I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published September 12th 2015
A bushland wonderland and a playground of fun
Blackburn Lake Sanctuary is indeed—at the risk of sounding terribly clichéd—a sanctuary of peace, quiet and a whole lot of fun at the same time. The sanctuary is located between Central Road and Lake Road, and is even more calm and tranquil than the surrounding neighbourhood streets and cul-de-sacs. I've only visited Blackburn Lake Sanctuary once or twice very briefly some time ago, and had almost forgotten about it. It was just by chance that I rediscovered it, when—on somewhat of a whim—I hightailed it out of the train the other night at Blackburn Station to walk a little bit extra to where my car was parked, rather than remain squished on the crowded carriage. I walked right past the lake, then promptly decided to return the next evening, together with my park-going, trail-exploring, outdoor-loving companions (aka dutiful husband and somewhat-crazed dog).
The sanctuary is predominantly natural bushland, centred around the serene Blackburn Lake. There are walking paths and trails, opportunities to spy some wildlife, a visitors centre, and open space to bring a picnic. But perhaps even better than all of this (as much as I loved meandering around the bush trails surrounding the lake) is the fantabulous new playground that was just opened in June of this year. Given I'm no longer five years old, I'm not sure I'm the most credible critic when it comes to playgrounds, but I have to say, the new Blackburn Lake Sanctuary Play Space is probably the Best Playground I've Ever Seen.
The main path leads you to other trails, the lake and open green space
But before I was let loose on the equipment in the Best Playground I've Ever Seen, we thought we'd better take a walk and see what the rest of the sanctuary has to offer (after all, the somewhat-crazed dog was in need of a walk…and she's not the best at climbing a jungle gym or whirling around on the swings).
The Lakeside Circuit trail gives you the best views of the whole sanctuary, including the lake of course!
We took the Lakeside Circuit trail, one of very easy-going gravel paths within the sanctuary, that takes you all the way around the lake. There are other trails that shoot off the Lakeside Circuit to take you to all four corners of the sanctuary, all on very manageable gravel terrain. The trail dips closer to the lake in some sections, and you can get close enough so that the lake gently laps right at your feet (our somewhat-crazed dog was champing at the bit to take off and run straight into the calm water, but given the natural bushland and wildlife that inhabit the space, dogs must be on leads at all times).
The lake is in the centre of the sanctuary...and is the centre of calmness
You can head out on the little wooden decks to get an even better view of the lake, and wooden bridges get you across the narrow part of the lake, where it morphs into the creek that heads almost to Springvale Road. On our late afternoon weekday visit, the dappled daylight just beginning to hide behind the souring treetops, we came across only a handful of others enjoying the peaceful walk around the lake, before the light disappeared altogether and the darkness of the night set in. We could still hear the kookaburras calling high above in the gum trees, and the occasional splashing sounds (birds? fish?) coming from the lake as we quietly traversed its outer banks.
At one point the Lakeside Circuit takes you out onto the footpath along Lake Road, but if you hurry along, you can be back within the comforting confines of the sanctuary within just a few minutes, and you can retreat back into the bushland like you never left.
As we completed the Lakeside Circuit walk, and rounded the corner back up towards the carpark and visitor centre, flashes of the glorious, brand-spanking new playground appeared into view, and I'm not going to lie—my pace quickened as we got closer, and I was hoping (just a teeny bit) that we had the playground to ourselves. Given the lateness of the hour, and a school night to boot, we did indeed have the place to ourselves which was kind of nice—I'm not really in the habit of fighting off small children for a turn on the swings.
Leave your troubles at the door and lose yourself to the fun of the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary Play Space
But even if there was a whole bunch of kids swinging and twirling and swivelling and climbing, there's so much going on in this playground that there's room for everyone. Because my oh my, what a wonderland of whimsy it is! Of course there's swings (four in fact, as well as big swinging basket thing that'd fit that whole bunch of kids plus a few more), and shiny new green slides—three of them, of differing lengths and levels of twistiness to cater for all ages and degrees of dare devil-ism (although perhaps not for someone on the wrong side of 30…but I gave the longest one a go anyway, much to the delight of somewhat-crazed dog).
There's platforms and ladders and ropes and connecting walkways, and even a mini climbing wall for the budding abseilers. There's a big round spinning thing—almost like a giant turntable with handrails—set into the ground that I'm sure will lead to all sorts of lopsided wobbles once the little folk disembark and try and walk away. A big concrete turtle takes pride of place in the middle of the play space, to climb and crawl and sprawl all over.
There's even an over-sized wooden xylophone, with two little rubber mallets dangling off the side to make merry music with—and it sounds (surprisingly) rather delightful! And if your little tikes feel like making even more noise, there are two narrow metal tubes, situated at opposite sides of the space, sticking out of the ground, with holes in each end. Talk or sing or laugh into one tube, and the person with their ear fixed to the other pipe hears you! Of course there'd be a very boring, technical explanation for why this is so, but for the kids, hearing another tinny, echo-ey voice answering their own through a metal pipe is pure magic and completely fascinating.
Blackburn Lake Sanctuary also weaves its magic in other ways, namely through preservation of the sanctuary's bushland and wildlife, and education, with the provision of environmental and sustainability programs to schools and community groups within the local area. These programs are run by the Whitehorse City Council, along with the assistance of the passionate volunteers who work hard to ensure Blackburn Lake Sanctuary remains such a wonderful place to visit. Volunteers also staff the visitor centre, which is open every Sunday from 2.00pm to 4.00pm, and are always looking for more 'friends of the lake' to lend a hand. Their fantastic website gives you all the information and contact details you need if this does interest you, along with a history of the lake, information about flora and fauna, and upcoming events at the sanctuary.
Blackburn Lake Sanctuary is a landmark in the area, and a truly remarkable one at that. Drop in after work for a brisk walk around the lake, or if you have a bit more time, spend a couple of leisurely hours exploring through the trees and bushland. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the green lawn, or perhaps even do a bit of digging into the sanctuary's rich history and become a friend of the lake. Whilst it was quiet on the evening of our visit, I imagine that come Saturday and Sunday, the sanctuary comes alive with families and friends, big groups and small groups, grandparents and children—all with the playful sounds of a wooden xylophone tinkling away in the distance.