Aura Vale Lake was a popular swimming spot on the outer eastern fringe of Melbourne until some time in the mid-1980s. I would swim there
several times a year in summer. The lake now is a shadow of its former self - whilst you can still canoe and fish here, unfortunately swimming
is prohibited. The official line is that swimming is prohibited due to poor water quality and submerged objects.
Above: Former swimming hole Aura Vale Lake at Henley's Picnic Area
(Order this image)
The lake was built at the
same time as Cardinia Reservoir in 1973 and was designed to divert runoff from nearby farms and prevent it from flowing in to Cardinia Reservoir,
which is part of Melbourne's drinking water supply system. It seems that it took at least a decade for the nutrient levels to build up and thereafter
there were frequent algal blooms in the lake. Managing the expectations of people visiting the lake for a swim got all too hard for the park
managers, so they shut down swimming altogether.
As for the submerged objects, there are granite boulders under the water near Henley's picnic area.
Not a danger if you know they are there and it was always easy to swim past them to deeper water. I've been told stories of cut feet on broken
glass in the water, but did not ever notice anyone getting cut when I visited.
Above: I love it when signs contradict themselves, like this one at Aura Vale Lake
(Order this image)
You can still visit Aura Vale Lake for fishing, canoeing, sailing or a picnic. Unfortunately Bob's Picnic Area, which used to be a bustling
bbq area at the northern edge of the lake, has been shut down too. I'm not sure why, but it certainly wasn't due to lack of popularity. Henley Picnic
Area has some nice picnic tables near the water's edge, a toilet, and a boat ramp. You have to bring your own barbecue.
Other Information Before You Go:
Aura Vale Lake Park, Wellington Rd, near Cardinia Reservoir, 50 km (approx. 45 min drive) south east of the Melbourne CBD
Exit the Monash Fwy at Wellington Rd and follow Wellington Rd until you reach the lake.
Public toilets, car park, picnic tables, water tap, boat ramp
Maximum water depth:
Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required:
Not applicable, no swimming permitted
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
No swimming, no dogs, no motorised boats,
no rubbish bins so take your rubbish home with you, fishing from bank only
Shade available out of the water
10am to 6pm during daylight savings. Can be closed earlier outside of daylight savings.
Yes, including disabled parking and wheelchair accessible toilet
Camping is not permitted at Aura Vale Lake. If you are planning to stay overnight in the area near this former swim,
you can try the following options, with Clematis and Emerald the nearest town centres. All distances below are by road, not as the crow flies.
13 km by road to the north
The marker indicates the location of the car park at the lake.
Here are a few personal accounts of experiences at Aura Vale Lake, then and now:
"I was the daughter of Bob, who worked at the lake in the early 1970s. I really don’t know why they (MMBW) named Bob's Park after Dad,
but we were all pretty chuffed. Things were far simpler back then. I remember sitting in the demountable type of office, playing on someone’s
typewriter to keep me busy while Dad worked. I can’t believe the state of the park now - it really is a sad disgrace. I don’t understand why
it isn't cleaned up, especially the disgusting toilet block, and clear the overgrown bush area. It used to be a beautiful mowed area, with
picnickers and children enjoying the park. Maybe the park could still be brought back to life with a sign erected to say ‘strictly no swimming’,
a bit like beautiful Birdsland – people don’t swim there but we all still enjoy the beautiful surrounds."
- Heidi V., Melbourne, Victoria 20/4/2021
"In late 70s and 80s all my family and friends and virtually everyone in the local community from Berwick and afar would head to
Aura Vale Lake on a hot day and stay until late arvo. Swimming, playing, relaxing on grass banks, ice cream trucks ... it was unreal.
If it was hot you would just go there as it was the place to be. You would go there and everyone would be there (no phones to organise stuff,
just go there!). As teenagers we would all hang out together being cool and have fun ... a special place. Went there yesterday with my
kids and almost could not find it as so neglected. Looking at the place my kids could not believe the stories I was telling them as sadly it
now looks like a dump. A reflection of the different times and I hope they revitalise this magical place."
- Bob, Aspendale, Victoria 23/6/2021
"As kids, we started going there on warm days soon after it opened. We would drive from home in Ferntree Gully, winding the windows
shut for the last few kilometres to get even hotter. As soon as we arrived, we'd sprint down the steep hill and dive straight into the water.
At Aura-Vale, there were good crossings to swim between Bob's Park, the main carpark, and a spot in the bush across from the main carpark.
Even as young adults, we'd go there, throwing a tennis ball at each other to take one handed lunging catches while treading water. I was shattered
the last time going there, and finding it was closed to swimming."
- Gerald K., Melbourne, Victoria 14/2/2021
"My dad worked for the MMBW (Melbourne water) at Aura Vale from 1973 til he retired. As a teenager, I used to go to work with
him and he would drop me at Henleys for the day and pick me up after. I took my partner there today and reminisced about those days.
So sad to see the place looking so abandoned. It is still a peaceful and beautiful lake, but the facilities are looking worse for wear."
- Sharon B., Narre Warren North, Victoria 9/12/2018
"What a shame. It was a beautiful place to go as a family. We all used to go, my whole street in a convey of cars,
with our pinic baskets and inflatable dinghy. The grassy banks were lined with a myriad of families enjoying the lake!"
- Matthew J., Ringwood East, Victoria 3/8/2018
"So sad to see that Aura Vale has been neglected and is un-swimmable. Use to swim there almost every week in the mid-late 90's with my mum.
We were interested in the surface under foot as it seemed to have gold speckles, almost like a collodial silver. We never got
sick swimming there and it was our favourite spot. Icecream truck was always there in summer and it was bustling but you could always get a nice spot of
your own to swim."
- Liz L., Tootgarook, Victoria 12/3/2018
"It’s so sad that Bobs Park has been shut and left to rot. It was my family’s favourite place to go for the Xmas bbq
and when I first got my license it was my spot to go for a drive and clear my mind. I actually went there today and it’s
really disappointing to see such a beautiful place close to the suburbs neglected. We’re all on about getting out and
our kids off the devices and get active and the best place for that has been taken away from us and the next generation
will never get to experience it and just hear about the old days where we actually had a wilderness sanctuary close by.
Hopefully one day Parks will get their act together and make it great once again"
- Christian D., Mulgrave, Victoria 15/12/2017
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