Manly Dam Circuit Walk

Last updated: September 17, 2020

The Manly Dam Walk is a beautiful 7.3 km circuit trail in Manly Dam Reserve that is still a bit of a hidden gem. With plenty of picnic and BBQ areas, and scenic views over Manly Reservoir, this walking track is a great day out for the whole family.

The views are spectacular from both sides of the dam and the walking track overall is well managed. On a regular weekday, there is plenty of parking, either in the streets or in the council car park within the parkland area.

Manly Dam Walk
Distance:7.3km (circuit)
Time:3 hours
Grade:Moderate

How to Get There

In Manly Vale, drive to the end of King Street (off Condamine Street) where you’ll find a small paid parking area (map).

If this car park is full, or you find that it’s too expensive, simply park somewhere along the suburban streets nearby.

Alternatively, you can catch one of the several buses that depart regularly from the city to Manly Vale.

If you’re looking for more of these types of walks, be sure to check out our list of great bushwalks in and around Sydney for some good ideas.

About Manly Dam

Surrounded by 377 hectares of native bushland, Manly Dam Reserve is known as the largest freshwater lake in Sydney.

The lake, also referred to as Manly Reservoir, was created as a result of the damming of Curl Curl Creek (now Manly Creek) with the aim to provide water for the local area.

The Dam itself was constructed in 1892 and had an initial height of 11m. After several increases, the dam wall ultimately reached its current height of 35 meters.

Manly Dam wall
On top of the Manly Dam wall

In the first half of the 19th century, Manly Dam slowly reached its limits of capacity, and pumping from the dam officially stopped in 1933.

The Manly Dam Reserve is now a recreational area with lots of activities to do in and around the lake, such as hiking, mountain biking, swimming, picnicking, and even water skiing.

It’s also home to a diverse range of plant communities, with a great variety of native wildlife that really thrives there.

Swimming in Manly Dam Reserve

Before or after you do the walk, you can spend some time taking in the manicured but picturesque scenery of the dam and the reservoir.

There are various barbecues, playgrounds, and toilet blocks in the area, should you prefer to turn your walk into a picnic session.

Manly Dam Circuit Walk

The official 7.3 km long Manly Dam circuit walk starts at the car park at the end of King Street.

You can either follow the shoreline of the lake that will ultimately connect with the circuit trail, or you can choose to follow the Nature Trail and Wildflower Walk.

These two trails form part of the Manly Dam circuit walk which is marked as Park Circuit Track.

Nature Trail and Wildflower Walk

You can find the start of the Nature Trail right opposite the War Memorial at the car park. From there you follow the signs for the Nature Trail, McComb Hill Track and Wildflower Walk.

Manly-Warringah War Memorial
Manly-Warringah War Memorial

At the first intersection, not too far from the start of the track, you need to turn right which follows the Nature Trail and Wildflower Walk.

This first section of the Manly Dam walk is actually the hardest, with some very steep parts to conquer.

Nature Trail and Wildflower Walk signpost

Take your time to read the interesting information boards along the way about the local flora and fauna and Aboriginal heritage.

The Wetlands

As you continue your walk around the lake, you will reach the wetlands that were artificially created by the damming of the creek. Now they form part of a very important local ecosystem.

Enjoy the little waterfalls and footbridges as you make your way through this beautiful area. You may even spot some of the local residents, such as black swans, swamphens, and freshwater fish.

The Wetlands at Manly Dam
The Wetlands

At the northernmost point of the circuit track, the trail crosses Manly Creek and from there it continues southbound towards the dam.

This turning point is where the circuit walk merges with the MTB trail. Look out for an intersection with bright orange signs.

If you miss the turning point and keep going straight, you will be doing the Curl Curl Track, which doesn’t form part of the circuit track. Be mindful that it’s very easy to miss that turning point, as the signage isn’t very good.

The second part of the circuit track is not very hard, and offers a few good opportunities to rest up along the shores of the lake.

Manly Dam Wall

Towards the end of the walk, you will get the chance to walk on top of the Manly Dam wall, which is a great way to end this circuit trail.

Manly Dam
Manly Dam

The views over Manly Reservoir from the top of the Dam wall are very pretty, so take your time to fully enjoy this last section of the hike.

The circuit track officially ends right at the other side of the Manly Dam wall.

Summary

The Manly Dam walk is a great day out for the whole family. The walk itself is relatively long but not too hard.

If you don’t feel like doing the whole circuit, you could also decide to stay close to the lake and have a picnic, go for a swim, or even do a bit of water skiing.

The Manly Dam Reserve is also very popular with mountain bikers, and for good reason. Hikers and mountain bikers follow separate paths for most of the circuit but there are some stretches that are shared, so please be careful.

If you enjoyed the Manly Dam walk, chances are you will also appreciate the circuit walk in Lane Cove National Park. This 10km bushwalking adventure along the shores of the Lane Cove River offers some amazing scenery. Or otherwise, the circuit walk in Lake Parramatta Reserve in Sydney’s west is also a great bushwalk.

Map and Route of the Manly Dam Walk

Starts your walk at the car park at the end of King Street and walk away from the dam wall. Continue walking past a few picnic areas and a toilet block until you end up at start of the circuit trail.

Although the trail is relatively easy to follow, with a healthy sense of direction, there are some parts where proper signage is lacking. So before you go out to do this hike, it’s recommended to familiarise yourself with the trail to avoid getting lost.

Below is a screen shot of the complete track, taken from the map on the Northern Beaches council website. Here is a link to that map.

Map and route of the Manly Dam Walk

 

Google Map:

Manly Dam circuit walk

 
 
9 Comments
  1. Just completed the walk around Manly Dam, minus the wildflower track. Brilliant walk. However it is NOT level and requires some fitness. There are quite a few long inclines and lots of places where one is stepping up or down rocks. The creek crossing at the turn round point furthest from the dam wall is a bit tricky and would not be possible with more rain than we had last night (9mm). I would grade the track as medium. Many of our group really enjoyed it, but it was not suitable for a few with knee/foot problems.

    Also on the north side of the dam, towards the end, more signs are needed as there are 2 ways to go. We made it ok, but it would have been nice to have a sign. Highly recommend this walk.

    Reply
  2. Agree with the above comments and believe the track should be much better sign posted. The main track turns into the Curl Curl track which leads to a long and boring service road for the water pipeline. There also seems to be no vantage point to see over the dam from an elevated position. In any case quite enjoyable walking experience overall.

    Reply
  3. Really enjoyed this walk.
    Hot tip for anyone who drives. The Council has massively increased the parking fees at Manly Dam: $35 per day or ~$8 per hour off peak season (I think 1 April to 1 Oct) and holy moley $40 (!!!) per day and ~$9 per hour during peak season.
    Really sad for families looking for a low cost day out.
    Except that everyone else will start doing this too, it’s currently free to park in the streets just before the dam parking and walk in (they’ll probably make that time-limited and/or metered too before you know it).

    Reply
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