This article was originally published in November 2015 and updated in August 2018
Sydney has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to breathtaking beaches, thanks to its perch along Australia’s east coast. While expansive Bondi Beach deservedly gets most of the attention from international jet setters, Sydneysiders make no secret of the fact that they much prefer a spot away from the action: Manly Beach. Here are five reasons why this surfer’s paradise with golden sand is considered one of the best beaches in Sydney, and worth the ferry trip out.
1) The Manly ferry ride
Manly Beach can seem tricky to get to being that the most popular mode of transport is boat, but considering the bus to Bondi takes about 45 minutes from Circular Quay, the 30 minute Manly Beach ferry ride isn’t that bad. Plus, the view is unbeatable. The vessels pass right between the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, meaning guests can get an up-close look at the famed architecture from all angles. Even those who aren’t interested in seeing Manly Beach may still want to hop on a ferry, as they offer the same sightseeing opportunities as the touristy harbour boats for a much lower price.
The ferry to Manly from Sydney Harbour leaves every half hour out of Circular Quay, and adult tickets cost around $15 return. One day unlimited transit passes are about $24, which can be a good option for those who plan to head anywhere else on the same day. If you simply can’t wait to hit the beach, pay a few bucks more to hop on the fast ferry, which only takes 17 minutes each way.
Tip from a Sydneysider: When travelling back from Manly Beach, line up at the top entrance onto the ferry as it boards first, meaning you’ll get to choose the best seat.
2) The Corso
After passing through the ferry terminal once the boat pulls into harbour, it’s immediately apparent what kind of place Manly is. The air just seems fresher, laid-back surfers stroll along the sidewalks in bare feet, and details such as time and responsibilities seem to melt away like an ice cream cone under the searing Aussie sun.
One of the first spots visitors will come across in Manly is The Corso. The pedestrian-only strip serves as the main street, with an expansive walkway that’s wide open save for the odd sculpture, fountain, or palm tree that juts out of the pavement and stretches toward the sky.
Home to dozens of shops, The Corso hosts bars, cafes, a supermarket, surf shops and gift stores brimming with indigenous art, boomerangs and other handicrafts. It’s also the perfect spot to pick up any beach gear one may have inadvertently left behind, as The Corso leads right to the beach.
3) Manly Beach, Sydney
Of course what really draws visitors to Manly is the golden shore, and there is no shortage of coastline which makes this one of the best beaches near Sydney. The soft, velvet-like sand stretches for three kilometres along the sea, and white-tipped waves curl toward the beach as their rhythmic sounds drown out the indistinguishable chatter of visitors. Delicious smells of grilled meat and French fries waft over, as cackling birds fight over scraps of food strewn about by generous tourists.
Rivalling famous Bondi Beach when it comes to size, Manly Beach has plenty of room for sunbathers to stretch out. Chair and umbrella rentals are available from vendors along the strip, and snacks and cold drinks are easily picked up just across the road. While simply relaxing and soaking up the sun is a popular pastime at Manly, there are also swimming areas that are patrolled year-round by lifeguards.
4) Manly Beach surfing
No Aussie beach would be complete without a surf spot, and Manly has one of the best—they don’t call it Surf City for nothing! The consistent swells make for perfect conditions to catch a wave, and the winding coast shelters one part of the beach enough that beginners can get in on the action.
There’s a surf school right along Manly Beach, as well as vendors set up along the strip who rent out boards and coverups. The beach has also played host to international competitions, so who time their trip to Manly accordingly are in for a treat.
5) The scenic walk
One of Manly Beach’s main attractions actually leads away from the hub of activity. The Cabbage Tree Bay Eco-Sculpture Walk takes about 15 minutes from the surf club near the south end of Manly, and follows the jagged coastline all the way to a spot called Shelly Beach.
Along the way, the flat path winds past 11 sculptures depicting the history and wildlife in the area. One spot definitely worth a stop is the Fairy Bower baths, which are cordoned off from the sea by huge stones, which offer a respite from the surrounding waves.
Just a bit farther down the pathway, visitors arrive Shelly Beach which lives up to its name. The beach is littered with tiny pebbles, which look beautiful but aren’t exactly ideal for walking on. As such, most beachcombers set up their towels a bit farther back, and simply use the shore as a jumping off point to get into the peaceful cove which doubles as a great snorkelling spot.
While Manly Beach may not be able to compete with Bondi Beach’s glitzy reputation, there’s no question it’s worth the trip for those with time to spare in Sydney. From the welcoming atmosphere of the laid-back town to the epic surf and the memorable ferry ride over, it’s clear why Sydneysiders treasure Manly Beach as their well-kept secret.
Staying in Manly Beach is a great option for those looking to get away from the hustle and busy of Sydney. Some top picks include:
- The Sebel Manly Beach: This Manly Beach hotel is a bright, modern space with a great outdoor pool, spacious rooms and friendly staff. Click here to book
- Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific: Guests love the great ocean views, rooftop pool and huge suites at this Novotel property. Click here to book
- Gilbert Apartments: This budget option has large apartment-style units and is within walking distance to the beach. Click here to book
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