Mother of two young children looking to make them smile in the city of Sydney without breaking the bank. Visit my blog at www.mysplendidfamily.com to see what else I get up to.
Published January 31st 2017
Visit Sydney's closest dam and take a sandwich too
As large hunks of concrete go, a dam wall is one of the more exciting ones you will ever see. They never fail to impress me - the picturesque lakes they create, the dizzying views from on top of their walls, and the battle of man against mother nature. Woronora Dam isn't the biggest or most spectacular dam you could visit, but it will have you getting your camera out, and at a 56km drive south from Sydney CBD, the Woronora Dam is the closest in-service dam to Sydney.
The Woronora Dam was finished in 1941 after a long construction period that was lengthened due to the depression. It is 66m tall and holds back a lake 4 square kilometres in size. It was built to service the then growing Sutherland Shire region. Today it services an area spanning from parts of the Sutherland Shire through to Wollongong. Prospect Reservoir is technically closer to Sydney CBD, but is only used in times of need due to drought or maintenance of other dams.
The main attraction at Woronora Dam is of course the dam itself - you can walk along the top of the 390 metre wall. There is a concrete "fence" on either side of the walk and indents in the wall every now and again to allow you to get closer to the edge for those dizzying over the dam wall peeks. This setup makes it very safe for little ones as there are no holes they could get through. It also means you will need to lift them up in order for them to see anything, but chances are you will have the dam wall walk almost to yourselves and you can give the kids some freedom to roam which will probably make up for them not being able to see very well. The walk is 100% pram and wheelchair friendly.
The dramatic emergency spillway cutting is a sight worth seeing
In order to get to the dam walk, you will pass over what some might even consider the most spectacular part of a visit to Woronora Dam - the dramatic emergency cutting into the earth to allow water to flow downstream if the dam fills up. Two bridges cross over it and you can either walk or drive over them. You can also see a glimpse of the dam and it's emergency zigzag or "serpentine" spillway, where the water overflows from the dam, from the bridges.
One of the shelter sheds at Woronora Dam for your picnic or barbeque
After you have taken in the sights, you can enjoy a BBQ or picnic in the grounds. Choose from a rug under a shady tree, a picnic table, or a shelter shed. With a bit of luck, you might even get a view of the dam from your chosen spot. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the picnic area is looked after. There are modern shelter sheds (with electric barbeques) and toilet blocks. The grass and garden beds are well maintained.
Woronora Dam is perhaps not as welcoming as it could be. There is no visitor centre like the bigger Warragamba Dam. You feel like you are stumbling around trying to work out where to go and what you can see while you are there. We didn't see any maps and I was a bit disappointed to find a whole lot more information online when I came to write this article - it would have been much more useful to have at the dam. Without guidance, we only ventured into the lower picnic area and so missed the children's playgrounds and historic photos and model of the dam in the large picnic shelter in the upper picnic grounds. My advice would be to look at the map on the Woronora Dam website before you go. There are also remnants of old water delivery technology scattered around the site as well as evidence of construction and the township that existed during construction, but unfortunately neither the map or the website give a comprehensive list of what you can find. How to get there
Don't just jump in your car and pop "Woronora Dam" into your favourite electronic navigation tool. That's what we did and Google Maps tried to take us down two different fenced-off dirt tracks. Instead put "Woronora Dam Road" in as it is the name of the bitumen road that takes you to the dam. Assuming you are coming down the Princess Highway, the other trick is to watch out for the split of the Princess Highway (A1) and the Princess Motorway (M1) shortly after Waterfall (look out for Waterfall station). There is very little warning and you will need to veer to the right to continue on the old highway, not the new motorway. Veer correctly and you will soon see a sign to the dam at the Woronora Dam Road turnoff.
The dam is open from 10am - 5pm with extended hours until 7pm on weekends and public holidays during daylight savings. There is no shade on top of the dam wall so you want to time your trip carefully during Summer. We arrived shortly after 10am on a sunny day in early January and were glad we had not arrived later. If you wanted to include a bbq or picnic lunch in your visit, it would be best to wait for a day that wasn't too hot. Alternatively, make use of the extended daylight savings hours on the weekend and have dinner there instead.
Definitely add Woronora Dam to your Sydney weekend bucket list. Just do your homework before you jump in your car to make sure you make the most of your visit.