Manly is uniquely placed. Sitting just across the harbour from the CBD it has all the cosmopolitan buzz of the city centre, yet as the gateway to Sydney's Northern Beaches it also offers a relaxed coastal vibe. You're spoilt for choice when it comes to fantastic cafes and cool bars, while the sprawling beach is more chilled and less crowded than busy Bondi.
Things to do
Manly Beach stretches out for three kilometres, so there’s lots of space to spread your towel on the white sands. It‘s a popular place to learn to surf, sign up for lessons at Manly Surf School or Manly Surf Guide. For something a little quieter, and more family-friendly, take a scenic walk south to Fairy Bower Pool and pretty Shelly Beach.
The Corso connects the harbourside wharf to the famous ocean beach, a pedestrian mall dotted with surf shops, boutiques and classic pubs. There are also surf shops and an enticing range of bars, cafes and restaurants adjacent to the beach, where the first world surfing contest was held in 1964.
Picnic tables on the tree-lined promenade are popular with families who don‘t want sand in their sandwiches and make a great place 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 snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding. If you want to explore the waters with an expert, take a guided tour with Ecotreasures.
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.
The weekend is a perfect time to visit, so you can browse the Manly Arts and Craft Market. It takes over Sydney Road, just off the Corso on weekends, and has an eclectic range of stalls featuring handmade, artisan products as well as hard-to-find vintage items. Pick up a souvenir for friends or gift yourself something fabulous.
Eat & drink
This is the place to be for delicious waterside eateries. Step off the ferry and grab a drink at Manly Wharf Hotel. The Cumberland is a speakeasy-style bar from the guys behind Donny’s Bar and if you’re looking for a local brewery, there’s the 4 Pines Manly Brewpub along the Esplanade or Nomad Brewing Co in nearby Brookvale.
It makes sense to have seafood by the sea and Garfish Manly is a firm local favourite or indulge in sushi and Japanese fare at 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 a fantastic fish-and-chips.
The ferry takes only 30min from Circular Quay, and even quicker on a fast ferry. There are 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.