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Lake Glenmaggie
Photograph: Rob Blackburn/Visit VictoriaDestination Gippsland | RTB refresh 2020

The best lakes in Victoria

If you fancy spending some time along the water, here are the best lakes within driving distance of Melbourne

Adena Maier
Written by
Adena Maier
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Melbourne is home to heaps of beautiful beaches, but if you're keen on taking a dip without getting sand where the sun don't shine, a lake might be the answer. We've rounded up ten of our favourite lakes, including gorgeous pink lakes if you're looking for something otherworldly, and lakes that are lesser-known for those not keen on sharing the waters with too many other people. 

Many of them also feature picnic areas, barbecue pits, fishing spots and areas that are perfect for water sports like paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking. Don't forget to slip-slop-slap!

Want to go for a swim, but don't have a car? Here are the best outdoor pools in Melbourne that are easily accessible via public transport. 

Victoria's best lakes

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Daylesford

A 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

This picturesque lake is located just a short walk from the centre of Daylesford, also known as Victoria's spa country. You can hire paddleboats, take your children to the playground, cook on the undercover barbecue area or simply take a walk along the path. It takes around 45 minutes to do a full loop around the lake, and there are several spots along the way that are perfect for a picnic. Find a tranquil spot to sit and take in the views while watching the ducks as they swim across the lake. If you get peckish, there are a few cafés located just a short walk from the car park.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

A 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

This 170-hectare artificial lake is located in the heart of Victoria's Goldfield region, and it's the perfect place to relax after spending the day in the wine region of Nagambie. Hire a boat and take a scenic ride along the waterways, or bring along your fishing gear and see if you can hook a golden perch, Murray cod or some trout for a fish fry dinner. Barbecues and picnic areas are available for public use. 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Emerald

A one-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

This park lies in the heart of Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges, and it's probably best known as the home of Puffing Billy. But did you know that it also features a lake complete with picnic areas, walking trails, areas to fish, paddle boating opportunities and water bicycle rental? Be warned that the park and lake area tend to get really busy on weekend afternoons, so if you're keen to visit at a more tranquil time, plan your visit on a weekday. 

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

A three-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

If you love spending a day on the water but hate when there are heaps of people around, Lake Glenmaggie is a well-kept secret. To get here, you'll travel through Victoria's serene countryside and make your way through the rolling hills of Gippsland. The lake has speed restrictions on the water, so you won't hear any noisy jetskiing or waterskiing during your visit. It's the perfect spot for a quiet fishing trip or for a serene float. The lake is ideal for catching trout, bass, carp and redfin, and you can fry up your catch at the nearby barbecue pits and picnic spots. 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Ballarat

A 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

If you're planning a trip to Ballarat, be sure to set aside some time to visit this massive lake located next to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Lake Wendouree offers an abundance of on- and off-water attractions, including a six-kilometre walking track, barbecues, playgrounds, areas for fishing and rowing and several nearby restaurants. There are also ten paddle boats available for hire between 10am and 7pm every day. 

  • Travel

A 4.5 hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

Lake Tyrell is Victoria's largest inland salt lake, and you truly have to see it to believe it. The best time to visit would be on a clear winter’s evening when shallow water covers the lake, producing amazing and vast reflections of the sky above. During particularly wet and warm times of the year, the water at Lake Tyrrell turns pink. This is because of the red pigment that’s secreted by pink micro-algae called red marine phytoplankton.

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Lysterfield Lake
  • Things to do
  • Narre Warren North

A one-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

This lake is known for having particularly gentle waters and having a gradual increase in depth, making it a great spot for a swim. You'll find two protected swimming bays, tracks and trails for walking and areas for other water activities including sailing and canoeing. The surrounding park is also great for mountain bikers, with 20 kilometres of bike trails.

Lake Catani
  • Travel

A four-hour drive from Melbourne CBD. 

This lake is nestled in the campgrounds of Mt Buffalo, and we reckon the best time of year to visit is in autumn when the trees are ablaze with deciduous colour. Go for an invigorating walk around the perimeter of the river, take a hot shower and then fall asleep at the campsite that's nestled amongst the snow gum trees. 

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Lake Elizabeth
  • Travel
  • Forrest

A two-hour drive from Melbourne CBD. 

A short drive from the mountain town of Forrest is the beautiful Lake Elizabeth, formed when a landslide pocketed off a part of the Barwon River. Prehistoric-looking trees rise gracefully from its centre, and you may be lucky enough to see an elusive platypus swimming in its waters. There is a free camping ground as well as several walking and mountain biking trails. 

  • Travel

A four-hour drive from Melbourne CBD.

The pragmatically named Pink Lake is found right beside the Western Highway. If you’re headed towards Little Desert National Park, this is a great stopover, and you can get a good view of the lake from the rest stop on the side of the road. The brightness of the pink hue depends on how much rainfall the area has gotten – if it’s dry and there’s less rain, the concentration of pink is stronger. Fun fact: the salt in this lake is harvested by the Mount Zero Olive company.

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