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Having lived near Sydney Manly for over 3 years, Manly Beach has become a cherished chapter of our travel tale. We can honestly say a trip to Sydney isn’t complete until you’ve explored the vibrant Manly, North Head and the myriad adventures it unfolds.
The allure of Manly isn’t confined to its golden sands or the gentle sweep of its waves, but extends far beyond, into the heart of the local culture, the whisper of the ocean breeze, and the promise of adventure that lingers in its clear blue skies.
Whether you prefer sunbathing on the golden sand of Manly Beach, snorkelling in the calm waters of Shelly Beach, or taking a walk to North Head and admiring the sweeping view of the city, Sydney Manly is a must-visit destination in Australia.
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In this post, we’re going to wander through the heartbeat of Manly, sharing a handpicked list of the most family-friendly experiences that you just can’t miss in this Sydney gem.
We’ll also dig up some of the best local travel deals and unveil a few hidden spots that make Manly a playground of endless exploration. Through our eyes, you’re about to hop on a journey that’ll sprinkle your wanderlust with the undeniable charm of Manly.
What is the best time to visit Manly Beach?
Manly Beach is a popular destination all year round, so expect a crowd on weekends and public holidays. Summer (Dec – Feb) is great for water activities and local events but is most crowded with tourists. Spring (Sep – Nov) and Autumn (Mar – May) offer pleasant weather with fewer crowds. Winter (Jun – Aug) is quiet and cool, ideal for peaceful beach walks.
How do I get to Manly Beach?
You can either drive to Manly or catch a Manly Ferry.
If this is your first visit to Sydney, we highly recommend taking a scenic ferry across Sydney Harbour to gain a unique perspective of Australia’s most famous landmarks, such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
The Manly Ferry runs approximately every 20 minutes and takes around 20 minutes to reach Manly from Circular Quay Station.
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Alternatively, you can opt for a hop-on hop-off harbour cruise that covers some of the major attractions around Sydney Harbour, such as Circular Quay, Taronga Zoo, Watsons Bay, Shark Island and of course, Manly.
Opal Card: If you’re planning to use public transport to get around Sydney and NSW on an extended trip to Australia, we recommend getting an Opal Card if you don’t have one already.
OpalPay is the easiest way to travel around NSW with off-peak savings and capped fares. Be mindful that any unused credits may be forfeited if you don’t have an Australian Bank Account, so be sure to read the fine print.
What are the best things to do at Sydney Manly Beach?
Apart from coastal walks, swimming and sunbathing, Manly is a hub of water activities and buzzing restaurant and café scene. Here’s an overview of the top things to do in Manly:
1. Shop in The Corso Manly.
2. Visit Manly Market, open every weekend.
3. Hire a stand-up paddleboard (2hr SUP rental).
4. Take a surfing lesson (or hire a surfboard for a day).
5. Picnic on the beach.
6. Hire a kayak or go on a guided kayak tour around Manly Cove.
7. Snorkel around Manly and Shelly Beach (full-day snorkel hire or guided snorkel trip).
8. Get your PADI scuba diving certificate.
9. Bike around Manly (self-guided bike tour).
10. Discover both Manly and the Northern Beaches on this family-friendly full-day private tour.
11. Enjoy lunch or dinner at a waterfront restaurant.
12. Walk or drive to North Head Sanctuary.
13. Try beach yoga in Manly.
The Corso Manly
To reach Manly Beach from Manly Wharf, you’ll naturally traverse through the bustling shopping street of Manly Corso. Especially over the weekends, this pedestrian mall pulses with tourists and emanates beachy vibes.
Along both sides of the street, you’ll find boutique shops, general stores, souvenir outlets, healthy food, restaurants, and eateries, offering something for everyone.
When you visit on a weekend, Manly Market becomes a bustling hub, showcasing local artists and fashion designers.
Take a moment to just sit, perhaps with a creamy latte or a cool iced tea from a local café, and let the ambience wash over you. The Corso offers a beautiful glimpse into the Sydney beach culture, where the pace is easy, the smiles are warm, and the day stretches out leisurely ahead, full of promise and sun-soaked moments.
