Lake Daylesford Loop
Directions - Located a short distance from the centre of Daylesford, take Ballan-Daylesford Rd south until you see the signs for Lake Daylesford. Take the right turn onto Bleakey St and then right onto Leggatt St where you'll find the car park. The trail head is located outside the Boathouse.
The Hike - Daylesford is a place I love visiting and with another family Christmas planned here in 2019, I was very happy to return. Caris' aunt and uncle were hosting the family at their lovely house in Daylesford so immediately I started thinking about some hiking activities I could do on the trip. Having previously done the Tipperary Track and Werribee Gorge on previous visits, I was hoping to get out on one day and take in something similar. One walk I hadn't really thought about writing about for the website was the lovely loop circuit around Lake Daylesford. On my previous visit before our Three Capes trip I enjoyed a lengthy walk around town and took in a section of the loop in really cool misty conditions (see bottom of page for photos). Given it was summer I wasn't expecting the same conditions but was still keen to check out the full loop.
With warm and sunny conditions forecast over the entire trip, I figured a sunset walk would be the best time to take in the loop and with it being right after the summer solstice, the sunset was late in the day. This was perfect as I could have dinner with the family and then escape on my own for a relaxing walk as a night cap. Unfortunately I didn't time it quite correctly and with a touch under 3km to get through while taking many photos, I didn't finish in the light. What you are seeing in this post is a combination of walks from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Arriving at the car park for the beautiful Boathouse Restaurant, you are kind of in the middle of the lake and it makes for a great starting point. Finding the information board, I headed off in a clockwise direction as that's how I started the Tipperary Track and it just feels more natural. Following the path you pass several houses that overlook the lake that were being used as holiday homes when I passed. This is by far the most popular area for visitors as not far along you reach the tiniest of beaches with a grassed area that is perfect for sun baking or a picnic.
A very picturesque part of the lake, it's right in front of one of the most beautiful public toilets I've seen and the spillway that created the lake. The public conveniences used to be a changing room for when there was a swimming pool and dive tower and with swimming allowed in the lake, I guess it still serves the same purpose. Using the bridge over the spillway I noticed a lot of padlocks on the wires, a trend that was popular a while ago when couples would attach a padlock and write their names on it. It became famous with the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris and has been copied all over the world (the origins date back to WWI in Spain). It created a cool feature to photograph in the fading light and was a good excuse to stop and admire the spillway. Built in 1929 to create the lake for recreational purposes, the water level was unsurprisingly below the top of the concrete structure on my visit. This little corner of the lake is a really cool spot with a little jetty constructed for people to use as another entry point to the water. Rounding the edge of the lake you start heading uphill on the track and into a more natural area of forest. From the elevated position you can look back at the change rooms, beach and houses along the shore and also start to see further to the north to the opposite side of the lake.
With fading light it was cool to see the top of the trees on the opposite side of the lake all lit up with a golden glow and the lake hiding under an eerie shadow. Along here I spotted a few wildflowers that came as a bit of a surprise given how late it was in the year and I think they were on their last legs. Heading down the hill again you catch a glimpse of the biggest jetty on the whole lake along with a lovely green bridge over a small inlet. Spotting a trail marker for the Goldfields Track that runs for 210km between Ballarat and Bendigo. I like the rustic look of the trail markers and on a fairly curated and safe trail like this loop, it's fun to think about hiking the much longer track. The bridge and jetty area here is one of the more picturesque parts of the loop and a nice spot to stop and take a break. With views over to the Boathouse, the jetty is fun to head out on and I interrupted a bird having a rest on one of the pillars. Moving on, you keep going along the trail as it winds along the edge of the lake on a few up and downs. This is where you start to see a lot of big pine trees that have a lot of character to them. The rolling nature of the trail along with the pines and dense greens trees on the edge of the water makes this feel very Hobbit-y, like you would come across a halfling from the Shire smoking some Longbottom Leaf.
There are some really cool rocky sections here where you can see the exposed rock that is common to the area. Along with the large pines, the trees bordering the lake are really lush and in the afternoon light they were spectacularly illuminated. After passing another small jetty where I interrupted a photo shoot, you head into a dense undergrowth all the way to the bridge that crosses the lake divide. On my Christmas Eve visit this is where I lost the light but it was still magical walking through the greenery. There are a few trees buried here that look quite unique including one that has been either blown over or pushed over but has still lived, growing out and up in defiance of it's new state. Another cool part about this section at sunset is looking back towards the lake and seeing the glow coming through the thick foliage. This continued as I approached the road and the the small path heading towards the crossing where you get one last look of that side of the lake. Crossing over, this was an area I hadn't explored yet so was curious to find out what it was like. A big feature of this section is the well known Lake House, a critically acclaimed restaurant with a hotel and spa experience to top it all off. The whole estate fronts onto the lake trail and looks very luxurious as you walk past.