Zoo Lake, located on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and West World Street in Johannesburg, almost directly across from the Johannesburg Zoo, is often bustling with dog walkers, runners, skateboarders, and children.
Only 15 minutes from Johannesburg’s city centre, Zoo Lake is a big park centred on a manmade lake that provides for ideal weekend strolls.
Zoo Lake is one of Johannesburg most popular outdoor destinations, as well as one of the safest, especially on weekends. The walk around the lake takes about one to two hours, depending on the route you select. You may easily make a morning of it by adding a row on the lake or a slow supper at the local restaurant. The ‘artists under the sun’ art fair draws large numbers on the first weekend of each month.
The history of Zoo Lake is probably the most fascinating feature of it. The Zoo and Zoo Lake were given to Johannesburg by the city’s founders on the condition that they remain open to people of all races. Despite the fact that it was before apartheid, blacks and whites in South Africa were living separate lives as early as 1904.
Since its inception as a park, Zoo Lake has been used for picnics, horseback riding, shooting, and housing wild animals. It was formerly part of the Sachsenwald plantation, which is densely forested. The man-made lake was initially considered in 1906, and the big island in its centre now serves as a breeding place for a variety of species.
Zoo Lake has a long history dating back to 1891, when banking and mining mogul Herman Eckstein established a lumber plantation in the area, planting more than 3-million trees.
The business partners of the then-deceased Eckstein gave the Johannesburg Town Council about 200 acres of land in 1908 to create the Johannesburg Zoo and Herman Eckstein Park. Zoo Lake, together with the zoo and the South African National Museum of Military History, is now part of this park.
In 1937, a central fountain was built to the park, which was created around an artificial lake. The Coronation Fountain, a Johannesburg landmark, was created to honour King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and is now known as the Coronation Fountain.
What You Need To Know
Weekends and public holidays are particularly popular at Zoo Lake, with many Joburgers (and visitors) electing to spend the day with friends and family on the park’s sweeping green lawns or taking advantage of its varied athletic opportunities. There are public tennis and basketball courts on the grounds, as well as the Zoo Lake swimming pool, sports club, and bowling green. Small rowing boats can be rented right on the water’s edge, and an outdoor gym is available.
If you’re hungry, the sports club serves delectable and reasonably priced pub fare. However, for something a little more upscale, go over to Moyo, the African-themed restaurant on the Zoo Lake grounds, where you can dine on traditional African dishes while taking in the beauty of the lake.
Zoo Lake holds a number of events throughout the year, with two of the most popular being Jazz on the Lake in September and Carols by Candlelight in December.
Things To See And Do At Zoo Lake
- Go for a stroll around the lake, have a picnic, feed the ducks, or go for a ride on one of the brightly coloured paddle boats available for hire
- Try an authentic African lunch at the family-friendly Moyo restaurant – the menu includes classic oxtail stew, Klein Karoo venison potjie, crocodile tail pie, Nigerian beef kebabs, an Egyptian vegetarian platter and much more
- Drink a cocktail on Moyo’s deck overlooking the lake
- Buy a South African souvenir
What To Pack
If you plan to be stationary, bring picnic supplies; if you plan to be active, bring walking shoes; and binoculars if you want to see the birds grooming themselves on the lake’s islands, bring them.
Best Time To Visit
Zoo Lake is open all year, and due to Johannesburg’s mild climate, an afternoon stroll is possible even in the winter. However, the park is most beautiful in the summer, between November and March, when it is at its most lush.
Daily from 6am-6pm
How To Get There
Zoo Lake is located in Parkview, Johannesburg, on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Westwold Way. Taxis and buses frequent the area, and there are several parking lots along Jan Smuts and Westwold Way, as well as Lower Park Drive, which runs beside the park.
Zoo Lake Johannesburg Entrance Fee
There’s no entrance fee, but take cash along if you want to rent a paddle boat.
Tell: +27 (0)11 646 1131