When I first started to kayak, it was in Port Phillip Bay. It was a choppy, sea swirling affair with me coming a cropper several times.

I’ve since discovered the serene beauty and calm of kayaking in the Daylesford Macedon Ranges region. I’m pleased to say, I’ve never capsized in any of the many wonderful lakes, waterways and reservoirs.

The Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of water sports – however there are several lakes and reservoirs (some of which are quite well hidden) that are ideal for a quiet paddle.

There are some great spots to kayak, canoe or even paddle board. Some are more secluded than others, so with the fear of ratting out the locals, here are my top picks of places to splash, fish and find a bit of mindfulness.

Firstly, perhaps the most well-known location is the iconic Lake Daylesford. I love this lake as it’s so close to everything in Daylesford and a paddle always requires a refreshing drink or two and a tasty bite afterwards. A few local places worth checking out for nourishment are the Boathouse Restaurant (conveniently located right next to the lake), the Taphouse at Daylesford Brewing Co or Hotel Frangos. The famous Lake House restaurant also calls out to you as you paddle past.

Just down the road from Daylesford is the lesser-known, yet equally impressive Jubilee Lake. If you don’t own a paddle board or something that floats, this is the place to go as you can hire a canoe or paddle boat from Jubilee Lake Holiday Park.

So, what about the secret spots where the locals go? Well, it’s hard to go past Colbrook Reservior. It’s way off the beaten track but well worth the hike. It is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Victorian Goldfields. Colbrook Reservoir is an amazing place for bushwalking, swimming, fishing, bush camping, and photography. A must-see place when exploring the beauty of the Wombat State Forest. An impressive dam wall is set on the southwestern side of the reservoir and features a stunning seasonal waterfall. Access is off the Ballan Daylesford Road by dirt track and best by four-wheel drive.

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Kayaking at Jubilee Lake. Photo by Judy Macleod.

Then there is Lerderderg State Park just near Bacchus Marsh. The Lerderderg River has carved a deep and picturesque gorge through this rugged park, located within easy reach of Melbourne. You can camp right near the river and paddle out to explore.

Another great spot to visit is the Upper Coliban Reservoir where you can fish, kayak, canoe and even take your boat if it has an electric motor (no petrol motors allowed). Constructed in 1903 it is surrounded by scenic farmland and stocked annually with Murray cod, Brown trout and Redfin. The fishing is best when the reservoir is low. Located in the Macedon Ranges just near Kyneton, this place is worth checking out. You can even take your dog.

Not far from there is Lauriston Reservoir, which is another great spot for a paddle. The banks are relatively bare and have little vegetation because of the large and regular fluctuations in the water level. Vehicle access is limited, and walking is required to reach most areas of the lake. Be sure to visit the towns of Kyneton and Woodend just a few clicks out. If visiting Kyneton, make sure to drop into Fook Shing. This place serves up delicious South East Asian cuisine in a historic gold rush era pub.

Or for a refreshing craft brew, you can’t go past the Holgate Brewhouse and Taproom in Woodend. Yes, the Macedon Ranges certainly has its fair share of great restaurants, local cafés, funky bars, gourmet burger joints and bakeries.

One last secret I’II share is The Res in Macedon. It’s hugely popular with locals and has even had a few blockbuster films filmed there. It’s not signposted or visible from the road. The hidden lake of Macedon Reservoir is accessible from Nursery Road, immediately west of the railway bridge, where you will find a few makeshift car spaces and a turning circle in the trees beside the road. But shhh… don’t tell the locals I told you. I better run. Just got a bite.

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Kayaking around Macedon Ranges

If a soothing Sunday is more your cup of tea, the region’s vibrant arts and culture scene could light a creative spark, with an abundance of art classes, painting workshops, mural and mosaic making sessions and craft clubs on offer.

Country Canvases is the ultimate regional Victorian escape for anyone looking to enhance their stay with a paint brush in hand! Led by local Malmsbury artist Tia Alysse, these workshops are the perfect Sunday retreat for all-levels of artistry. Enjoy a glass of wine while painting one of Tia’s gorgeous animals or birds that reside on her property and keep a keen eye out for the pet deer. Take your piece of art home to hang on your wall and relive the memory.

Back over in Kyneton’s crafty corner, The Old Auction House not only displays terrific art by local designers and craftspeople, but also holds a wealth of workshops, from macrame to kokedama, illustration and drawing, lead lighting to silver jewellery, right through to mosaic making and glass work. Each workshop runs for around three hours and catering from local organic café Homegrown on Piper is included. The teachers are masters at their art and it’s worth planning a weekend around a workshop to get the most out of your new found skill.

Time to get on the tools! What are you waiting for?

LauristonReservoir Credit Jacquie G Photography uai
Lauriston Reservoir, photo by Jacquie G Photography

Hero image: Boathouse Restaurant, at Lake Daylesford. Photography by Chris Turner @inkdfotogrfa.daylesford

About the author

Paul Matthews
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Paul has more than 25 years of marketing, tourism, business and stakeholder engagement experience in both private and public sector organisations.

He worked at Visit Victoria from 2017 to 2021 as the Head of Regional Tourism and Strategy. In 2021, he started his own business, the Visitor Economy Tourism Consultancy and has been working closely with Daylesford Macedon Tourism in the area of Industry Development.

Paul’s specialist areas of interest include Visitor Engagement, Destination Planning, Industry Development, Dark Tourism and Wellness. You can find more about Paul through his website or via LinkedIn.