A day chilling out on The Corso in Manly is a day well spent in itself. The lively atmosphere here is infectious and you’re invited to soak in a vibe that’s laid-back, yet buzzing with energy.
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Walkthrough The Corso and you will come to one of Australia’s most visited beaches – Manly Beach. This beach is known for hosting the first world surfing competition back in the 60s and still rides high on that wave of legacy.
If surfing is something that interests you, you can hire a surfboard here in Manly and enjoy your day in the waves.
If you’re more like us, and surfing sounds like a future adventure, there’s still loads to love about Manly Beach. One of our favourite chill-out activities is to rent a beach chair, plant ourselves on the soft sands, and enjoy a bit of people-watching. There’s something utterly relaxing about feeling the sun on your skin, hearing the waves crash, and seeing the world go by.
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If you love snorkelling and prefer a bit of tranquillity, there’s a picturesque coastal walkway from the southern end of Manly Beach leading you straight to Shelly Beach.
This hidden gem, or what used to be a hidden gem, is nestled within the protected marine reserve of Cabbage Tree Bay. The path to Shelly Beach is stroller and bike-friendly, making it easily accessible.
On your way to Shelly Beach, you’ll come across Fairy Bower Sea Pool. Nestled along the coastal promenade, this small natural saltwater pool is perfect for a refreshing dip, especially for kids who love making a splash. Keep your eyes peeled for water dragons and little geckos, they’re the most popular local residents!
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I first discovered Shelly Beach during my PADI scuba dive course, where I had an unforgettable dive with a Wobbegong shark and ‘Simon’ the blue grouper. While I’m not sure if Simon still calls Shelly Beach home, he has been a local resident for several years.
Because the water here is exceptionally calm, you’re likely to see some divers in action. And if diving feels a tad adventurous, no worries. Grab a snorkel set from The Corso and join the underwater fun!
With each passing year, Shelly Beach draws more visitors, losing a bit of its untouched charm. Nonetheless, it remains a gorgeous picnic spot to unwind, enjoy the beautiful Manly and take a breather from the crowds.
Manly Restaurants & Eateries
There are too many good restaurants and eateries in Manly, and while it’s impossible to cover every one of them here, I can certainly share some personal favourites that never disappoint.
My go-to café for a morning pick-me-up has always been Three Beans. The baristas here craft some of the finest coffees, and the breakfast/brunch menu is a hearty invitation to kickstart the day on a delicious note.
Best Fish & Chip Shop
For a classic fish & chips experience, it’s hard to beat Fishmongers Manly. The gourmet twist they put on this classic dish keeps locals and visitors coming back. Be prepared to wait a bit, especially on weekends, but the crispy fish and golden chips are worth the wait.
Buskers usually set up not far from this shop, which is a bonus for Fishmongers. Live music attracts a crowd with the smell of hot seafood baskets bringing flocks of seagulls here at The Corso.
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There are many waterfront restaurants along Manly Beach, you will enjoy a nice Aussie steak at whichever restaurant you decide to walk in. Aussies are big on barbie (BBQ), so a good ol’ steak is a must-try in Manly!
Manly Grill Seafood & Steakhouse serves the tastiest kangaroo steaks and crocodile fillets… Yup, you read that right! Try the famous croc & roo pizza. If that doesn’t sound appealing, some fresh seafood won’t go wrong.
I felt so spoiled indulging in my seafood platter the last time we were here, I literally had to cancel my morning shift the next day.
Best Ice Cream
I have to admit, I’m a little biased on this one. I have always been a fan of Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, so every time without fail, I get myself a scoop of ice cream and watch the surfers by the beach.
Sydney Manly North Head
If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands to delve into this charming pocket of the city, North Head is just a 30-minute easy stroll from Manly Beach.
The path to North Head is pretty straightforward and the journey is as enjoyable as the destination itself. You’ll be wrapped in a cool breeze, with snippets of ocean views peeking through the trees as you make your way there.
If walking isn’t quite your pace, you might want to look up Shelly Beach To Barracks Precinct Walk. It’s a nice little detour that showcases another beautiful slice of Manly.
But, if you’re like us and prefer a more laid-back exploration, then hopping into your car and taking a scenic drive to Fairfax Lookout is the way to go. The drive is a breeze, and before you know it, you’re standing at one of the most stunning vantage points in Sydney.
