Last updated: April 13, 2021
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. There is plenty of parking in the nearby suburban streets, or otherwise in the small council car park within the parkland area.
|Manly Dam Walk|
How to Get There
In Manly Vale, drive to the end of King Street (off Condamine Street) where you will see 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.
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.
In the first half of the 20th century, Manly Dam slowly reached its limits of capacity, and pumping from the dam officially stopped in the 1930’s.
The Manly Dam Reserve is now a recreational area with lots of activities to do in and around the lake, such as mountain biking, hiking, 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.
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 Track Notes
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.
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.
Take your time to read the interesting information boards along the way about the local flora and fauna and Aboriginal heritage.
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.
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.
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.
Map and Route
It’s best to start this walk at the car park at the end of King Street. Walk away from the dam wall, and continue past a few picnic areas and a toilet block until you arrive at the start of the circuit trail.
Although the trail overall is fairly easy to follow, there are some parts where proper signage is lacking. Before you go out to do this hike, it’s recommended to familiarise yourself with the trail to avoid going the wrong way at one of the intersections.
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.
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 can also simply stay closer to the lake and have a picnic, go for a swim, or perhaps 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 when hiking.