Historically, Lake Wendouree has been a popular spot for boating for years, and was even home to the 1956 Olympic rowing events. However, this ceased for many years as the lake remained completely dry due to the drought. And indeed, a dry bed of grass is all I could see of the "lake" the first time I visited Ballarat in 2007. Fortunately, the cold rainy weather we endured for many months in 2010 meant that by this year, the lake has filled again to its original levels.
It's hard for visitors to imagine how the lake is central to life in Ballarat. This is where Ballarat residents enjoy nature and see two adult black swans, followed by a group of fluffy baby swans. This is where school rowing teams train, where football teams exercise, and where everyday residents go for a walk or run with the dog, or cycling at the end of a day at work. The trail around the lake is 6km and is named the Steve Moneghetti trail, after the Olympian who set a record for running the lap in the shortest amount of time.
The lake provides family friendly fun, with a beautiful wooden playground (see above), complimented by modern day swings. A heritage tram ride around the lake is available for $3 for adults, and $1.50 for children. Alternatively, you and your family can hire a leisure pedal bike, which can seat four or eight people, note: I've only seen this with children though, not sure how well the bikes move with a large group of adults. On the weekends, there are also paddle boats for hire and a range of other activities along the lake.
For those looking for a meal along the lake, the restaurants near the lake are perfect for a great view and chill atmosphere. Establishments range from the elegant Pipers by the lake with its $15 lunch specials, to the more expensive Boatshed Restaurant on the other side of the lake, and the rowdier, younger crowd at the Lakeview Hotel with its cheap pizza and pasta specials.