The Gawler Ranges to the north of the town were first sighted by Edward John Eyre in 1839 who named them after Governor Gawler. At the time Eyre, who was only twenty four, had travelled north from Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay and was making his way across to the head of Spencer Gulf. Eyre's description of his travels is a reminder that the greatest problem of the Eyre Peninsula is its lack of reliable water. Upon his return to Adelaide he wrote: 'I cannot but regret they have not been more productive...During the whole...of 600 miles through, I believe, an hitherto unexplored country, we never crossed a single creek, river or chain of ponds, nor did we meet with permanent water anywhere, with the exception of three solitary springs on the coast.'
There is some dispute as to whether the Gawler Ranges really deserve to be called 'ranges' as they rise only a couple of hundred metres above the surrounding countryside.