Top things to do in Manly with kids

Keeping the family entertained all day is easy in Manly. The suburb has everything you need for a fun-filled day out: discover a world-class patrolled beach, small coves and fantastic ocean pools, plus picnic spots and kid-friendly eateries.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Feb 2024 -
min read

Learn to surf world-famous waves 

Manly's main drawcard is the beach, which stretches for 3km and is patrolled by three surf lifesaving clubs to ensure everyone stays safe. Enrol active kids who are confident swimmers in surfing lessons from Manly Surf Guide or Manly Surf School, who run classes everyday at low tide. 

Man enjoying a surf with Manly Surf School at Manly Beach, Manly

Manly Surf School, Manly - Credit: Manly Surf School

Dip your toes into an ocean pool 

There's an ocean pool at the northern end of the beach and Fairy Bower Rockpool is at the southern end, built by local residents 1929. Along the edge of the latter you will find sculptures known as 'The Sea Nymphs' or ‘The Oceanides’, created by the internationally acclaimed artist Helen Leete. 

Go snorkelling at Cabbage Tree Bay 

Go snorkelling at Cabbage Tree Bay, a marine sanctuary teeming with hundreds of brightly coloured fish species at the southern end of Manly Beach, with Dive Centre Manly or EcoTreasures. Want to explore on your own? Hire gear from Manly Surfboards, where you can also store your belongings in lockers while you go swimming. Once in the water, marine life you may spot includes Eastern blue gropers, giant cuttlefish, wobbegongs, rays and Port Jackson sharks. 

Explore the scenic Shelly Beach 

Head south along the walkway from Manly Beach to get to pretty Shelly Beach, a calm, sheltered bay popular with families with small children. Have a swim before resting in the park, which is host to free electric barbecue facilities, making it the perfect spot for a picnic. If you’d rather eat in, make tracks for The Boathouse Shelly Beach, a waterside cafe and kiosk which dishes up a delicious seafood menu. 

Family enjoying a walk at Shelly Beach - Manly - Sydney North

Shelly Beach, Manly - Credit: Northern Beaches Council

Embark on a two-wheel adventure 

You can also enjoy Manly's coastline on land. Rent a bicycle from Manly Bike Tours and Hire and head up to North Head. The uphill ride will reward you with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour and the ocean. From there, follow the cycle path to Collins Flat Beach, a hidden harbour beach with views of The Heads. If you’d rather let the experts show you around, join a guided tour with Bonza Bike Tours

Jump on a whale-watching tour 

North Head is an ideal position for whale watching during the migration period between May and November. If you want to get closer to these majestic humpbacks frolicking along the coastline, book a whale-watching tour with Manly Ocean Adventures or Manly Whale Watching, which depart from Manly Wharf. 

Kayak & SUP on Sydney Harbour 

Located near the ferry wharf, head to Manly Kayak Centre to hire kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to explore the northern waters of Sydney Harbour, one the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. The staff will give you basic training before you set off, or you can opt for a 90-minute mini tour exploring the highlights of Manly Cove and North Harbour.

People kayaking at sunrise, Manly

Kayaking at sunrise, Manly

Get spooky at the Q Station 

While the Q Station may sit pretty within a protected swathe of land on North Head near Manly, its buildings – the city’s former quarantine station – have seen their fair share of ghoulish action over the decades. The hotel embraces its history, running after-dark ghost tours that reveal the paranormal occurrences entwined with the site’s 150-year heritage. 

Cruise alongside the city’s icons 

If you are visiting Manly as a day trip from the CBD, jumping on the Circular Quay to Manly Ferry is one of Sydney’s most iconic experiences. The journey takes you past the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House before passing Kirribilli House (the official residence of the Prime Minister), Bradleys Head and South Head, before arriving at Manly Wharf. Time your ride with sunset for truly unforgettable views. 

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