Lake Lyell and Lyell Dam – Lithgow, Australia

 Lake  Lyell Bridge

Summers in Australia can be brutal.

In 2013 and 2014, temperatures soared close to 50 degrees Celcius/120 degrees Farenheit. Meanwhile in Canada and America, we were clutched by the icy fingers  of the polar vortex.

The Nomads used to live on the beaches in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with North Nomad living right on Australia’s most famous beach. In the apex of Summer, these beaches would be so packed in the water that you couldn’t swim properly.

I am not as patient as North Nomad.

Lake   Lyell  Recreation  Park

On days where “my” beaches (Bronte, Clovelly and Gordons Bay) were filled with bodies, I’d pack up and drive 2+ hours to lakes, rivers and pools in the Blue Mountains far west of where we lived.

On our most recent trip to Australia, I took North Nomad to Lake Lyall – one of my places I go to escape the crowded beaches in Sydney.  It’s a recreation park in Lithgow, 10 minutes’ drive from Lithgow town centre. That drive quickly takes you into serene bush and countryside, with views of the glittering lake.

Lake Lyell is part of the Lake Lyall Recreation Park in Lithgow.

Lake Lyell Recreation Park

While I go there during the day for a swim, swimming isn’t even the main use for this beautiful escape from Summer in Sydney.

It’s a pretty and spacious camping spot, with both powered and unpowered sites, and plenty of room between camping lots. It also has hot showers (though I’ve heard they are coin-operated!), picnic tables, barbecues  and a kids’ playground. It’s also popular for fishing , boating, and waterskiing and wakeboarding. And it has a number of walking tracks.

If, like me, you’re just looking for a place to swim, you can go through the main entrance. You just need to put a few gold coins (the exact cost escapes me, but it wasn’t much) at the boom gate.

 Lyell  Dam

But you’re guaranteed a quiet spot if you avoid the main entrance and use the second entrance to the camping area.  On the Nomads’ most recent visit, the second entrance was gated off, and it would have been a long, hot hike around for a quiet swim. Instead we stuck it out with the families, and realised that it was really only warm enough in the lake for the very small children to attempt a swim. In fairness, Lithgow isn’t the warmest place to swim in early Spring in Australia.

After our attempted swim, we checked out Lyelll Dam. There are good views of it from the viewing platform on the bridge that you take to get to the recreation park. There’s also easy parking on the bridge as you drive in. If you get nervous doing U-turns on these roads, it’s easier to park and view the dam before you visit the lake.

 Lyell  Dam

The dam was originally constructed in 1983, and renovated in 2002 after a couple of serious ruptures concerned the owner. The renovated dam is made of six fusegates that weigh approximately 120 tons each.  It supplies cooling water to Wallerawang and Mount Piper stations, and is connected to Wallerawang Lake by pipeline.

Do you have any secret spots off the beaten track? Or any dams you’ve visited?

Location: Magpie Hollow Road, Lithgow, NSW 2790 Australia

Getting there: If you’re coming from Sydney’s CBD, take Parramatta Road, use the M4, continue up the Great Western Highway and follow the signs up past Katoomba down into Lithgow. Turn left onto Magpie Hollow Road. 

Contact details: Phone: (02) 6355 6347

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