Sydney’s lost amusement park – Funland of Warragamba Dam

Sydney does a lot of things well – but sadly, we don’t have a good track record at running amusement parks. Out of all the old attractions of yesteryear, today only Luna Park still stands. It seems our original adventure destinations are cursed – while the new localised version of Queensland’s Wet ‘N’ Wild franchise has been successful so far, it doesn’t have the same sense of quaint charm and we can’t exactly claim it as our own idea!

Although Australia’s Wonderland is hands down the most well known of all our lost theme parks, scattered around Sydney are the remains of other forgotten ‘fun lands’ that weren’t as iconic – some forgotten smaller playgrounds still survive, left abandoned and allowed to return to nature over the decades. While more modest fair-style rides than rollercoasters, they’re definitely still exciting (and sometimes scary!) to explore…

I accidentally discovered ‘Funland’ when visiting Warragamba Dam. Just a generation ago, visiting this impressive man-made structure was a popular picnic spot for families and on the weekends you can walk across the wide concrete dam wall. Only about 1 hour from the CBD, I was curious to check out Sydney’s primary water reservoir for myself and play tourist in my own city. Little did I know that by going out to Warragamba, would get two adventures in one daytrip!

Unfortunately am not known for my early starts, so arrived too late to walk across the dam wall and see the full wide span of this impressive structure which was slightly disappointing. But it was still really enjoyable to see the huge Lake Burragorang and learn that it was named after the town that was flooded to create it! The river system that runs through the valleys surrounding the lost town of Burragorang are said to feel a little bit like Kakadu, however this entire area is now a no-go zone and highly patrolled by the Sydney Water Catchment Authority. Despite the tight government-run ship, visiting the dam that supplies our city’s clean drinking water and the well-kept picnic garden surrounds was both informative and enjoyable.

Warragamba village on a late Sunday afternoon is pretty much all shut, but walking around the loop-shaped town centre set on a large communal park roundabout is still a pleasant stroll. There’s lots of original retro signage and structures from a bygone era, which are fun to spot. It’s a shame that several town shops have closed down now, with vacancy and for lease ads in a fair few windows. It makes me wonder about the long term sustainable future of the town, now that it’s all it’s main attractions are long gone…

The sleepy town of Warragamba was a really enjoyable day trip. It’s well worth heading out there to see the dam, have a picnic and appreciate the slow pace of this cute little village that’s relatively close to Sydney and an easy day trip, if you have a car at least!

The little known wonder that is ‘Funland’ appeared unexpectedly – a glint of the red train carriage appeared like a mirage in front of me as I exited the Warragamba Dam complex. Pulling the Alfa over immediately by the roadside, I did a slow, obvious lap of the perimeter. The rural area of overgrown bushland was clearly hiding a diamond in its rough exterior.

I found an easy entrance to the property and while slipping through, several cars driving down the road slow down slightly at the sight of my bright red car by the country roadside. It doesn’t bother me being spotted, because if anything untoward should happen to me out in the wilderness they might remember me and be a key witness ๐Ÿ˜‰

After a few metres of thick bush and black burnt-out mounds, it’s obvious that squatters were once here. From the looks of things, their camp hadn’t been inhabited for some time and they probably had some sort of power generator source, because of the electrical equipment.

It never ceases to amaze me how grubby squats can get. Just because you’ve gone bush is no excuse for such a slovenly campsite, c’mon, guys! Seriously, this place could still be cute if someone tried to clear it up a bit…

Further into the field, I came across this clapped out old ute and squealed with joy – the Datsun ute is one of my favourite dream rides! Unfortunately this once sunny yellow Datsun is now owned by the vines, but he must’ve once been a beauty. Not sure about the age of the old cash register in the driver’s seat, so unsure if it was used during the park’s operational days.

Dotted all around the property are the remains of rusty old rides like merry go rounds, swing sets and a small ferris wheel. It’s hard to tell what some of the rides originally were and am unable to find any photos online of Funland open back in the 70s, so not quite sure what they all once were. Needless to say, none would be safe to play on or anywhere near today!

Unfortunately not much exists about Funland online, so there’s precious little about its history that I can tell you. Have read on internet forum chat that the park originally launched as ‘Funland’ in the early 70s and later changed its name to ‘Adventureland’ or ‘Amusementland’. The venue went out of business around the late 70s, likely due to the greater commercial success of nearby African Lion Safari and Bullens Animal World.

As this modest amusement park hasn’t been as well documented as others of its era, it looks like Funland was one of the earlier casualties of Sydney’s dying adventure attractions. It simply wasn’t open long enough for many people to have visited it and made memories there, plus can’t have been as exciting as the nearby commercialised African Lion Safari and other exotic creatures at Bullen’s Animal World.

