Manly is one of the most popular suburbs in Sydney, both among tourists and among locals, and only a ferry ride away from the busy urban streets of this large city. Located on the Pacific Ocean, it offers excellent spots for surfing, kayaking and scuba diving, as well as sunbathing.
Established in the 18th century and named for indigenous Guringai people who live there, Manly has a number of heritage-listed sights and a famous commercial area known as The Corso with over 200 stores. There is certainly no lack of activities and attractions here, so this is one part of New South Wales you definitely shouldn’t miss.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MANLY?
The best time to visit Manly is the summer, which here starts in December and ends in February, because this is the warmest period. However, you won’t make a mistake if you come during any other time of the year, since although the water may be a bit cold for swimming during the winter you can still enjoy various other attractions, like the Northern Beaches Music Festival in May and The Manly Arts Festival in September.
A FEW FACTS ABOUT MANLY
Manly was actually designed to mimic Brighton in England, which is apparent in the way the streets lead to the sea. During its darker days, back in the 1830s, it served as a quarantine station for Sydney where all ships had to dock before the passengers were allowed to enter Sydney to prevent spreading of diseases. Now the quarantine building is part of the ghost tours and it’s also a very popular hotel in Manly.
For many surfers, this is the first stop, and for good reason. Manly is the birthplace of surfing in Australia as well as the fifth location for this watersport in the world.
ONE DAY IN MANLY ITINERARY
A ferry ride to Manly
Manly Ferry is an attraction in its own right for tourists who come to Sydney and is almost always on their “to do” lists. The ride lasts 30 minutes with ferries operating day and night, and it has been that way since 1855. Since 2015, visitors have been able to use a 17-minute Manly Fast Ferry, although it doesn’t operate as frequently as the iconic Manly Ferry.
Have a beachside breakfast
Once you arrive at Manly, visit one of its many cafés for a delicious beachside breakfast and get ready for a day of fun. Organic wholefood at Ruby Lane will help you replenish your energy while feasting on healthy dishes like their famous Paleo Bread with cashew butter. Leave some room for a bite of something sweet at Rollers Bakehouse, like their coconut and banana croissants, which are always fresh and warm.
Head to the beach
There are a number of glorious beaches in Manly and you won’t make a mistake if you choose one over the other because they all offer diverse possibilities. It’s also very popular to get married on the beach here. Northern Beaches wedding venues are particularly popular in Sydney, so don’t be surprised if you witness newlyweds saying “I do” while you’re learning to surf. Manly Beach and Shelley Beach are the most visited ones, but you won’t make a mistake if you visit Spring Cove or Cabbage Tree Bay, which is great for snorkeling and diving.
Visit North Head
Climbing to North Head will require a bus 135 ride to Manly Wharf and then a 45-minute walk up the hill in order to see the Sydney skyline and wildlife like lorikeets and fairy penguins. There is also a military installation you can check out and, if you come during the whale watching season, make sure you have your binoculars at the ready.
Have lunch at the Quarantine Station
The same bus that took you to Manly Wharf will take you to Quarantine Station on your way back from North Head. This historic building is a famous hotel today, Q Station, where you can also do some sightseeing and have lunch at its Boiler Room restaurant. A small shuttle takes visitors to museum and sandstone wall where passengers and crews of the docking ships wrote something.
Shopping in The Corso
The Corso is a pedestrians-only strip which is full of boutiques, restaurants, sculptures and palm trees. If you want to do some shopping, then this is where you can buy anything you want from souvenirs to clothes. Make sure to check out the Manly Farmers Market, as well as the Manly Arts and Crafts Market if you are coming here on weekend.
Go to see the fairy penguins
The last breeding colony of fairy penguins is located at Manly Wharf and you can see them nest between July and February. There are 60 breeding pairs and the best time to see them is at sunset when they return to their burrows.
Have dinner at sunset
Manly has several spots that look to the West and are perfect to watch the iconic sunset over the horizon while enjoying some fine meals. Hugos Restaurant on the Wharf is a perfect place to end the day with exquisite wines and fresh oysters. There is also a sunset cruise which will give you an even more dramatic view of the sunset, although a part of it consists of Manly Beach bike ride.
Try some of the nightlife
Manly may be a smallish suburb, but it has a rich nightlife with something for anyone who wants to have some fun and relax. The best way to finish your one day in Manly is to visit one of its many bars which serve signature cocktails with music. If you want to try craft beers, then 4 Pines Brewing Company should definitely be a place to say goodbye to Manly with a drink. If you are for a more peaceful scene, try Hemingway’s, a place where you can have a drink surrounded by books and an atmosphere perfect for conversation.
WHERE TO STAY IN MANLY, NEW SOUTH WALES?
If you are planning to stay in Manly, then it would be a shame to miss Q Station considering its history and urban legends. Although, you will forget all about it when you take a stunning look over Sydney Harbour and the elegant design of rooms. If a hotel is too much for your budget, try some of the hostels in Manly like Manly Bunkhouse which is a 10-minute walk away from the Corso and each room there has a private bathroom.
DAY TRIPS FROM MANLY
The Blue Mountains is the most visited attraction outside of Manly, which is ideal for a day trip. This Australian wildlife reserve is full of gorgeous landscapes and trails perfect for hiking and cycling. From Three Sisters peak to scenic cable car ride, you will have a wonderful day exploring the nature and animal life of this Australian National Park.
EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING MANLY:
Sydney is an expensive city and prices in Manly will be more or less the same, so make sure you know what to expect, especially if you’re traveling on a tight budget.
Tickets to museums and galleries may be available at discount to students, so carry your student identification card with you.
Don’t try to surf if you never surfed before because you may injure yourself or others in the water. There is a surf school on Manly Beach where you can get the basics and stay safe during the activity.
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Daria Winters is a music/literature/travel addict and a firm believer in kindness and beauty. She’s currently living in Europe, but the road may easily take her somewhere else. Her goal is to one day become a well-known writer and blogger on lifestyle, health… and travel adventures!