A 72-hour nature staycation on the Northern Beaches
Renew your summer with a family friendly staycation on the stunning Northern Beaches of Sydney, with Manly as your base.
Discover the incredible waterways by board or boat, indulge in fresh seafood burgers and explore the bushland by foot. This three-day itinerary is all about getting back to nature and enjoying the coastal culture.
- Stay in heritage accommodation with stunning views
- Relax at great cafes with dazzling water views
- Get out onto the water in ways you have never done before
- Take a bike tour around the iconic waterfront suburb
- Explore the energetic, varied restaurant and bar scene
- Enjoy the magnificent coastline of Manly and the Northern Beaches
Manly is an easy drive north of Sydney CBD via Sydney Road. It takes about 40 mins by car, offering a scenic drive over Split Bridge.
Start the long weekend by dropping your bags into Q Station, which has spacious three-bedroom cottages with spectacular views.
If you’re peckish, Manly has a couple of excellent bakeries – grab goodies and enjoy them on the beach. Rollers Bakehouse is a local secret – people come from near and far for their chocolate croissant, made with charcoal-dyed dough, double chocolate and crumble. Or Staple Bread & Necessities makes bread and pastries with rye and wholewheat puff – the cheese and oregano croissant is a winner.
There are numerous ways to explore this beachside suburb. Manly has over 20 kilometres of dedicated bike paths that traverse secluded beaches and marine reserves. Hire bikes from Manly Bike Tours and Hire and head to Manly Dam, just a 15-min ride from the centre of Manly and a favourite spot for picnics. It also has some challenging mountain bike tracks if you’re feeling more adventurous. Another great bike route is Manly Corso to North Head, up Darley Road past St Patrick’s Cemetery. Lock up your bikes at this scenic spot and explore the Sanctuary Loop, a two-hour walk that circumnavigates the headline, or for a shorter option, return at Hanging Swamp – a large area of swampland with a long boardwalk, immersing you in the surrounding native flora and fauna.
If you’re keen to see the coastline from a different perspective, try a guided kayak tour by Manly Kayak Centre. You’ll get a lesson on the basics of kayaking then head out for a four-hour paddle, exploring the harbour with a local guide. It includes a walk up to Dobroyd Head and a picnic lunch.
For dinner, Pocket Pizza is a cosy restaurant serving pizza with creative toppings; either eat in or order a few single slices and head to East Esplanade Park for a picnic. If you’re craving seafood after a day by the beach, the refurbished Ivanhoe Hotel is an easy option, with an extensive menu of pub classics including a seafood basket and barra burger. Located in the heart of The Corso, there are three floors to choose from, each with a different atmosphere. Or simply enjoy a bite or drink at Manly Wharf Hotel, an iconic jetty bar which sits on the waters edge.
Start the day with something a little different – yoga on a stand-up paddleboard with Flow mOcean. Held every weekend, this unique experience starts at Manly Cove before paddling out to the on-water ‘studio’. With the warm sun on your back and the lapping waves cooling your feet, it’s an experience you won’t forget anytime soon. If your balance isn’t quite up to the task, there are also classes on Collins Beach – a lovely little beach popular with locals, and just a short walk or kayak paddle from Q Station.
To refuel, head to Showbox Coffee, a cool cafe that eschews the typical coastal look for something a little more industrial. Beans are always sourced from one of Sydney’s best roasters, and to eat there’s house-made sourdough focaccia with regularly changing toppings. Sweets are also made in house, chocolate babka or cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese are local favourites.
If you want to pack as much as you can into one day, book a Freshwater Beach for a coffee at Pilu and a visit to the surf club, before heading to Long Reef, Bilgola Headland and then up to Palm Beach for lunch and a walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. tour of the Northern Beaches. Starting at Manly’s North Head, you’ll stop off at
If you’d prefer to go at your own pace, spend a day lazing about on one of the 16 incredible beaches that make up the Northern Beaches or have a dip in an ocean pool. Fairlight Rock Pool has a small wading pool for kids alongside it, and Fairlight Beach itself is a hidden gem – secluded and fantastic for snorkelling. Little Manly Beach is another quiet one for families, located on the other side of Manly Point to the main beach.
It’s also worth heading further north, to enjoy the seemingly endless golden beaches. Clontarf has a netted swimming area and a huge playground; Collaroy has a long stretch of rockpools; and Dee Why has two ocean pools and waves for the boogie boarders.
Park yourself on the balcony at Manly’s 4 Pines Brewing Company in the late afternoon and try the local beers – there’s always a limited release on offer, like the blueberry gose or honey imperial stout. Then have dinner nearby at Maestro and Co, a Middle Eastern restaurant with vivid dishes – try the harissa prawns and signature lamb shoulder simmered in honey, ginger and spices.
Make sure you’re back at Q Station by 8pm for the daily Ghostly Encounters tour. Q Station was a quarantine station for 150 years, and saw many migrants pass through it on their way to settling in Australia. The two-and-a-half-hour tour will introduce you to the intriguing stories of its past and the spirits who supposedly haunt it.
Set the alarm early and drive further north at the first light of day – weaving through the leafy suburbs is a tranquil drive. Stop for breakfast at Armchair Collective in Mona Vale, a café located in the courtyard of a beautifully curated homewares store. A serve of blueberry hotcakes or corn fritters with bacon, poached egg and smashed avo will set you up for the day ahead.
Pittwater and Palm Beach are stunning suburbs at the very northernmost tip of Sydney. The best way to explore Pittwater is by boat – on one side is Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and on the other, a breathtaking peninsula. Pittwater Kayak Tours offer a three-hour morning tour where you’ll paddle past the coves and bays that make this area so unique. The guides will take you to a secluded beach for a swim and bushwalk in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park. Stopping for morning tea, you’ll do a short bushwalk to Lovett Bay waterfall.
Palm Beach is a popular spot with Sydney’s well-heeled and you’ll quickly understand why – golden sands, clear water and as far away from the city as you can get makes it a popular destination. Dunes is a stunning lunch option – with fresh paninis, a wagyu burger or fish and chips on the menu in a white-washed, breezy terrace with Mediterranean vibes.
In the afternoon, take a ride on the Palm Beach ferry to Great Mackerel Beach in The Basin as well as Currawong Beach. Spend a glorious afternoon on the pristine beach, soaking up the last rays of sun. , which can only be accessed by boat. The scenic ferry ride takes about 40 mins and passes popular picnic and campground
If you’re keen to explore more of the national park, you could instead drive from Palm Beach to Resolute Picnic Area to do the Aboriginal Heritage walk. You can either do an easy one km-return walk to Red Hand Caves, the best-known site in the park where you’ll encounter ancient Aboriginal rock engravings or continue along the whole 4.4-km loop to see a historic occupation shelter and the impressive view from West Head Lookout.
Time to head back home, taking in one last sunset as you drive along the coast, enjoying that post-holiday glow that will stay with you for days to come.