Manly Dam is one of the northern beaches’ hidden gems. The lush heritage-listed reservoir, which was phased out as a water source from 1929, is filled with native plants and wildlife and is popular with picnickers, boaters and bushwalkers.

In February this year, a section of the boardwalk that makes up part of the 7.5-kilometre track encircling the reservoir was damaged by harsh storms, which also took out the local electricity network and caused chaos across Sydney.

“It was a fairly decent storm” Northern Beaches Council mayor Michael Regan tells Broadsheet. “It washed parts of [the boardwalk] away and a whole bunch of wooden panels broke up. Rising floodwaters and high winds took their toll.”

The council soon got to work on a replacement boardwalk. The Manly Dam walk is popular year-round, but while the city was shut down due to the virus, lower foot traffic gave the council an opportunity to replace the boardwalk sooner than anticipated.

“It gave us an opportunity to get in and get it done more quickly while a lot of people were under lockdown,” Regan says. “And it kept people employed, too.”

The new 133-metre-long section is made from sustainable materials, including sandstone, treated hardwood and fibre-reinforced plastic. Unlike the previous boardwalk, this new one is raised – so you’ll be able to get a great vantage point to view the swampy marshland surrounds, and all of the critters that live there.

The wattles in the park are just starting to flower, and the banksias and boronias aren’t too far behind. It’s the perfect time to head over and spend an afternoon walking the complete Manly Dam trail, according to Regan.

“The bush tracks around [the dam] are fantastic. There are great views on all sides, and the new boardwalk’s a part of it … it’s one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets.”

If you’ve got a bit of time to spare, the full circuit will take you around three hours to complete, with waterfalls, rockpools and plenty of native birds to spot along the way. A 1.5-kilometre nature trail shows off the area’s sandstone cliffs, and you might spot an echidna on the two-kilometre Curl Curl track.