North Head Scenic Drive View Point
Most people make a pit stop at the Scenic Drive View Point, and it’s easy to see why. This spot offers one of the best uninterrupted panoramic views of Sydney city across the harbour. It’s the kind of place where the view does all the talking, and every glance is a postcard moment. The city skyline, framed by the vast expanse of the harbour, is simply breathtaking.
If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, there’s a handy little café right around the corner. Bella Vista Café lives up to its name with an amazing view to complement your coffee or snack. It’s a cosy spot to recharge before you continue your adventure.
Hidden Gem Local Beaches
Nestled away from the usual tourist hustle at Manly, Little Manly Beach and Collins Beach are somewhat of a local hidden gem, offering a peaceful beach escape at North Head.
Collins Beach, in particular, had been my go-to place for a refreshing swim or a quiet afternoon with a book before the kiddos came along.
The waters here are usually calm and clear, though there were a few times I found them to be a bit murky. But it’s a great little spot for a dip on a good day.
For those with a dash of adventure in their veins, the jump rocks at Collins Beach are a popular playground among local kids. Be careful during the wet season, those rocks can get quite slippery.
Accommodation Near Manly Beach
When it comes to family accommodation near Manly Beach, holiday apartments are our top pick. They blend the comfort of home with the exciting aura of a getaway, making them a perfect choice for families with children.
One of the perks of choosing a holiday apartment is the freedom it offers. You can choose to cook one day and try a waterfront restaurant on another, making it a breeze to explore Manly and its surroundings at your own pace.
And after a fun-filled day, it’s back to your comfy apartment for a restful night’s sleep, recharging for the adventures of the next day.
Here are 5 of our top picks for families:
This beachfront apartment in Manly boasts an excellent location with a balcony offering stunning beach views. It’s a comfortable space, highly praised for its cleanliness and stylish furnishings.
This 2-bedroom apartment in Manly offers a serene and comfortable stay with modern facilities. It’s close to the beach, allowing easy exploration of the surrounding beach and local amenities.
This waterfront apartment offers spectacular views of Manly and the ocean. With a short walk, you can easily reach the beach, seawater pool, bars, and restaurants. The living area is spacious and well-equipped with many thoughtful extras.
The spacious setup of this family apartment includes two good-sized bedrooms, a full-sized kitchen, and modern amenities. Its location is a big draw, with an easy walk to the beach, shops, and eateries.
This is a luxury hotel that sits right by Manly Beach with the convenience of The Corso and various eateries nearby. The hotel is known for its comfortable beds, clean and spacious rooms, and excellent facilities including a pool area.
Apart from hotel booking sites like Booking, Agoda, Hotel and Expedia, our family uses Vrbo to find holiday homes that have a well-equipped kitchen and laundry. Search below and see which beachside home is available for your dates.
Where to stay in Manly North Head?
Did you know there is a quiet, chic hotel nestled amongst nature? Q Station is one of the unique accommodations around here. This accommodation has its own private beach overlooking Sydney Harbour. If you’re brave enough, join the Q Station Ghost Tour for a fun night out.
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See You Soon Manly
And there you have it – all the hidden gems we’ve stumbled upon in Sydney Manly over the years. This quaint corner of Sydney swiftly claimed a special place in our hearts, becoming our go-to sanctuary to unwind and reconnect with nature.
While the sight of the bustling Manly Beach is brimming with its own charm, we found ourselves drawn more to the tranquil ambience of the local beaches. It’s here, amidst the soft murmur of waves and the whispering breeze, that we find our haven of serenity.
What about you? Whether you’re a lover of the lively hustle or a seeker of tranquil shores, Manly has something to offer.
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So, the next time you find yourself in Sydney Manly, tread the less travelled paths, explore the untamed, and you just might stumble upon a new favourite spot, and who knows? You might find your own piece of paradise amidst the boundless beauty that is Manly.
As always, we aim to provide valuable insights into every corner we have explored around the world, and Sydney Manly is no different. We wish you an epic trip to Sydney and remember, you can find many family-friendly destination guides on our blog including top attractions in Australia.
Safe travels and see you in another chapter!
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