Another reason why Funland isn’t well known might be its close proximity to the African Lion Safari park. It’s actually on the same block of land as the Bullens brothers owned commercially advertised attraction, so it could easily be mistaken for being part of it – in fact, when I found Funland I spent my whole exploration believing it actually was African Lion Safari and sang the catchy theme song to myself the whole time, to take my mind off the constant fear of snakes & wasps!

It wasn’t until researching later that I learnt this was actually the even more mysterious Funland. This unexpected twist is just another reason why exploring gets under my skin…sites seen and photos snapped can take on new meaning and reveal information about a place later on. Even after visiting a place, it can still manage to surprise me. Sometimes don’t have a clue what I’m even looking at, especially rusted and disintegrating man-made objects that have so beautifully been returned to bush.

Nature has now claimed Funland as its own and Sydney’s idea of adventure has certainly evolved in the 21st century – but for us underground urbex oddballs, our old abandoned amusement parks are still the ultimate in entertainment for the big kid within.

XO

Gia

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22 comments

  1. Adam · January 28, 2016

    I want that train! My kids would love it. I remember going there as a really young kid…and the African Lion Safari, which it’s reported is about to be redeveloped into a housing development along the original route of the passageway through “Africa”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bethwyn Mills · January 28, 2016

    Fun land is owned by Sonny Serina. His house is right next to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gia · January 28, 2016

      Ta for this info…hope Sonny enjoys my article ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

  3. Mandy · January 28, 2016

    I can remember going there as a kid, the shoe was the best

    Like

  4. Brad Crossingham · January 28, 2016

    Adventureland was at Lansvale right next to Hollywood Sands

    Like

    • Rhiannon · January 29, 2016

      No that was Magic mountain at lansvale, I went there all the time as a child as some of my extended family worked there and knew the owners

      Like

      • Rhiannon · January 29, 2016

        Actually the name was Magic Kingdom, my mistake

        Like

      • Brad Crossingham · January 29, 2016

        Thanks for that ..I wonder where adventure land was?

        Like

      • Brad Crossingham · January 29, 2016

        Google it …found it on Camden Valley Way at Edmondson Park

        Like

  5. tina · January 29, 2016

    so you didnt mind that you were tresspassing on someone property to get your photos and story?

    Like

  6. Joan · January 29, 2016

    It was owned by King Ron Serina. Sonny’s dad. He crowned himself as the king of his own country.

    Like

  7. Wendy Hobbs · January 30, 2016

    I was wondering why didn’t you include any photos of the other end of Warragamba…, on the other side of the Town Hall. There is another lot of shops opposite the local school which includes, Chinese Restaurant, bottle shop, bakery ,Variety store, take away, post office and a Thai Restaurant.
    Further down the road linking one end of town to the other is a Podiatrist, Hair Dresser , Real estate Chemist, Gift shop , another hair dresser Coffee shop and Newsagents. butcher, doctors surgery an Italian Pizza restaurant . As an owner of one of the above mentioned shops , people should come out for a day and see what our charming quaint village/ town has to offer. A lot more than a run down amusement Park.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gia · January 30, 2016

      So sorry, I only got there late arvo and would’ve loved to explore more! Will come to your cute little town again and take more photos ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

    • dean stan · February 8, 2016

      those kinds of shops are in every suburb its not really a special attraction

      Like

      • Gia · February 8, 2016

        Old shops are awesome, the town has a retro feel ๐Ÿ™‚

        Like

  8. Ian Larcher · January 30, 2016

    Knew it well, as I lived quite close when I was a teenager

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tanja · March 14, 2016

    Gia thanks for this informative info about the funparks.
    I am from Denmark and wanted to do something else than “just” Sydney center. Found your page and actually made it to Magic Kingdom today.
    Not much left there, but it was a fun day.
    Thinking about Funland tomorrow, but I’m wondering how much is left out there.?
    I’ll be catching the train, will it be worth a day you think.?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gia · March 17, 2016

      That’s awesome you visited Magic Kingdom! Reckon will be tough to get to Funland by train…I can recommend the Manly to Spit Bridge walk as a great thing to do down here. It’s about 10km & takes you through Sydney Harbour National Park and past lots of beautiful quiet beaches. Enjoy! โค

      Like

  10. Pamela parfitt · April 13, 2016

    Warragamba village was built for the Dam workers . The visitor’s centre is worth going into to find out the history of settlement in the area. Visitors won’t know this of course, but there is a lively community spirit and a lot going on under the quiet exterior.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gia · June 2, 2016

      Warragamba town is totally cute & seems very community oriented & liveable ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  11. Andrew · January 8

    Oddly I recognised ‘Funland’ as a local amusement park before reaching this article. A few years ago I bought an old sleeping bag off a prior scout. And it had a ‘Funland’ badge sewn into the side (picture of a waving clown). I had never heard of a place since then and after. The article made for an interesting read. Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    • Andrew · January 8

      Actually it’s a Funland in Ulladulla I was thinking of! Oops.

      Like

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