The plaque on the monument opposite Pleasant Street school states, ‘Near this spot was the camp of the first resident of Ballarat, William Yuille’. In the autumn of 1838 the young Scotsman drove his flock of sheep to the shores of the swamp which was first known as Black Swamp because it was dark with thickly growing reeds. To the miners it was known as Yuille’s Swamp. Lake_picg.gif (13575 bytes)

A squatter’s diary of 1850 records that there were many Koories camped around the swamp and by a little stream that ran down from it. Hundreds of kangaroos and emus fed on the grassy plateau.

The name Wendouree comes from the aboriginal word ‘wendaaree’ which means ‘go away’. A story is told that when William Yuille asked an aboriginal woman the name of the swamp, that was her reply.When Ballarat was first surveyed in 1851 by WS Urquhart the swamp was recorded as Wendouree.

In ancient times Lake Wendouree was originally a stream which flowed to the west but a lava flow caused it to be dammed on three sides and it now drains to the east, eventually into the Yarrowee River.


In 1851 a dam was built across the lake outlet and several times the bank was raised to provide Ballarat with a permanent supply of water.

In 1858 a pipe was laid underground from the Rockery to the Water Works in Sturt Street opposite the Town Hall. From the standpipe carters filled their wagons with lake water and sold it on the goldfields down on the flat.

Industries were set up around the Lake - bluestone quarries at View Point and St Patrick’s Point,Boat_Shedsg.gif (8028 bytes) two flour mills, a lemonade factory, plant nurseries and four large gold mining companies. Deep leads under the lake were mined until 1875.

Thirteen hotels were located on Wendouree Parade which was first surveyed as a road reserve in 1855. The Lake View is the only one which remains. 


An underground pipeline from Kirk’s Reservoir, installed in 1860-61, provided the first constant source of supply to retain the lake’s water level. However, in the early 1860s there were only a few square metres of clear water on ‘Wendouree Swamp’, and in order to hold the first aquatic sports in 1864, members of the Ballarat Rowing Club cut a course through the reeds with scythes.

Prisoners from the Ballarat Gaol cleared a path around the lake and enclosed it with a hedge and a picket fence, the last of which was removed in 1928. The old gums were felled and English trees, reflecting the taste of Ballarat’s founders, were planted.

In the drought year of 1869, the lake bed was cleared by burning the reeds and the bed itself was deepened. A causeway was built from the eastern shore to the gardens to section off wildlife and water sports areas. As the embankment was porous it disintegrated when the rains came again.


The reed beds and islands provide sanctuary for a variety of wildlife. In one day a keen bird watcher could see at least 40 different birds. Of the recorded 166 species, the most commonly seen waterbirds are: Black Swan, BlackDuck_picj.jpg (1936 bytes) Duck, Dusky Moorhen, Swamphen, Coot, Musk Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Silver Gull and Little Pied Cormorant. Information boards at the Fairyland Wetland Walk provide details about species and habitats.

About 100 native water-rats are scattered around the shore and are sometimes seen in Fairyland at dawn and dusk. The diversity of pondlife is rich and attracts numerous school groups making visits for environmental science field studies. Audio visual kits of plant and animal life are available for school and public display from the Ballarat Field Naturalists Club.


Lake Wendouree is one of the few urban lakes in Australia which is ecologically sound. Its biological health can Grass_picj.jpg (2549 bytes)be attributed to the lakeweed which reduces the effects of harmful urban sediments flushed into the lake after heavy rain. The reed beds decrease turbidity thus maintaining areas of clear water.

While the native weed (Water-milfoil) and reeds (Tall Spike-rush) perform these natural functions biodiversity is assured. However, to prevent the lake from reverting to a swamp and to cater for the wide range of recreational water sports, a seasonal weed cutting regime is necessary.


In 1865 the first steamboat was launched and by 1870 boating had become almost a ‘mania’ with complaints made about dangerous racing and constant whistling.

The 108-year-old Golden City Paddle Steamer is the only survivor of a fleet of 15 steamers which ferried passengers from View Point across the lake to the Botanical Gardens and provided moonlight cruises with singing and dancing. Some of the nostalgia of that bygone era can still be experienced with a ferry ride on the Begonia Princess.


tramj.gif (4696 bytes)Double-decker horse drawn trams began carrying visitors to the Botanical Gardens in 1887.

The volunteers of the Ballarat Tramway Museum have preserved fifteen trams and memorabilia from Ballarat’s tramway era. The vintage electric tramway operates Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays from 12 noon to 5.00 pm.

