Manly is one of those places that offers the best of both worlds, cosmopolitan buzz and a relaxed vibe. It's just a short ferry ride from the CBD and boasts a vibrant coastal atmosphere. It has everything you need for a good time - fantastic cafes, cool bars, and a sprawling beach.
Things to do
Manly Beach is the main drawcard. It stretches out for three kilometres and is less crowded than its Eastern Suburbs counterparts. A popular place to learn to surf, sign up for lessons at Manly Surf School or Manly Surf Guide. The snorkelling at Shelly Beach is fantastic and pretty Fairy Bower Pool is popular with families.
Picnic tables on the tree-lined promenade are a prefect perch to eat your takeaway fish and chips. Shelly Beach in Cabbage Tree Bay, an aquatic reserve, has BBQ facilities and it’s a great spot for fun family activities including stand-up paddle boarding. If you want to explore the waters with an expert, take a guided tour with Ecotreasures.
The Corso connects the harbourside wharf to the famous ocean beach. The pedestrian mall is dotted with surf shops, boutiques and classic pubs. On the weekends, explore the the Manly Arts and Craft Market which takes over Sydney Road, just off the Corso.
Prefer to see Manly from the ground rather than via water? Hire a bicycle from Manly Bike Tours and Hire and discover hidden harbour coves and beaches, such as Little Manly Cove and Collins Flat Beach. The 10km Manly to Spit Bridge walk rewards you with fantastic views across the harbour.
For a hit of history, explore ancient Aboriginal rock engravings at Grotto Point and if nature excites you, go on a whale-watching cruise from May-November with Manly Ocean Adventures and Manly Whale Watching. Check out the vibrant events calendar for celebrations such as the Manly Jazz Festival which attracts thousands every October long weekend.
Eat & drink
You're spoilt for choice if you're looking for a waterside eatery. Step off the ferry and grab a drink at Manly Wharf Hotel or Hugo's. If you're looking for local brews, there's the 4 Pines Manly Brewpub along the Esplanade or Nomad Brewing Co and Manly Spirits Co Distillery in nearby Brookvale.
It makes sense to have seafood by the sea and Garfish Manly is a firm local favourite. For sushi and Japanese fare head to Sake Restaurant and Bar or Daniel San. The tri-level Manly Greenhouse across from the beach has ocean views and something for everyone while The Boathouse Shelly Beach does fantastic fish-and-chips.
Enjoy the 30-min ferry ride from Circular Quay as it takes you across the harbour and out past the heads. Manly has accommodation options to suit various budgets, including the allegedly-haunted Q Station, a heritage-listed former quarantine station with magnificent harbour views, and the recently refurbished Sebel hotel.