Where to begin? If you want to do more than just put on your walking boots and stride out, here are a few of the nearest options to start off your exploration of the area:
Hawkshead - which describes itself as 'the prettiest village in the lake district'. There's a Coop, a Post Office, a very good deli, an ice cream parlour and several pubs. Best avoided at peak tourist times as it gets very busy with people wandering around mindlessly. Parking is expensive but the best way to get there is by walking along the footpath which begins down the side of the Outgate Inn. It's a bit less than 1.5 miles.
Dove Cottage - where Wordsworth lived before he became rich and famous. The best of the Wordsworth attractions.
Wray Castle - a mock-Gothic castle in a fabulous setting on the shore of Windermere, recently acquired by the National Trust, restored and opened to the public. Within easy walking distance and a lovely walk at that: see the first walk on the 'Walks' page.
Windermere Ferry, if you just want a shortcut across Lake Windermere to Bowness on Windermere. The ferry operates all year, with services every 20 minutes from early morning to mid-evening. Single fares are currently 50p for pedestrians and £4.40 for cars. It's a good idea to check their Twitter feed on a windy day to make sure the ferry is running.
What about a bit of sailing? Low Wood Bay Watersports Centre just south of Ambleside has a wide range of craft - power, sale, canoes - and offers tuition. It also offers fishing facilities.