Spend a day at Manly Dam
Known to most people as Manly Dam, but officially called Manly Warringah War Memorial Park, Manly Dam is a remnant of Sydney’s past when the dam used to supply water to Manly (and surrounding suburbs). The dam is actually located in Manly Vale and dams Curl Curl Creek. It is now Sydney’s largest freshwater lake with the total dam area spanning 377 hectares.
Built in 1892, today the dam is used solely for recreational purposes – you can go swimming, bushwalking, bike riding, water skiing or just enjoy the playground and a picnic.
Perfect Summer or Winter
When the sun is baking and the beach is calling but you can’t bear the thought of the heat, then Manly Dam is an excellent choice for a day out. It is really beautiful, shady and peaceful here. I love it because it not only offers swimming but heaps of other activities too.
Bit if the winter months are upon us then don’t despair. Manly Dam is one of the few Sydney parks that allows open fires. You will find allocated wood fired BBQs here and a whole bunch of wood to use. How fab is that! So if it isn’t a fire ban bring along some sausages and marshmallows and enjoy the best of winter.
Don’t forget the marshmallows
Lots of picnic spots
The main activity at Manly Dam is picnicking. It is really popular here because there are lots of pockets of picnic spots, so you can be secluded or in the main picnic area.
The area around the dam is divided into four main picnic areas. The picnic areas are all grassy, shady and comfortable.
The main picnic area is picnic area 1. It contains a playground, toilets, tables, electric BBQ’s and it is also near both the dam wall and the swimming area.
The other three picnic areas all contain various amenities, but all have great views of the dam. Note that picnic area 2 does not have access to the swimming area. Check out the Manly Dam map to select your perfect spot!
Great views of the dam from picnic area 1
Walk the Wall
Walking across the dam wall is a must do when at Manly Dam.
This is an easy walk with great views, however there are some steps up to the wall so it is not suitable for prams or wheelchairs. At the end of the dam wall is a track that forms part of the 7km Manly Dam Heritage Walk which is a fabulous walk if you are feeling energetic.
Take a walk across the dam wall
Go for a bushwalk
Another great activity in the park is bushwalking. In total there are seven tracks available ranging from 0.35km to 7.3km. The dam bushwalking map is useful for helping you pick which walk to take. There is also an interpretive map located near the front entrance.
We chose to do the nature trail because it is pretty easy and with kids in tow it was just right.
You may wish to enjoy the Aboriginal Self Guided Walk. Along this walk you will see Aboriginal artifacts including rock engravings and paintings as well as axe grinding grooves. The walk is part of the Manly Dam Heritage Walk and you can choose to make it as long or short as you wish. Check out the walk map for full details.
The nature trail
Pack the swimmmers
Manly dam is an excellent swimming spot – it has a netted swimming area and a sandy beach so is great for both kids and those who like to do some laps. Whilst the water appears calm and shallow it is actually deep and can drop off – keep a close eye on kids at all times.
Perfect swimming spot
Enjoy the sun set
Finish your day with some time by the water and watching the sun set over the dam. Perfect.
This is a busy place in summertime. If you are heading here for a special birthday or function you may wish to reserve a table (additional costs involved).
Notes on Dogs
Dogs are not permitted in the picnic areas, the internal road, carparks, or the water at any time. Dogs, on a leash, may be walked on the bushland tracks which can be accessed at various external (outside of the picnic area) entry points.
Six reasons to visit Manly Dam
- Spend some quality time with your dog (on leash only and in designated sections)
- Enjoy a fire at one of the wood BBQ’s (don’t forget the marshmallows)
- Marvel at the view from the dam wall
- Go for a walk along one of the walking trails (both long and short walks available)
- Go for a dip in the summer months (or winter if you dare!). Or go for a water ski if you can.
- Enjoy the Manly Dam MTB (mountain bike track) – make sure you check out access points first.
- Entry: Free
- Toilets: Yes (picnic area 1 and 4)
- Wheelchair friendly: Yes (not the dam wall and some picnic spots have steps leading down to them)
- Free carparking: NO! I was actually a bit taken aback by the parking fees ($7.00 per hour in winter or $8.00 per hour in summer, there are also daily rates); however parking is available in the surrounding streets and you can walk in. Or come in, drop off your fellow picnickers and then park in the surrounding streets.
- Free BBQ facilities: Yes, including wood fire BBQ’s
- Time to spend here: All day
- Food available: No
- Address: 112 King Street, Manly Vale NSW 2093
- Further details: https://www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/parks-and-trails/parks/manly-dam
More free things to do
After exploring the dam why not:
- Head down to Manly for lots more fun things to do