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Happy Indeed: Top Activities in Happy Valley Reservoir

Happy Indeed: Top Activities in Happy Valley Reservoir

Looking for some outdoor fun and adventure at Adelaide’s Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve? You’re in for a reservoir escapade highlighting Mother Nature’s wonders!

From birdwatching on the shoreline to picnicking in grassy BBQ spots and wildlife spotting, this reservoir is a refreshing break from the city’s bustle.

If your adventurous spirit is getting riled up, plan by diving into our article below!

Things to Know

Address: Happy Valley SA 5159
Contact Details: (08) 7424 1671
Operating Hours: Daily 7:30 am to 8 pm
Travel Time from the CBD: Around 37 mins
Main Rules:

  • No dogs are allowed in the reserve.
  • Horseback riding is prohibited in the reserve.
  • Swimming isn’t allowed in the reserve.
  • Camping isn’t permitted in the reserve.
  • The reserve is closed when algal treatment takes place.


Top Activities at Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve in Adelaide

Hiking at Happy Valley Reservoir’s Woodland Loop

Hiking at Happy Valley Reservoir’s Woodland Loop

Distance: 4 km
Duration: 1 hr
Difficulty: Slightly challenging 

The Woodland Loop gave our team just enough exercise to justify indulging in a post-hike snack. It’s rated as a Grade 3 trail, meaning you’ll encounter some short steep hills—nothing too extreme, but a little bushwalking experience won’t hurt.

Planning to hit the trail? We suggest following our route and heading to the main reservoir trailhead and car park, easily accessible from Chandlers Hill Road, right where it meets Kenihans Road. 

The car park is also wheelchair-friendly, so everyone can join the fun.

Here’s the cherry on top—you’ll find toilets, picnic shelters, and BBQs at the Woodland Loop trailhead.

Hiking at Happy Valley Reservoir’s Woodland Loop


  • You should watch out for those yellow trail markers as they guide you along Woodland Loop.
  • And don’t fret about those creek crossings as long as you don’t visit during rainy weather. 
  • Thinking of bringing the little ones along? The Woodland Loop is kid-friendly and suitable for children to ride their bikes. Just keep an eye on those bike grade ratings displayed on signs.

Fishing at the Reservoir’s Shoreline

For holders of fishing permits, it might be time to grab your fishing gear and have a fin-tastic fishing time at Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve’s pristine shoreline that’s teeming with cod and perches.

Just make sure your fishing waste items like lines, hooks, baits, and sinkers don’t mess up the reservoir’s environment. After all, the reservoir has handy collection containers for their safe disposal. 

Additionally, if you catch carp or redfin at the reserve, you must take them home, as returning them to the water might result in contamination. 

On the one hand, Murray cod are off-limits. If you snag one, you must release it.


  • Arrive at the reserve early in the morning, especially during the warmer months, as fish tend to be more active and feed closer to the surface.
  • Fish in the reserve respond differently to various baits. For example, cod love yabbies and grubs, while perches prefer maggots and casters. 

Don’t be afraid to switch it up if one bait isn’t yielding results.

  • The reserve’s fish often gather around underwater structures, such as rocks, fallen trees, or submerged vegetation. Cast your line near these areas to increase your chances of catching a fish.
  • Pay attention to weather patterns, as temperature changes and barometric pressure can influence fish behavior. Fishing at the reserve during days with stable weather conditions often yields better results.
  • Light sources such as headlamps or fishing lanterns are beneficial for night-time fishers. 

These light sources help with visibility and safety. Furthermore, headlamps or flashlights attract insects, which, in turn, can draw the reservoir’s fish to the surface for feeding during the twilight hours.


Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve hosts thriving wildlife, which includes over 90 majestic land and waterbird species. You can birdwatch at this spot’s sprawling 600+ hectares.

Colorful ducks, migratory geese, graceful swans, and busy coots are some of the water birds inhabiting the reserve’s wetlands and shoreline. 

On the other hand, you’ll encounter cheeky sparrows, tiny finches, singing blackbirds, and even scouting hawks and eagles by heading to the reservoir’s woodland areas.



  • You can enhance your birdwatching experience by bringing a pair of binoculars, which allows you to observe birds up close without disturbing them.
  • Birdwatching often requires patience, so take your time to scan the area for movement and listen for bird calls, as some species, like tawny frogmouths and Australian reed warblers may be well hidden.
  • Familiarize yourself with common bird species in the area using field guides or bird identification apps. This knowledge will help you recognize and appreciate the birds you encounter.
  • Don’t forget to wear neutral-colored clothing to blend in with the surroundings. Bright colors may alert birds to your presence and make them more cautious.
  • Bird activity is often higher during early mornings and evenings. Consider visiting during these times for better chances of spotting diverse bird species.


Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve is a must-visit picnic location, as its sprawling plains and undulating hills have picnic areas, complete with barbecues and shelters. 

If you prefer a more intimate picnic experience, bring your trusty picnic basket, a cozy blanket, and some comfy chairs to the reservoir’s woodlands, where only the birds’ calls and random kangaroo encounters can only disturb your me or family time. 

Our team also recommends picnicking near the water, as the views of waterbirds and the sunset (if you stay until the golden hours) are mind-soothing. 


