History – or perhaps legend – has it that 'Wendouree' was named when a white squatter by the name of William Yuille asked a local Indigenous woman the name of the swamp she was sitting near. "Go away!" she replied, and the unsuspecting Scotsman caught the name – Wendouree, meaning "go away" or "be gone" – and inscribed it forever in Ballarat's history.
Although man-made, the lake retains an organic, natural feel
Wendouree is a suburb in the north-west of Ballarat, and its lake is the pride of the city. Originally a natural swamp, it was hit by drought in 1869. Local labour cleared the grasses and expanded the pit to be a wide lake, with rain eventually filling it to its new capacity.
There are many resting places dotted along the shore of the lake
In the later years of the 19th Century paddle-steamers overtook the lake, becoming a popular way for locals to reach the Botanical Gardens or simply enjoy a scenic ride. During the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Lake Wendouree drew yet more crowds by hosting the rowing, kayaking and canoeing events.
The Olympic Rings stand by the lake in memorial of the 1956 Olympics, when the rowing events came to Ballarat
Lake Wendouree again dried up following the drought of summer 2007-2008. Local council used this opportunity to dredge the lake, however its machinery – as well as some residents – were prone to get bogged and need a quick rescue form the mud! During this time a walking track was worn through the old rowing course, as residents made the pilgrimage across the lake following the 'path' of Olympians gone before.
Now refilled, Lake Wendouree boasts a busy 6-km walking track around its circumference, and once again hosts the annual inter-school rowing competition Head of the Lake. With numerous playgrounds, BBQs, gardens, picturesque resting-places and coffee shops scattered around it, Lake Wendouree is a calling card for local and visiting families alike.
The larger of the two main playgrounds at the lake. There is a toddler's playground included.
You can also hire a four-person bicycle. In warmer weather, don't forget to look out for the ice-cream truck which has been operating in Ballarat for many years, and usually parks near the larger playground.