Manly Dam Circuit Hike With Kids!

I didn’t know Manly Dam existed until I started hiking a few years ago and spotted it on a map. It’s not widely advertised outside of the local council websites. Manly beach is a favourite amongst tourists but I reckon most Sydneysiders don’t know about the dam. A dam? On the beach? How does that work? 🙂 So when I had a free day with the kids it had to become our next adventure! (Picture gallery at the end of the post)

The dam is well inland, roughly north west of Manly beach. It’s presence had the effect of preserving a huge pocket of bush land on which there are walking tracks, mountain biking tracks, many birds and other wildlife, and some remnants of indigenous history. Folks could kayak, fish and swim in the water (though the lake was closed for some reason on this day) and there was a playground with many nearby tables that could be booked out for parties. It was Clearly a favourite spot for the locals and their kids.

My kids wanted to shoot a video for their YouTube channel “Yeah! Let’s Go !” So we shot an introduction and headed off. It would be a three hour walk and we had been warned of mud and by crikey there was a lot of it!

We walked anticlockwise, starting with a stroll across the dam wall itself. It was cool seeing the water on one side and nothing on the other. We climbed some steps at the end of the wall and entered the bush. We were surrounded by gorgeous rocks walls and lush vegetation. The trail descended and we started splashing through a few puddles. We tried to avoid them as it was quite muddy but my daughter decided to test it and ended up ankle deep in the mud.

Trying to avoid the mud wasn’t the wisest idea as my son slipped hard covering his right side in mud. There was a small bench thankfully ahead so we sat and cleaned him up a bit and gave him a chance to recover. My daughter just walked into the dam water and washed her shoes off while wearing them. I think she was enjoying getting a bit messy!

There were some duckboards at places along the track to get us up out of the mud but the dam waters we so high from the recent rains that on occasion they were underwater slightly and we just splashed on through.

We soon realised we’d picked up our first leech and of course it was on my son who was already not really into the walk after his fall. I had salt with me so it came off pretty quickly.

There was another flooded section and we took a side trail but my daughter slipped and landed poorly on her side. She would have a bruise from that I think but she somehow managed to pick herself up, gather herself and carry on. we stopped trying to avoid most of the puddles and just stomped on through. Dancing around them was too painful!

Thankfully the trail rose up out of the wet section and we joined a mountain biking trail which made for easier walking. Strangely enough we picked up more leeches here in this dryer section and I had to remove one from each of us. Maybe they had grabbed onto us back down in the mud? I tried spraying Bushmans repellent on them as I had heard it would work and it did! So that made it easier, a quick spray then pull them off with a wet wipe.

We reached a creek crossing and the kids crossed okay but it was now my turn to slip! I landed hard on my hip and my water bottle slipped out of my backpack and was taken by the water. The kids were good here, my son grabbed the bottle from a little pool where it got stuck and they both guided me across where there was no slippy algae. I took a moment to gather myself and we carried on. We had all slipped now! My side has a nice painful bump on it as I write this. The kids are not mentioning their bumps so hopefully they are better now.

The creek that we crossed got louder as it cascaded down toward the dam. It turned into a lovely waterfall with a pool in front of it that might be inviting in the summer if it is free of leeches!

The creek widened and soon we were walking alongside the dam waters again. We spotted a water dragon, our first actual non-wormlike animal! It had become much sunnier and the greenery surrounding us popped! It was very pretty especially with the wildflowers starting to appear. We found another little waterfall and knowing we were close to the end the kids did their wrap up for their YouTube video. I don’t mind doing these videos with them as it motivates them to get out and also think about how to get the best out of things. My son admitted he didn’t have the best time but liked telling that to the camera. He’s got a story to tell now! If only it wasn’t so leechy and painful.

It was actually another twenty minutes until we reached the playground and we decided to stop and have a snack at one of the many picnic tables that had started to appear. The leeches came for us again so we left that spot pretty quickly!

Soon we were back at the car and took our shoes off to do a full leech check. All was well! In all it took 3hrs 40min and covered 7.5km. So we were doing around 2km per hour which is quite slow but that mud was just everywhere. It was a fun walk but one definitely need to be mentally prepared for the mud and water to get the most out of it.

The day after would definitely be a rest day!


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