I’ll never forget my first adventure to Sydney back in 2015. I found myself solo traveling on my final day in Australia’s biggest city when a passerby told me to visit Manly Beach. I hopped on the ferry and made my way over to the first beach of Sydney’s northern beaches which technically start in Manly and ends in Palm Beach at Barrenjoey headland (Alex’s one and only tattoo, fun fact!). I remember that day well. I wandered around aimlessly while people-watching and sucking down an ice cream, wondering what life would be like living here. I had no idea I’d be back exactly six years later renting an apartment with an ex-Manly resident and our baby girl. I love how life surprises you sometimes.
Manly was named by Capt. Arthur Phillip of the British Royal Navy. Speaking about the local Aboriginal people residing there, he wrote, “Their confidence and manly behavior made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place.” I’ve now visited Manly quite a few times since that day back in 2015, and it’s perhaps the best beach bubble on earth. With eight beaches to choose from and so many different shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, you find yourself making up excuses in order to force yourself out of said bubble every fortnight. If you make your way to the other end of the world and arrive on this island continent, head on over to this south pacific paradise.
If you’re in the heart of Sydney, the easiest way to get to Manly is via Circular Quay ferry. The fast ferry service operates multiple times daily costing $10.20 AUD per adult and taking only 20 minutes per route. These ferries are easily distinguishable with their blue, yellow and white colors with a modern design. The traditional ferry takes between 22-30 minutes with green and yellow coloring and multiple trips per day.
Where to Stay
You won’t find any luxe high rise hotels in this area of the city, and I love that about it. We’ve stayed in lodging options from serviced apartments to historic hotels. Here’s what I’d recommend…
Manly Pacific Hotel – The rooms reflect a refined coastal vibe where no two are the same.
Manly Surfside Apartments – We stayed in one of the 3-bedroom apartments a few years ago, and it was a great spot that offered a ton of space and a large terrace with ocean views.
Q Station – If a hotel could talk! Q Station has so much history as it once served as the Quarantine Station for migrants arriving in Australia. Located in the Sydney Harbour National Park, this hotel has accommodation, restaurants, bars, a beach, kayaks, SUPs, hikes, ghost tours(!!!) and event space. Alex’s sister actually got married here!
Luxico – I worked with Luxico many moons ago during my first trip down under. They have a roster of incredible apartments, a concierge service and so much more.
Airbnb – The safety net you can rely on (most of the time).
What to do
Manly Beach – One of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches and where the first World Surfing Championship was held in 1964. With a Norfolk Pine tree-lined promenade and a long stretch of soft sand, Manly Beach is a popular spot for surfers and sunbathers alike.
Manly Cove Beach – I left a piece of my heart in this cove because it’s where Nora fell in love with the ocean. The wharf is super calm with hardly any waves at all, and we found ourselves here almost every afternoon around 5pm. With The Office (stretch of grass where people congregate for beers, meet-ups, etc.) and Wharf Bar nearby, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Shelly Beach – Quite the sheltered spot for a beach picnic or jumping off point for snorkeling or scuba diving. Don’t miss The Boathouse for brekkie or lunch when you’re there.
Delwood Beach – How much do I love Delwood? Allow me to count the ways. A short jaunt from our rental apartment, Delwood is the perfect neighborhood beach where you can find some locals, some sunbathing rocks and a nice stretch of sand tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Manly Beach.
Little Manly Beach – Perfect for families with young children, Little Manly doesn’t have any surf alongside a shark-proof swimming enclosure.
Collins Flat Beach – With scenic harbor views and only 15 minutes from Little Manly, Collins Flat is an idyllic spot for an afternoon. Go spot the waterfall and if you’re lucky, the fairy penguins and echidnas, too!
Store Beach – Only available by water, Store Beach awaits! Located in the Sydney Harbour National Park between Quarantine Beach and Collins Beach, it was where ships used to unload provisions for the Quarantine Station (used from 14 August 1832 to 29 February 1984 for anyone susceptible to ship-born disease). It takes about 20-30 minutes to kayak here from the rental at Manly Wharf and is a nice secluded spot for couples or families alike.
Quarantine Beach – Named after the Quarantine Station, this beach holds so much history. Today it’s part of the Sydney Harbour National Park where you can swim, snorkel, kayak, bush walk or simply relax on the quiet beach attached to the Q Station Hotel. Oh, if beaches could talk!
The Corso makes up a big promenade serving as one of the main areas of Manly and the connector between the Manly ferry wharf and Manly Surf Beach on the Pacific Ocean side of the Manly peninsula.
Anita Gelato – With a line out the door on most occasions!
Three Beans – I fell hard for their acai bowls, coffee and sandwiches.
Manly Farm Organic Grocery – What a dreamy grocery with organic finds and even organic formula (which put my mind at ease in case we ran out of our beloved Bobbie!)
