A half-hour journey by ferry from central Sydney will take you to Manly. The ferry has transported people since the middle of the 1850s. And the journey itself is certainly part of the experience. You get a beautiful view of Sydney as you travel towards the resort Manly 17 km to the north. The small surfer town is located on a narrow peninsula along the east coast. Manly is an obvious choice for those who want a close escape from Sydney’s high-rise buildings, but who are not attracted by the upbeat tempo of Bondi. Manly’s proximity to the big city allows you to visit for just the day. The beach town has its very own character. It is a small suburb that is shaped by its connection to the Tasman Sea. More and more Europeans are attracted to this place, a significant part of these coming from Scandinavia. There are fine sandy beaches to relax on, and the most popular beach stretching along the east coast is divided into Queenscliff Beach, North Steyne Beach and Manly Beach. If you want a more secluded and quieter day at the beach, continue further east and you will get to Shell Beach which is perfect for snorkelling and diving. Water activities is big in Manly. Not least surfing, which is a part of many people’s everyday lives. With roaming winds and swelling high waves, the waters are well suited for surfing.
The ferry terminal and a Visitor Information Centre lies on the west side of the peninsula. The hotels and business buildings are no longer allowed to be built higher, as it is believed that it does not suit Manly’s style. And yes, it does give the area a more homely impression. The main street of Manly is called The Corso and it is a wide pedestrian street full of shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs. It was built in the middle of the 1800s as a beach promenade. From The Corso, side streets lead to smaller outdoor cafés and shops. At night, the doors open to the town’s pubs and bars. Not least Manly’s own 4 Pines Brewery is a cosy and popular stop, where the beer is cold and full of flavour. If you like to exercise or take a stroll, there are plenty of winding bike lanes in Manly. At North Head, south on the peninsula, lies Sydney Harbour National Park, with several hiking trails to explore. Make your way through the rainforest, past sandy beaches and take part in Aboriginal paintings. Paus along the way to admire the view. All the way with the glistening sea by your side.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
Escape Sydney’s big city tempo and visit Manly beach. The inviting sandy beach is only a short walk from Manly Wharf where the ferry comes in. The emerald coloured Tasman Sea is refreshing and will soon make you forget all your worries. Manly Beach is lined with swaying Norfolk Island pine trees and small cafés. There are showers, toilets and changing rooms available near the beach. Souvenirs or surfer items are easily found along The Corso. If you would like tips on good snorkelling sites and gain insights into the area’s marine life, you can join a tour with EcoTreasures along Shelly Beach (wotif.com/things-to-do/manly-snorkel-walk-talk-tour.a257068.activity-details).
South of Manly you will find the large green area of Sydney Harbour National Park (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Sydney-Harbour-National-Park). The ten-kilometre long hiking trail Manly Scenic Walkway (manly.nsw.gov.au/attractions/walking-tracks/manly-scenic-walkway) runs through the park and is divided into a large network of shorter hiking trails. It is one of the best trails in Sydney and there are a whole bunch of great places to take photos on or enjoying the surroundings at. You will see some real treats like waterfalls, dense native forests and landmarks. Keep an eye out if you are hiking here between June and November, if you are lucky, you might see whales swimming past just near the coastline. Farthest south on the cape at North Head, you get a beautiful view of the cliffs and you can see Sydney in the distance. To get an even better view of the city, take a hike from Manly to Spit Bridge (blog.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/sydney-harbour-walk-spit-bridge-to-manly). The entire trail is ten kilometres long and takes up to four hours to walk, but it is divided into shorter distances if you do not feel like going all the way. Another way to get around the coast is to rent a bike at Manly Bike Tours (wotif.com/things-to-do/self-guided-hybrid-bike-tour.a260083.activity-details). If you prefer to travel in an airconditioned car with local guides that will take you to selected locations in Manly and Sydney, you can join a guided tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/city-sights-with-manly-beach-morning-tour.a228586.activity-details).
Art and culture
Manly Art Gallery & Museum (manly.nsw.gov.au/attractions/gallery) opened in the 1930s as one of the first art galleries in New South Wales. They have varying exhibitions showcasing Australian works of art, paintings, sketches and Aboriginal works. Admission is free of charge. The address is West Esplanade, west of Manly ferry wharf.
Sports, entertainment and events
Manly Jazz festival (manly.nsw.gov.au) has been held annually for about 40 years. Over the long weekend in early October you can hear a mix of funk, blues, swing and traditional jazz. During the festival, the streets of Manly are filled with people of all ages who want to experience live music near the beach.
