Manly Dam Picnics and Walks


Northern Beaches Discovery blogger Diane is showing us around Manly Dam today. Take it away Diane….


Manly Dam is a really terrific place for getting active with the family, or just chilling out and unwinding.

Manly Dam | outdoor playground

Manly Dam is essentially a freshwater lake surrounded by bush. Once the water reservoir for Manly, it has been a recreational park since WWII.

Boasting four picnic grounds with large shady trees, it is a gorgeous place for a picnic, walk and a swim and a much better alternative to the beach on scorching hot days. We come here all the time in summer to avoid getting sunburnt.

For us a trip to Manly Dam means we can hang out under the towering trees all day instead of heading straight home after a swim.


To get to Manly Dam

Drive down King Street in Manly Vale until you reach the end. At the entrance are a small carpark and the start of Picnic Area 1.

Drive a little further for the larger carpark. If you continue driving along the road you’ll arrive at Picnic Areas 3 and 4.

Because No.1 is near the entrance to the park and has lawns and a pretty decent playground, it is the most popular of all the picnic grounds for families with young children. Kids can wade in the shallows, and there are loads of picnic tables and electric barbecues.


A couple of tables have shelters which you can book through the Northern Beaches Council, but unless you absolutely need a cover, the cost and hassle isn’t worth it.

Bushwalking tracks are also aplenty at Manly Dam and are easily accessible from the picnic grounds, so you can give your littlies a taste of the bush without leaving Sydney.

Several walks start near the entrance and take between ten and 40 minutes.

(There is a shorter 20-minute walk from Allambie Heights which is great for kids too, the Heath Track.)


An activity kids will find more fun however is a walk across the dam wall. It provides stunning views across the water and kids love it because you’re up so high – especially when you look over the other side of the dam wall.

At the end of the wall you can access the Circuit Track to Allambie Heights. This section of track is my favourite bushwalk from No.1.

You’ll walk past loads of wildflowers in a variety of shapes and colours, grass trees and native bee hives attached to the trunk of gum trees (native bees don’t sting, if you’re wondering).

Point them out to your kids to make the walk fun and interesting. If you don’t make too much noise, you might even see some pretty birds.

Where the path is not very well defined, arrows on rocks point you in the right direction. We usually finish our walk at the end of the boardwalk, at the water’s edge (about 15 minutes’ walk).

Return to No.1 by heading back the way you came or go up the fire trail to Nyrang Road in Allambie and walk back via the street.

If your kids are going to swim with their heads under the water, I recommend heading to Picnic Area No. 4, a family-friendly picnic ground in a bushland setting with fewer ducks and geese (which equals less bird poo).


The home of hens and dragons

Picnic Area 4 is in a bushland setting and much smaller than Area 1. However it is a very pretty spot, great for swimming and popular with young families.

There are several picnic tables and wood-fired barbecues. Wood is supplied, so pack some sausages for an old-style barbie!

Masses of water lilies grow in the water at an inlet off to the side. In spring they are the breeding ground for young swamp hens. We love watching the adult birds walk on the lily pads to feed their young .

On land, just across from the water lilies, you usually find lots of water dragons sunbaking on the rocks. They dive in the water pretty quickly if you approach them, so there is no danger of being consumed by fire.

The Circuit Track swings past this picnic area which makes the transition to bushwalking easy.

The track is a bit tricky at the start as you need to jump over a shallow stream to the rock on the other side, but we’ve managed it with young kids and often see older people striding across.

This walk starts with a small waterfall and lots of delicate ferns, then changes into dry forest. This track circumnavigates the lake (and will take several hours), so just walk as far as you like and turn back. We tend to walk about 20 minutes until we reach a billabong and stop for a play, then head back for a swim.


Manly Dam – Details

Toilets/Baby change:   Toilets at Picnic Areas 1, 3 and 4.

Nearest takeaway coffee: No. There are a few takeaways along busy Condamine Street, Manly Vale, however you’re better off bringing a picnic/BBQ and a flask if you absolutely need a coffee.

Barbecues: Yes, electric at No. 1, wood-fired at 2,3,4. Wood provided.

Shade: Lots of shady trees

Playground: Yes, Picnic Area 1

Mums’ report: There are lots of birds here who will quite happily eat your lunch if left unattended. In fact, I’ve seen birds unzip bags and help themselves to someone’s food, so bring food in containers.

Mums’ report #2: The water appears shallow but can get deep quickly in some areas, so keep your children at arm’s length if they aren’t strong swimmers.

Enjoy your time at Manly Dam.


Map of bushwalking tracks around Manly Dam.

Click here for more info on bush walking tracks around Manly dam.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to discovery more fun activities on the northern beaches that are free, visit Diane’s blog at

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  1. says: Sue K

    Wakehurst Golf Club abutts Manly Dam. Great for coffee and lunch. Eat in on verandah overlooking course and dam. Or take away. It’s beaut.

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