Lake Surprise: It's a crater!
What sets Lake Surprise apart from other lakes is its interesting geological history: this lake lies in the crater of a volcano that has been long dormant.
Approximately 20,000 years ago, Mount Eccles began erupting, spewing onto the plains below tonnes of lava that flowed southward 50km. The last eruption took place around 8,000 years ago, so there is no danger to modern-day travellers!
As the traditional homelands of the Gunditjmara nation, this area is also known by the name of Budj Bim. The wetlands that developed after the volcanic activity ceased led to the development by Aboriginal people of successful aquaculture practices based on eels, which thrived for many years.
What visitors can enjoy today is a perfect location to look at the fascinating remnants of ancient volcanic activity in a natural bushland setting. The western plains of Victoria, and especially Lake Surprise and its surrounds, are a boon for amateur geologists.
The lake itself is a water wonderland, teeming with fish and birds. At around 700 metres long, it provides a fantastic location for a walk. The colour of the water changes, varying from deepest blue to green, depending on the lake sediments and levels of algae that are present, so can certainly add an extra element of surprise to your visit.
The Lake Surprise walk is around 2km long and descends quite steeply down the walls of the crater, which are covered in vegetation, to the water’s edge. The path then continues in a loop around the lake. Once you complete this circuit, you will be able to say you walked inside the crater of a volcano!
Another option is to take the more elevated Crater Rim walk with its spectacular views of the inside of the crater as well as the surrounding parkland. Along this walk, there is a lookout which provides a perfect spot to stop and take in the amazing views.
To see at first-hand the incredible rocks and formations that were created from lava flows, the longer Lava Canal walk is highly recommended. There are lava blisters, which are hollow bubble-shaped forms created by flowing lava filled with gas. The walls of some of the bubbles have collapsed making caves and tunnels, including one that extends for 60 metres. They are amazing places to explore. Torches and sturdy footwear will help you negotiate the terrain, which is sometimes loose.
The bush around the lake is replete with manna gums, so if you prefer things that are alive and breathing to stationary rocks, there are plenty of koalas, possums and kangaroos in the vicinity.
A picnic ground with toilet facilities is available to day-trippers while there is a campground for those who want to spend more time in the park and explore other attractions such as Lake Condah. Bookings for campsites are required.
Lake Surprise is around 320km west of Melbourne and 45km south of the town of Hamilton. At Macarthur, just a few kilometres from the lake, you can buy food, fuel and other supplies.
This lake certainly lives up to its name, offering a welcome and fascinating glimpse into the geology of Victoria’s volcanic landscapes. A treasure trove of possibilities awaits!