Campfires are my favourite things. I have strong memories from childhood on the North Coast of visiting public parks with wood-fire BBQs that previous picnickers had left with burning embers and I would make it my mission to reignite the fire with my gathered dry leaves and sticks. But, there aren’t many places where you can have a campfire in Sydney without driving for miles out of the city… or so I thought.
When talking with a friend about our love of campfires, he suggested a visit to Manly Dam. He said it is just like the experience of camping but in a day-trip. It is great for picnics by the water and is renowned for mountain biking and water skiing, but best of all, from my perspective at least, there are wood fire BBQs.
Manly Dam has four picnic areas in a variety of settings- grassy, lakeside or bushland. The picnic tables are bookable (for a fee) but on our visit on a cold Autumn Day, there were plenty of spare tables and BBQs to choose from. We found a great table nestled among the bush with views of the dam and most importantly, our own personal wood fire BBQ. There are piles of firewood available on-site, however we found it more fun to forage for our own firewood from the fallen branches, sticks and dry leaves scattered across the ground. The girls loved getting inn on the action and would return from their foraging with arms full of sticks and their faces full of pride for their contribution.
We carefully arranged our kindling and branches in the fire pit and lit it. Before long we were warming ourselves by the heat of our healthy campfire and watching the flames as they danced. It didn’t take long for the packet of marshmallows to be opened and each of us to select the perfect stick with which to toast them. It was great fun toasting the marshmallows and gobbling up their warm, gooey deliciousness.
With a Billy on the fire boiling water for hot cups of tea, we opened up our picnic basket and enjoyed our lunch surrounded in swirls of campfire smoke and the sounds of the bush around us.
Whilst I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon perched in a camp-chair in front of the fire sipping on hot tea, the girls were getting antsy so we packed up our picnic and set off on one of the many bush tracks available at Manly Dam. We chose the Wildflower Walk, an easy 350 metre walk through thick woodland dotted with a range of native wildflowers. My girls love flowers so they were excited to discover new varieties along the walk. We came across small waterfalls and a bridge across a small creek and then we walked along beside the beautiful Dam itself.
Manly Dam is a gorgeous spot, a great location to bring a group of friends or family with plenty to do, lots of space for kids to run about, great child-friendly bush walks and best of all, wood-fired BBQs.