Attracting twenty thousand passengers each year, it is one of Ballarat’s most popular tourist attractions.



Ballarat Victoria Australia


Many generations of local residents and visitors have fond memories of pleasure trips to the lake. It has long been a social centre of family and community life in the district.

The old-world charm of the area makes it an increasingly popular venue for family reunions, rallies and gatherings of all kinds. Half a million visitors annually come to major events such as the Australia Day celebrations and the Begonia Festival, as well as to enjoy picnics and barbecues.

All age groups can enjoy strolling the bluestone paths in rustic Fairyland and experiencing the natural beauty and the ever-changing light on the water of Lake Wendouree. Views across the water of magnificent sunsets or the distant volcanic cones of Mt Warrenheip and Mt Buninyong are framed by mature Elms, Oaks, Pines and Willows.



Location: 120 km west of Melbourne

Surface Area: 238 hectares

Circumference: 6 km

Maximum depth: 2 metres

Capacity: 3860 megalitres

Foreshore area: 16 hectares

Height above sea level: 450 m



In 1870 the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society was formed in order to stock the Lake with a variety of fish to provide sport for anglers. A windmill once pumped lake water to the nearby Fish Hatchery.

Lake Wendouree has enjoyed the reputation of being one of Victoria’s most popular inland fishing destinations. Since the turn of the century the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife has managed the stocking propgram.

1n recent times the annual release of Brown Trout has been consistently around 6000 with occasional supplementary releases by the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society. The fish most commonly caught are Trout and Redfin.


Monitoring indicates excellent water quality. However in summer, fluctuating levels of contamination have been detected in localised areas close to the shore where swans and other waterbirds congregate. For this reason, and because of the possibility of foreign objects on the lake bed, swimming is not recommended.


Boating has long been an important sport and leisure activity on Lake Wendouree which hosted the rowing, kayaking and canoeing events for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

The Lake Wendouree Aquatic Association coordinates a full calendar of regattas and other sporting events which include yachting, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, sailboarding, swimming, as well as cycling, athletic and triathalon events.

The track around the lake provides an interesting 6 km challenge to walking, cycling and running enthusiasts who complete the circuit in their thousands each week, irrespective of the weather. For serious athletes, the record for running the 6 km lap of the lake is 16 minutes and 10 seconds set in 1992 by Marathon Olympian Steve Moneghetti.


There are a number of restrictions on activities around the lake. Most importantly:

• dogs must be kept on leads at all times

• horse riding is forbidden

• power boat speed limit is 8 km per hour

Enquiries regarding Lake Wendouree should be directed to:

City of Ballarat

Phone number for the City of Ballarat: 5320 5500 email ballcity@ballarat.vic.gov.au

Lakemap.gif (13889 bytes)


1. The Olympic Rings (1956)

2. The Spit - end of rowing course

3. Waterlily Lagoon - silt retardation trap

4. Ballarat Tramway Museum (1971)

5. Windmill Drive picnic area

6. King Edward Pavilion (erected 1911)

7. Fish Hatchery Pump House

8. Ballarat Community Adventure Playground

9.Bandstand (erected 1921)

10. Begonia Princess Ferry

11. Almieda Pavilion (former penny arcade 1907)

12. Lake Pavilion - kiosk, restaurant (1890)

13. Fairyland Wetland Walk (interpretation signs)

14. Ballarat High School Boatshed

15. Ballarat Grammar School Boatshed site

16. Durham Point

17. Start of 2000 m rowing course

18. Fly Fishing Jetty

19. Overflow to Gnarr Creek - water level contro

19. Ballarat City Rowing Club (1871)


21. Wendouree (1884) Ballarat (1861) Rowing Club

22. Ballarat & Clarendon College Boatshed

23. Ballarat Canoe Club

24. Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum

25. Gill’s Restaurant

26. View Point (constructed 1881)

27. George Tonner Pergola 1925 (rowing pioneer)

28. Lake View Hotel (established 1875)

29. Ned Williams Stone Memorial 1900 (aquatic


30. Rockery (built 1904) - old filter beds

31. Edgewater Cafe-Kiosk

32. Yuille’s Monument

33. Girl Guides Water Activities Centre

34. Sea Scouts

35. Ballarat Yacht Club (established 1877)

36. Greenbank’s Weed Cutter Shed

37. Ballarat Fly Fishers’ Club

38. St Patrick’s Point - St Patrick’s Boatshed

  The content on this page was produced by Jenny Burrell, sketches are by Graeme Kent.