If you are a visitor to Whanganui, or merely a local in need of a nature fix, Virginia Lake is a must. The lake is most certainly my happy place; my favourite bit of my home town since childhood. On the rare occasion I get some time to myself, a walk around the lake does wonders for my soul. It’s also my go-to place when I have scratchy kids as the lake never fails to cast its spell of fun and excitement. And it’s free, of course.
Situated in St John’s Hill on Great North Road, Virginia Lake is a 5 minute drive from the centre of town. Popular with locals, it’s the number one place in town to have wedding photos taken. For good reason. It’s blimmin’ beautiful! There are three walking paths around the lake, with the most popular path being the lakeside path which meanders all around the lake and would take most adults 25 minutes. If you’re with kids, expect to take much, much longer.
The water fowl alone will amuse most kids. There are ducks, geese, swans, pukeko and more. The birds are used to being fed bread by their daily visitors so if you take the lower path PREPARE TO BE BESIEGED BY BIRDS. Sausage loves it until they get too close for comfort and scolds them vociferously. The birds are a great part of the lake experience, but I find if I want a nice, peaceful, meditative sort of stroll, then I take the middle path.
There’s plenty at Virginia Lake to keep everyone happy. Besides the beauty of the lake itself, there is a bird aviary, a child-friendly cafe, free gas barbeques, a fountain which lights up like fireworks at night, an amazing Winter Garden complete with a wishing well and a tunnel(!), a band rotunda, a small pier, and a toddler playground.
I love visiting the lake at any time of year as the greenery never fails to delight me. Sausage is flower-mad and we spent a good hour at the lake just looking at all the different flowers on show, and touching tree bark. Because tree bark is just begging to be touched.
Basically, Virginia Lake is awesome. Go there.