking landscape feature rising about 100 metres above the surrounding flat coastal plains. It is the youngest volcanic field in Australia and erupted about 5000 years ago. Local Aboriginal people recorded creation stories about its eruptions.

Although it lacks the blue waters of its more famous neighbour of Mount Gambier, Mount Schank is a state heritage area and popular tourist destination in its own right. Walking paths and picnic areas draw people to the area where they can appreciate magnificent views of the surrounding farmland from the rim or descend to the crater floor.

It is estimated 12,000 people walk the tracks each year.

The nearby Little Blue Lake is also popular as a swimming hole and for cave diving.

Dairy farmers were also drawn to the area from its early days. The region is about 18 kilometres south of Mount Gambier and boasts heavy red loam soil and consistent rainfall which makes it ideal for producing pastures for dairying.

Mount Schank was first sighted by navigator James Grant on December 3, 1800. It was named after Admiral John Schank, the designer of Grant’s ship.

In its early years, the location was known as Mount Schanck, but the `c’ was dropped about 100 years ago.

Even through the region has been farmed for decades, the cone shape of Mount Schank remains unscathed. The state heritage area covers about 150ha around the volcano. Mount Schank is part of the Kanawinka Geopark and it consists of two small craters close to the major cone.

Today Mount Schank is a small rural community, consisting of a tennis club, Country Fire Service and church, along with a few homes and dairy, beef and sheep farms. 

The tennis club has been operating for 83 years and remains the social focus for the community and the place to take some time out from working on the farm. Most members have some association with the dairy industry and at the moment four dairy farming families are members. 

About nine years ago the club nearly folded but the introduction of a `peewee’ junior program helped to turn around its fortunes. The club now has six junior teams.

Local dairy farming families help with fundraising by donating calves that the club raises and then sells.

As South Australia’s 2017 LEGENDAIRY Capital, the tennis club will update its playground equipment which was installed around 30 years ago and has fallen into disrepair. 

The club is the hub of the town and small community, holding barbecues, fundraisers at local events and a Christmas party where the community gathers to celebrate with their families. The upgraded playground will further improve the social connection of the community.