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Lake Lonsdale near Stawell
Swimming Hole Heaven in Victoria

If you like a sense of isolation and a lakeside bush camping experience, Lake Lonsdale could be the swim for you. The lake is accessible from the northern side, where there are two day visitor areas and several camping areas, each about 800 metres apart. You can swim at any of these spots, but only the two day visitor areas have formally designated swimming areas with no boat access. Swimming in Lake Lonsdale Above: The swimming area near the boat ramp (Order this image)

The Sandbar day visitor area at the eastern end of the lake offers multiple beaches with the gentlest grades into the water, whilst the day visitor area near the boat ramp at the western end offers a slightly deeper water swim with fewer submerged trees.

Lake Lonsdale felt quite desolate to me when I visited. It was only the second week of January, but the day visitor areas were completely deserted and there were no boats out on the water. Despite being right next to a lake, the heat was sapping, and a cacophony of cicadas throbbed at a constant fever pitch.
The views around the lake's edge were largely obscured by the submerged trees that ring the lake edge, due to the high water levels at the time. Facing away from the water, looking towards the bush, it felt like I could have been lost in a patch of Mallee scrub, deep in the Big or Little Deserts. Swimming in Lake Lonsdale Above: A view of the submerged vegetation at the Sandbar (Order this image)

For swimming, the clarity of the water was markedly poorer than upstream Lake Fyans, with limited ability to see underwater hazards, particularly the many submerged trees. I visited when the lake was at around 80% of capacity, which in my opinion is too high for swimming.
I would suggest that unless you know the area well, it is best to wait until the volume of water in the lake drops to below at least 60-70% of capacity, when the vegetation at the lake edge is more likely to be high and dry, and well out of the way. Walking from beach to beach along the foreshore would also be easier at lower lake levels.

This swimming spot did not make it into my top 50 in Victoria. The main reason being the combination of poor visibility and underwater hazards. If you are looking for better quality swimming holes in western Victoria, grab a copy of the guide to Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria.
Other Information Before You Go:
Location: Sandbar Road, Lake Lonsdale, 16 km west of Stawell and 250 km (approx. 3 hr) drive north-west of the Melbourne CBD.
Latitude:-37.009858 Longitude:142.610153
Getting there: From Melbourne head out along the Western Fwy (A8) to Stawell. Continue on for a further 6 km past Stawell and then head west along Sandbar Road for around 10 km. The access roads to the day visitor areas at the lake are all gravel, but suitable for 2WD vehicles at the time of my visit.

Facilities: At the boat ramp day visitor area: toilets, rubbish bins, boat ramp, car park. At Sandbar: The Adam and Eve toilets plus a car park. At Reppers day visitor area: car park
Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Mild
Water clarity: Cloudy
Under foot: Sand
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Beginners, provided that you are in an area free of submerged vegetation
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: No campfires from December to April inclusive. Trees are not to be cut down (but fallen timber can be used as firewood on-site). No cats. No firearms except during duck season. Vehicles must keep to obvious tracks. No vehicles on the beach or sand dunes except when launching boats. No unregistered motor vehicles including unregistered trail bikes. Dogs permitted but must be kept under control at all times and tethered at night. Water skiing and jet skis permitted. Boats must be launched from designated ramps only. Long-term camping of more than eight continuous weeks must be approved by the Patrol Officer. Portable generators must be within ten metres of the owner's tent and closer to the owner's tent than any other tent. Do not put portable generators in long grass.
Sun shade: Shade available in and out of the water at high water levels. Shade not available in or out of the water at low water levels.
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: The toilets at the boat ramp day visitor area are wheelchair accessible, but accessing the water for swimming is likely to be very difficult for wheelchairs due to the sand and steep bank near the lake edge.
Managing authority: Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water manages the lake and Northern Grampians Shire Council manages the boating.
Nearby attractions: Lake Fyans
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions. Specific to this site, there were warnings on site about the potential for falling limbs from overhanging trees.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the car park at the boat ramp day visitor area. If the map is not zoomed in locally, as can occur with some browsers, simply click or tap on "View Larger Map" below.
View Larger Map
Here's what one former local had to say about Lake Lonsdale:

"Having grown up in Stawell, Lake Lonsdale was our choice for wonderful fun day trips for us kids. Miss those carefree days. Always a lovely spot to visit." - Liz W, Western Australia, 8/10/2022

If you would like to leave a comment about this swimming hole, please fill in the comment box below. I'm particularly interested in your experiences after visiting, and any changes in swimming conditions. If you have swum in Lake Lonsdale when there was less submerged vegetation, I'd really be interested in hearing about it. All fields are required if you would like your comments published on this website.

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