Sushi Izakaya Waka (sushiwaka.com.au) is Manly’s most popular sushi place. The restaurant is located north at 155 Pittwater Road. Please call in advance to make sure you get a table. The place is small with dark wooden beams in the ceiling. In addition to heavenly tasty sushi and sashimi, they serve teriyaki and dumplings. Brezel Bar (brezelbar.com.au) at 5A Raglan Street is a German bakery and café. They open their doors already at seven o’clock in the morning and do not close until 17.00. A good place to come if you are tired of eating plain toast for breakfast. They bake a variety of different kinds of bread. They also serve great coffee, juicy fruit pies and in addition to German pretzels, they have real German sausages. Belgrave Cartel (belgravecartel.com.au) at 6 Belgrave Street is an Italian café with rustic décor. Antipasto, gluten-free and vegetarian food is available on the menu. With large windows and an outdoor terrace, you can relax and enjoy the sun while sipping your coffee. It is located away from the most crowded areas. In the evenings, the café serves as a bar where local bands play. If you are curious about the local beer, you can for example join Dave’s Brewery Tours, which will take you to three beachside venues where you will hear about the brewing process, taste craft beers and enjoy a lunch (wotif.com/things-to-do/northern-beaches-brewery-tour-with-lunch.a430023.activity-details).
Good to know
The local Visitor Information Centre lies in direct connection to Manly Wharf. They are open from 9-17 from Monday to Friday and from 10-16 during weekends. You can also take a look at their informative and updated website to, Hello Manly (hellomanly.com.au), or read more about the area at Manly Australia (manlyaustralia.com.au). For discounted activities, tickets and accommodation in Manly, you can for example visit Wotif’s website (wotif.com/discover/australia/new-south-wales/sydney/manly.d7055).
The best way to get to Manly is by ferry. Transport New South Wales (transportnsw.info) are in charge of Manly Ferry which has operated between Circular Quay and Manly Wharf seven days a week since the 1850s. The journey takes about half an hour. Also, the company Manly Fast Ferry (manlyfastferry.com.au) plough through the waters in just over a quarter. During the journey over, you get a nice view of Port Jackson including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, so there is no need to rush. Once you are in Manly, most necessities are within a pleasant walking distance, but if you rather rest those legs of yours, several buses are in service in Manly (transportnsw.info).
Manly Bunkhouse (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Manly_Bunkhouse.htm) is located on 35 Pine Street, a few minutes’ walk from the beach. It is a slightly outdated hostel, but it has the necessities. Each room is equipped with a private bathroom and a mini kitchen, including an electric kettle. They also have free Wi-Fi and a spacious patio with BBQ. Bunkhouse is quieter place compared to other hostels in the area.
If you don’t mind paying a bit more, you can rent apartments from Manly Surfside Apartments (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Manly_Surfside_Holiday_Apartments.htm). They have large bright apartments with up to three rooms located opposite the beach. They are fully equipped with fresh kitchens which is convenient if you want to have a private stay and be able to prepare your own meals. Quest Manly (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Quest_Manly.htm) have apartments near Manly Wharf. There are balconies overlooking the water, perfect for having a drink while the sun sets. The rooms are large and clean. They have apartments for up to three people. A gym and sauna are available on site and the reception is open 24 hours a day.
Do you want to discover more of what Sydney Harbour National Park has to offer? Maybe a stay at Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park Hotel (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Q_Station.htm) might suit you. Driving here from Manly only takes five minutes. There are four different room types to choose from, and there are also small cabins for rent. You live close to or in nature, and it is a good base for when wandering around the national park.
A Saturday in Manly
08:00 – Bagels at Belgrave
Make a stop at 6 Belgrave Street for a relaxing weekend breakfast at the Belgrave Cartel Café (belgravecartel.com.au). Sit outside to enjoy the sun’s warmth on your face while sipping on a soy latte or a creamy cappuccino. In the friendly atmosphere, become one with the locals who comes and goes.
11:00 – Beach break in the east
Move east until you get to The Corso. Take a stroll along the wide pedestrian promenade. Look at clothes, souvenirs or beach towels in the shops that line the street. Make a last-minute purchase if you are missing anything necessarily for a beach visit, because the next stop is Manly beach. Walk the short distance down. At this time of day, there should be no problem to get a spot. Relax and cool down in the water when the sun burns.
13:00 – Mexican food
Head back to The Corso. Try a lunch in Mexican style at Chica Bonita (chicabonita.com.au). It is a very small place, with a simple menu and tasty dishes. Chica Bonita is popular, so consider a take-away. Try their fish taco, ceviche or a lunch special of the day.
16:00 – Sweaty nature hike
Grab your most comfortable walking shoes, a hat and a big bottle of water. It’s time to sweat out your entire calorie intake of the day. Hike all, or part of, the ten kilometre-long Manly to Spit Bridge Walk. (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/manly-scenic-walkway). You walk through a diverse native landscape. When you reach the Spit Bridge, you will be rewarded with great views of Sydney. Then take bus 144 back to Manly (transportnsw.info).
18:00 – Manly microbrewery
Rest your feet with a visit to Manly’s own microbrewery, 4 Pines Brewing Company (4pinesbeer.com.au) at 29 East Esplanade. The premises are inviting with rustic wooden decor, menus written with chalk on blackboards and views of Manly Wharf. Order the dish of the day together with an amber coloured Pale Ale. Or sample small glasses of all their beers.
20:00 –One last stop
Stay all night at 4 Pines for live music or move on to the next bar. Another nice option is Manly Wharf Hotel (manlywharfhotel.com.au) which also is located along the East Esplanade. With large benches in solid wood there is room for many, and the night can end just as late as you like. There are plenty of tasty drinks to choose on in a tranquil atmosphere.