  • The reserve’s heat is no joke, especially if you do picnics during hotter seasons in less-shaded areas. Remember to carry plenty of water and beverages to stay hydrated.
  • While enjoying your picnic, remember that the reserve is a natural habitat for wildlife. Avoid feeding animals, and dispose of food waste properly to preserve the environment.

Heading to the Dam Wall for Spectacular Views

Our team loves breathtaking vistas, so heading to Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve’s dam wall lookout was a no-brainer for us. 

The path to this lookout was slightly challenging, but the vistas of Adelaide Hills and beyond it offers made every step worthwhile. 

Photographers can go nuts at the reserve’s dam wall lookout too. The bird’s eye view of glistening water converging with the reservoir’s woodlands and meadows makes a picture-perfect shot.


  • Choosing sturdy and comfortable closed-toe shoes or hiking boots is important for the uneven and rocky terrain leading to the dam wall lookout.
  • Take caution while taking pictures, prioritize your safety, and avoid risky positions near the edge of the lookout.
  • Check the weather forecast before your trip and prepare accordingly. We don’t suggest heading to the reserve’s dam wall lookout during rainy days.

Walking, Cycling, and Running at Southern Loop

Walking, Cycling, and Running at Southern Loop

Distance: 2 km
Duration: 25 to 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Southern Loop is the easiest and shortest among Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve’s trails. 

This Grade 2 loop surrounded by gentle hills is the perfect choice for those seeking a stroll or a quick outdoor escape without the challenges of steep or slippery terrain.

This trail commences from the main reservoir trailhead and car park, conveniently located off Chandlers Hill Road, near the roundabout with Kenihans Road. And just like Woodland Loop, Southern Loop’s starting point is accessible to wheelchair users.

If easy trails don’t give you a sense of adventure, we suggest conquering the reserve’s Shoreline Loop (11 km) or Boundary Loop (10.4 km). Both are very steep, tricky, and rocky Grade 4 trails taking over 2 hrs to finish.

Also, the reserve’s trails are open for mountain bike riders if you prefer cycling. We usually opt for Shoreline Loop when biking, but Woodland Loop is an incredible alternative, especially if your main goal is cycling through scenic sights.

Walking, Cycling, and Running at Southern Loop


  • Grade 4 trails are physically demanding. Evaluate your fitness level beforehand and build your stamina and endurance before heading to Shoreline Loop and Boundary Loop.

In addition, carry enough water to stay hydrated and bring energy-boosting snacks like nuts, fruits, or energy bars.

  • We strongly advise hiking with a friend or in a group for mutual support and safety.
  • Familiarize yourself with the routes and difficulty levels in advance. Study local trail maps and online resources to understand the terrain and potential obstacles.
  • Take breaks as needed, especially on Grade 4 trails, and listen to your body to avoid exhaustion and injuries.

Kayaking or Canoeing

Kayaking and canoeing adventures are go-to activities at Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve, with over 110 hectares of crystal-clear water and an idyllic shoreline to explore. 

Whether you prefer a leisurely meander or a full day’s exploration, you’ll find the perfect spot to launch your vessel, thanks to the reserve’s launch pontoon and shoreline beach launch area. 

Even as water levels fluctuate, fear not; these launch points remain accessible.

If you’re bringing your vessel, go to the Tower Entrance, where convenient accessible parking awaits nearby, and you can drop off your kayaks right in front of the launch area before parking your vehicle. 

Just a note: there’s no storage for wheelchairs on or near the launch facility. In addition, motorized craft, dinghies, rowing boats, and electric or fuel-powered motors are prohibited in the reserve.


  • Select a kayak suitable for the reservoir’s calm waters and your skill level to ensure stability and control during your paddling adventure. 

The reserve allows inflatable ones that comply with ISO-6185 standards and bear the appropriate badge.

  • Although the reservoir’s waters are usually calm, always wear a well-fitted life jacket, as it’s a crucial safety measure for all kayakers and canoers.
  • Map out your kayaking route in advance, considering factors like distance, time, and points of interest you’d like to explore.
  • Be aware of other watercraft, such as motorboats or sailboats, and yield the right of way as needed.
  • Keep your belongings, such as electronics and extra clothing, in a waterproof dry bag to protect them from water splashes.

Experience Geocaching

Experience Geocaching

Our team enjoys adventurous innovations, so we had a blast experiencing geocaching in Happy Valley Reservoir Reserve. 

The reserve’s geocaching trail spans around 9 km, and you can only complete it with a trusty GPS and QR code scanner.

We found the reserve’s 12 geocaches by mixing a bit of cycling and bushwalking, but you may also opt for running if you want to. 

The best part? The Explore Water App can alter the reserve’s southern section into an augmented play zone!

Experience Geocaching


  • For newbie geocachers, remember to bring a pen or pencil to sign the logbook inside the caches.
  • Many caches contain small trinkets for trading. Carry some small items to exchange with those you find, adhering to the “equal or greater value” principle.
  • Thoroughly read the cache descriptions and any hint provided by the cache owner to help you in your search.
  • Look at recent activity logs on the cache page to see if others have recently found or reported any issues with the cache.
  • Cache In, Trash Out (CITO) is a geocaching initiative to clean up litter while exploring. Consider bringing a trash bag to collect any litter you encounter and help keep the reserve clean.
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