A complete guide to Manly, Sydney
Manly is without a doubt the place that I would choose to live if I was to move to Australia.
When exploring Sydney, I find Manly usually sits beneath the likes of Bondi and Coogee for a day trip which is, I think, because it’s more of a lifestyle to experience as opposed to a bucket list ‘tick’ like that witnessing the Icebergs pool in Bondi.
Whilst you can definitely have a day adventure over to Manly, if you have the time i’d definitely recommend staying a while longer. We spent a week in Manly and then couldn’t resist returning to conclude our time in Australia because we loved it so much!
Manly takes the laid back, surfy beach vibes of Byron Bay and combines it with a easy to grasp dose of adrenalin from city life. In just 20 minutes you can be in the hustle of Sydney’s CBD thanks to the quick ferry that journeys from Manly’s port to Circular Quay. The very best of both worlds in my opinion.
Where is Manly?
Manly is a region that sits on the Northern beaches of Sydney. With golden beaches in abundance, a very active lifestyle evident for most people, brunch spots galore and coastal walks at one’s disposal – Manly truly encapsulates the Australian dream.
Manly is super easy to access from the city. If you have a car it will take you about 30 minutes to drive over from the CBD or alternatively it’s just an 18 minute ferry from Circular Quay (the slow boat takes 40 minutes). The ferry brings you straight into Manly Wharf in the centre of the town.
If you’re coming from the airport, you simply need to hop on the train (20min) direct to Circular Quay and then swap onto the ferry.
Top tip: Download CityMapper app to navigate yourselves around the city efficiently and to see all your transport options.
Where should you stay in Manly?
We stayed pretty central during both of our stays in Manly and went for two different Airbnb’s. Accommodation bills rack up easy in Australia particularly if you want a central location. Quite frankly, we’d rather spend our money on food and fun so we opted for a bedroom in a flat with an awesome location as opposed to a whole flat with a further out location.
See the Airbnb we stayed in here. Photographed below.
- See my ‘Complete guide to budgeting for backpacking Australia’ here
- See my Planning a day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains here
- See my How to spend 3 days in Sydney, Australia here
My top Manly picks…
If you’re travelling the east coast of Australia and are no stranger to an early start or two then you’ll be witnessing some pretty spectacular sunrises. Here in Manly they are nothing short of sensational and I highly recommend you rise for one.
Watch the sun rise on the main beach and as the towns wakes up, grab yourself a coffee and sit on the wall that runs along the beach front. Magical, magical mornings.
The main beach in Manly is a sight in itself and is well worth a beach day on. Aside from that i’d definitely check out the Spit to Manly walk, Shelley beach and dinner at SunsetSabi.
My one day Manly itinerary if your time is limited…
- Spit to Manly walk
- Breakfast at Bare Naked Bowls / Momo’s Poke
- Relax on the main beach
- Walk over to Shelley beach / snorkel and have a cocktail at The Boathouse
- Continue with another cocktail at The Glasshouse (why not)
- Watch the sunset at Manly Wharf or hike over to North Head for an epic view over the city
- Dinner at SunsetSabi
Things to do in Manly if you’re on a budget…
- Spit to Manly walk
- Shelley beach
- Main Beach
- Walk up to sunset over looking the city at North Head for an epic view over the city
- Watch the sunset at Manly Wharf
- Get a bus up to Palm Beach or one of the beaches a little further north
- Roller blade / hire a bike along the coast front
My favourite places to eat and drink…
- Brunch at Sea Salt Society
- Alllll the goodness at Bare Naked Bowls
- Japanese heaven and probably one of my favourite meals ever at Sunset Sabi (book in advance)
- Mexican loving at Chica Bonita
- The best poke bowl i’ve ever had at Fishbowl Manly. Seriously (it’s on UberEats too).
- Morning coffee spot on the beach front – Rope & Anchor Cafe
- Gin and tonics (they have a dedicated menu where you create your own concoction) at The Glasshouse Bar
- Beachside cocktails at The Boathouse, Shelley Beach
Where to go out in Manly…
We didn’t actually have any mad ones in Manly itself but The Glasshouse rooftop gets pretty live at the weekend and the Moonshine bar on the ground floor is the perfect place to grab a cold one and enjoy some live music after a day in the sun.
Workouts to try…
I absolutely love the get active vibe in Australia. On the morning that I watched the sunrise I witnessed so many pre-work runs, volleyball matches and swims. It’s seriously motivating.
- Dynamic Pilates
- The Yoga and Meditation centre
- There’s also a few early morning group swims that happen in Manly along with an awesome pre work volleyball culture. LOVE IT
Day trips from Manly…
- Take the bus up the coast to Palm Beach, the home of Home and Away. It’s not unusual to see the cast filming there – we did! It takes about an hour to get to by bus which leaves right in the centre of town. You pass through a number of coastal towns and beaches on the way that make for great extensions – noteable Newport.
- If you’re using Manly as your base, grab the ferry back over to Sydney and explore the city! See my How to spend 3 days in Sydney, Australia here
- A day trip to The Blue Mountains whilst you’re in Sydney is a must! See my Planning a day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains here
Tips and tricks for Manly…
- If you go to Sunsetsabi be sure to book ahead – it pretty hard to get a walk in table! THE FOOD IS EVERYTHING.
- Get yourself a volleyball – staple activity for a day on the main beach
- If you’re not staying long and want to workout without a membership – most of the above (F45, pilates etc) have cheap / free trial periods!
Have you been to Manly?
What were your favourite spots? I’d love to know! ?
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