Only a short drive or scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay, Manly is a coveted holiday destination for Sydneysiders and has impressed both local and international visitors since the mid-1800s. Travellers seeking an escape from Sydney’s hustle and bustle will appreciate Manly’s slower pace of life. Acting as a gateway to the Northern Beaches, Manly boasts kilometres of uninterrupted oceanways, a national park teeming with endangered species and plenty of postcard-perfect cliff top views of the Sydney CBD. Stay at a holiday home or apartment right in town to absorb this easy-going, truly Australian atmosphere.
From Queenscliff to North Steyne and Manly Beach, the seaside town harbours a series of consecutive beaches. On the other side of the town’s eponymous main beach, you can visit the area’s rock pools for an alternative oceanfront swim. A favourite family spot is Shelly Beach, which is protected from the ocean’s swell by reefs near the coast. Fire up the public BBQs or a have a picnic on the grassy foreshore to refuel, before or after a quiet swim or snorkel. Surfers can bring their boards over to Freshwater Beach, which is patrolled. From Manly Beach, you can walk along the sand to Fairy Bower and Shelly Beaches.
To best discover Manly, hit the coast’s walking trails and cycling paths. Manly Bike Tours not only organises guided group expeditions but also features bicycles for hire, so you can venture out on your own, aided by the provided area map. With over 20 trails to explore on foot or by bike, travellers can ride up to the cliff tops for panoramic views of the ocean and distant Sydney CBD or enjoy a more leisurely pace by the beach and through town. Walk or hike to cliff top lookouts during whale migration season (May to November) for a chance to spot these large marine mammals frolicking in the water below. A popular path will take you around Shelly Beach’s headland, from which you can admire sweeping vistas of North Head and the Northern Beaches.
Sydney Harbour National Park consists of lush foreshores and parts of islands surrounding the harbour, of which the Manly reserve is the biggest. Discover secluded beaches and waterfalls, or keep an eye out for little blue penguins on the shore, part of the only colony in New South Wales. Birdwatchers will enjoy spending some time in the reserve, which is home to over 150 species. And anyone seeking picture perfect views can walk or drive up to North Head at sunset to take in panoramic ocean and city vistas across the water. The Fairfax Walk contours North Head and offers three lookout points.
There’s something for children of all ages in Manly. To learn about the underwater world and current conservation efforts, pay a visit to the Sea Life Sanctuary. The centre hosts the world’s first Shark Dive Xtreme experience, where you can go diving amidst sharks, stingrays and turtles. The attraction is safe for people with little to no diving experience, so get ready for the thrill of a lifetime! Perhaps a less nerve-wracking family activity involves visiting Manly’s weekend Arts and Crafts Market, where you can buy everything from fashion by local designers to photography, jewellery and homemade body care products. Finally, introduce the kids to surfing at Manly Surf School offers lessons specifically designed for children.
Your Manly holidays begin the second you step onto the ferry that will carry you across Sydney’s harbour. In fact, the ferry journey is often cited as a popular Sydney attraction in its own right. Spend half-an-hour on the open deck, taking in the harbour’s islands and the world famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The ferry is extremely affordable and gives harbour sightseeing cruises a run for their money. Of course, you can drive to Manly- but taking the ferry is more fun!