Little Pearl Restaurant – This spot is as yummy as it is beautiful with incredible views of Manly Beach.
Shelly Beach Boathouse – A personal favorite for brekkie. Get the avo toast and thank me later.
Hugo’s Manly – Hands down the best restaurant in all of Manly (IMO). Order a crisp sav blanc and the Tasting Plate for lunch followed by a nap in the sun 🙂
4 Pines Brew Pub – Manly’s very own craft brewery with amazing crafts beers which go pair well with the modern pub grub menu.
Wharf Bar – Oh Wharf Bar, how I love thee. I’ve seen so many sides to this place it’s almost comical. It can go from a nice date spot on the deck during sunset to feeling like an exclusive dinner in the private dining area to a rager of a club after-hours.
Belgrave Cartel – Alex’s favorite spot in the neighborhood where you can get the best flat white and bacon egg roll. Aside from brekkie, this spot also serves up some insane cocktails as well as a great lunch and dinner menu. Say hi to Joe for us!
Chica Bonita – For your tequila, tacos and burrito fix!
Banana Blossom – Combines authentic Asian flavors with a modern, fresh take on lunch on-the-go. It’s basically health in a bowl.
Henry Roth Arcade – Head in here for the best kept secrets of Manly including…
Market Lane Cafe – I know I play favorites on this page, but I ADORE this cafe. My mouth is watering as we speak for the Couscous Falafel Bowl. And literally everything else on the menu.
Jipang – Miso, ramen, sashimi. Need I say more?
Oakberry Acai – NOM
Bare Naked Bowls – Double NOM
Momo Bar – Dumplings and poke bowls – you just can’t go wrong here.
Fika Swedish Kitchen – I have big, big love for a swedish fika and learned about this cultural concept during my yoga teacher training from my Swedish yoga teacher. The Swedish coffee break with friends is best had over soft pastries and flat whites in this Manly eatery.
There’s so much good coffee here on every single street corner, you’ll trip over it. – Alex Kavanagh
Orchard St. – If I were a cafe, I would be Orchard St. Upon walking into this plant-based space, all five senses are immediately heightened. The smell of palo santo, the aesthetically pleasing color-coded smoothies, the mouth watering acai bowls and don’t even get me started on the Tarot cards on offer. Their love for Mother Earth is palpable.
Barrel One Coffee Roasters – This spot was right outside our apartment rental for the month so we got real tight with the baristas. The line out the door in the AM tells you all you need to know.
Belgrave Cartel – This is Alex’s go-to for a flat white in the morning, afternoon and evening 🙂 We have their beans in our espresso maker as we speak.
Market Lane Cafe – This is my go-to for a flat white in the morning and a matcha in the afternoon 🙂
Australian fashion brands have been my obsession for quite some time now. Their feminine touches and flirty finishings are *chef’s kiss.* These are some of my favorite brands below!
Coco and Lola – Disclaimer: Entering said store will lead to bank account depletion. This space is absolutely gorgeous and full of the latest and greatest designers.
23 Albert – Funky and fancy from clothing to footwear to gifts.
Ghanda Clothing – Surf and streetwear full of color and throwback vibes.
Tahei – Hi, my name is Lesley and I want to fill my house with these goodies!
Manly Markets – Weekend warriors, take note. From specialty foods to candles, jewelry and clothing, I am a big fan of these markets.
Kivari the Label (Freshwater) – Technically one beach over from Manly, but I had to include Kivari on this short list for its epic sunny pieces and beautiful linens.
Wanderlust Swim (Freshwater) – Also in Freshie but if you’re in the market for some swimwear, look no further.
Manly Beach Babes – My go-to for Nora during our stay from sippy cups to stunning clothing.
KidStuff – A massive toy paradise for kids of all ages.
Tula Baba – Another truly stunning store full of beautiful brands and must-have products from newborns to toddlers.
Power Living Yoga Manly – I couldn’t wait to get back to my favorite yoga studio! I bought a month unlimited here during our stay this time and loved everything from the teachers to the studio to the welcoming vibes.
Kayak Manly – Offers a wide range of water-based adventure activities stationed next to Wharf Bar.
Manly Surf School – Offering lessons since 1983, catering for both newbie children and adults as well as seasoned surfers
Fairy Bower Pool – Built by local residents in 1929, the rock pool is in a unique triangular in shape and features a pair of sculptures by artist Helen Leete called The Oceanides which look like a pair of dancers twirling above the water.
Manly to Spit walk – Sydney has some famous coastal walks, and this 6 mile track links the Spit Bridge with Manly Beach via a string of secret beaches, including Fisher Bay, Forty Baskets and Sandy Beach, before swinging through Fairlight on the way into Manly.
After Manly beach goes Queenscliff Beach, Freshwater Beach and on up towards Palm Beach with more insane views.
Jump on the ferry to Circular Quay to see the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and so much more!