Manly is one of those magic beaches that has something for everyone. It spans 3km, so there's lots of space to spread your towel on the soft white sand and relax all day. Swimmers and surfers are safe knowing it's patrolled by three surf lifesaving clubs and those who prefer looking at the water rather than diving in can walk or cycle alongside it.
The world's first surfing contest was held at Manly in 1964, making it one of Australia's most famous beaches. The coastline curves from South Steyne to North Steyne and Queenscliff, where a submerged reef, or bombora, creates the waves that inspire the world's best surfers to travel to our shores.
Just south of Manly is Shelly Beach and to the north is Freshwater Beach, where Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku popularised surfboard riding in the summer of 1914-15. Manly and Freshwater form a National Surfing Reserve and are a famous breeding ground for world champions such as Barton Lynch and Layne Beachley.
Things to do
Follow in the wake of Australia's surfing champions and sign up for surf lessons with Manly Surf School or Manly Surf Guide. For something a little calmer, snorkel or dive the crystal-clear waters of Cabbage Tree Bay, an aquatic reserve teeming with colourful fish, near Shelly Beach, with Dive Centre Manly or EcoTreasures.
You don't have to dive into the water to enjoy the beach. Picnic on the promenade under towering Norfolk Pine trees or DIY BBQ at Shelly Beach. To take in the area's natural beauty, follow the 10km Manly to Spit Bridge walk and enjoy breathtaking views or cruise the coastline with Manly Bike Tours and Hire.
Eat & drink
It's an Aussie tradition to buy takeaway fish ‘n’ chips and savour them on the soft sand and soak up that laid-back beach lifestyle. Any of the spots around the Corso will oblige, but follow the lead of the locals and safeguard your dinner from hungry seagulls.
Enjoy the 30-min ferry ride from Circular Quay as it takes you across one of the world’s great natural harbours and out past the heads. It’s even quicker if you catch a fast ferry. Then hop off at the wharf for a short walk to the beach along the Corso, a lively shopping and pedestrian boulevard. Or take the Manly Scenic Walkway from Mosman.