by Benjamin Witcomb

Chances are at some point during your travels in Australia, you will end up in Sydney. It’s the perfect place to live and work, whilst at the same time feeling like you’re constantly experiencing new and different things. The great thing about Sydney is that you don’t need to travel far in order to do something cool, as everything is pretty close together. Manly is the perfect place to visit for a breath of fresh air from city life.

How to get there

Wherever you are in Sydney, hop on a train that is heading for Circular Quay. There will be a train running every few minutes from most stations, especially Central Station. Once you’re at Circular Quay, head to Wharf 3 and wait for the next ferry to Manly. You can use your Opal card to get there and it costs around $7 each way. If you’re a budget traveller then plan to go on a Sunday so that your Opal card caps at $2.50.

The ferry is a spectacle in itself! If you’re thinking of booking a Sydney Harbour boat tour, then honestly think twice. For a fraction of the price, you will get amazing views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the Manly ferry. If you go to Manly mid morning and plan to return for sunset, then on a clear day you will get an amazing, money shot snap of the Sydney skyline featuring the Opera House and Harbour Bridge! Also, keep an eye out for the resident seal that lives on the steps underneath the Opera House.

sydney skyline

View from the ferry over the Sydney skyline.

Shops and Restaurants

Coming out of the station, keep walking straight towards the beach. It’s one big long strip full of shops and restaurants. There’s everything you can imagine from Nando’s and McDonald’s to more upmarket restaurants that serve fresh seafood and kangaroo burgers. There is also a fantastically located Max Brenner in Manly wharf, which if you didn’t know, is a delicious chocolate restaurant. Think sundae’s, chocolate pizzas and hot chocolate which is literally a melted bar of chocolate… NOM!

Shopping wise, Manly showcases the likes of RipCurl, Billabong and Cotton On, as well as boutique stores that sell aboriginal art and handcrafted items. You can also find the generic gift stores selling boomerangs, beach towels and sunglasses. When you reach Manly Beach, take a right and navigate the coastal walk. Along the walk is some fantastic one of a kind stores that sell some really unique items.


Manly Beach

There are two main beaches at Manly. The first one that you come across will be Manly Beach, which is located at the end of the strip. At 1.4km long and with waves reaching up to 1m, Manly Beach is perfect for sunbathers and surfers alike. The beach is also lined with a great variety of restaurants and bars, so you won’t have to journey far to find a refreshment after you’ve been for a swim.

Shelly Beach

To the right-hand side of Manly Beach, you will find a coastal walk. Follow this 20-minute pathway that offers stunning views over Manly and even stop for a dip in one of Australia’s many ocean pools. Nestled at the end of this coastal walk, within a cove, is Shelly Beach. This is my favourite beach out of the two. It is protected from the wind and there are little to no waves that reach Shelly Beach. It’s a great place to swim, relax and watch the sunset. There are also a couple of public BBQ’s that can be used. Shelly Beach is a lot smaller than Manly Beach and is surrounded by lush forest.

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The Boat House

Next to Shelly Beach, you will find a fantastic restaurant called The Boat House. It is a quirky beach themed restaurant that offers delicious foods from salads to flatbreads. The Boat House is a perfect place to get out of the midday heat, grab a fresh coconut and admire the beautiful view.

shelly beach manly

Shelly Beach, Manly


Cabbage Tree Bay

From Shelly Beach, swimmers, snorkelers and divers can experience the wonders of Cabbage Tree Bay, which is a protected marine environment. Expect to see small sharks, cuttlefish, gropers and if you’re lucky a green sea turtle!

Bush Walks

Around Shelly Beach, you will find a number of different bush walks. One located to the left of the beach which offers amazing views over the coastline and you can walk back to the beach through the rocks next to the sea. To the right-hand side of The Boat House, you could easily miss a small set of steps that leads to a lush forest. Keep your eyes open for snakes and spiders but more importantly water dragons! Once you’ve spotted one, you’ll spot them all! Ranging in size, some can grow up to 3 feet!

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

If you’re really into nature, Manly offers a Sea Life Sanctuary which helps promote marine conservation. The sanctuary is heavily involved in breeding and rescue projects within the local Manly area. If you’re feeling adventurous then there is the opportunity to scuba dive with turtles, sharks and stingrays within the sanctuary! I haven’t personally done this but hey, it sounds amazing!

Arts and Crafts Market

Every weekend from 10am there is a market that runs along the front of Manly Beach. Most of the items being sold are completely hand made by the artist. You can expect to find jewellery, photography, art, cosmetic products, sculptures and souvenirs!

There is normally a range of different food stalls there too. Who doesn’t love food? The market offers a great atmosphere and a chance to support the work of local artists and craftsmen where you can purchase some beautiful one-off items!

So there we have it! A pretty decent guide to a day out in Manly. You get a real sense of being out of the city when you’re only a 30-minute ferry ride away. I definitely preferred going to Manly or Shelly Beach over Bondi, no matter how iconic it is. There’s something special about Manly… maybe you’ll have to visit to see why.