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Sydney Manly Beach has been my home for 3 years, and I can honestly say a trip to Sydney isn’t complete until you’ve explored Sydney Manly and North Head.

Whether you prefer sunbathing on the golden sand of Manly Beach, snorkel in the calm waters of Shelly Beach, or take a walk to North Head and admire the sweeping view of the city, Manly is a must-visit destination for travellers all around the world.

In this post, we will introduce Manly as one of the best beaches in Sydney and reveal the top 12 unmissable things to do here. We will share the top travel deals and discounts from local travel sites and spill some of the hidden gems around Manly that only locals know about.

Sydney Manly Beach North Head Hidden Gems Local Travel Guide Australia Featured

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How do you get to Manly?

You can catch a Manly Ferry, also known as My Fast Ferry from Circular Quay Station. It runs every 20 minutes or so from 6.15 am to just after 9 pm, and the trip takes around 20 minutes.

Alternatively, you can purchase a 24-hour hop-on hop-off harbour cruise that will cover the major attractions along the harbour in Sydney.

I highly recommend getting an Opal card if you don’t have one. OpalPay is the cheaper way to travel around Sydney, and it’s super secure as payments are contactless. The perks of having an Opal card does not only limit to off-peak savings, weekly reward, and capped fares. You can read the full benefits of using Opal here.

© Photos by Kida

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Top 12 Things To Do in Manly

As Manly is known for its beach and surf, the top things to do here are water activities. Below is a list of bucket list suggestions and the best deals and tours in Manly.

1. Shop in The Corso Manly
2. Visit Manly Market, on every weekend
3. Hire a stand up paddleboard (2hr SUP rental)
4. Take a surfing lesson
5. Picnic on the beach
6. Hire a kayak
7. Snorkel around Manly and Shelly Beach (full day hire)
8. Get your PADI scuba diving certificate
9. Bike around Manly (self-guided bike tour)
10. Go on a tour to discover the Northern Beaches
11. Enjoy dinner at a waterfront restaurant
12. Walk or drive to North Head


The Corso Manly

To get to Manly Beach from the wharf, you will inevitably walk across the shopping street of Manly Corso. During the weekends, this stretch of pedestrian mall is pumping with tourists and beach vibes.

You can find boutique shops, general stores, souvenir shops, fast-food chains, restaurants and eateries on both sides of the street, so it’s a great day out for every age group.

Water fountains are everywhere in Manly, so don’t forget to top up your water bottle on a hot sunny day!

Don’t miss out on Manly Market, which is on every weekend from 9 am – 5 pm, featuring local artists and fashion designers.


Manly Beach

Walkthrough The Corso and you will come to Australia’s famous landmark – Manly Beach. This beach is known for surfing from holding the first world’s surfing competition back in the 60s.

If surfing is something that interests you, you can hire a surfboard here in Manly and enjoy your day in the waves. Or if you’re really serious about surfing, get a Surf N Stash 5 or 7 Day Surf Pack and live the dream lifestyle for a week.

For folks like us who haven’t quite mastered surfing yet, one of the most relaxing things to do here is hire a beach chair and people watch on the smooth golden sand.

© Photos by Kida

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Shelly Beach

If you love snorkelling and want to get away from the crowd, there’s a scenic coastal walkway from the southern end of Manly Beach that will take you to Shelly Beach.

This hidden gem, or what used to be a hidden gem, is a part of the protected marine reserve of Cabbage Tree Bay. Shelly Beach is easily accessible for prams, strollers, and bikes.

Sydney-Manly-Shelly-Beach-Walking-Track-Travel-Australia
Scenic coastal walkway to Shelly Beach

© Photos by Kida

Before reaching Shelly Beach, you will pass by Fairy Bower Sea Pool. It’s a small natural saltwater pool along the coastal promenade. The water is calm and great for a refreshing dip, and kids love making a splash here. Keep an eye out for water dragons and little geckos. They’re the most popular local residents!

Sydney-Manly-Shelly-Beach-Ghecko-Wildlife
Manly Local Resident

© Photos by Kida

I discovered Shelly Beach during my PADI scuba dive course, where I had an unforgettable experience of swimming with a Wobbegong shark and ‘Simon’ the blue grouper. I’m not sure whether Simon is still at Shelly Beach, but he had been around for some years.

Because the water here is exceptionally calm, you’re likely to see some divers in action. Don’t worry if diving isn’t your thing. You can purchase a snorkel set from The Corso for around $30 just to try it out!

Every year, Shelly Beach attracts more and more people, so it’s not as pristine as it used to be. Nonetheless, it’s still a beautiful picnic spot to relax in the beautiful Manly and away from the crowd.

Sydney-Manly-Shelly-Beach
Shelly Beach, Sydney Manly

© Photos by Kida


Manly Restaurants & Eateries

There are too many good restaurants and eateries in Manly. I couldn’t possibly list every one of them here. However, I can recommend some of my favourites in the area.

Best Café

Three Beans has been my favourite go-to café for many years. Their baristas make some of the best coffees around, and they have a scrumptious breakfast/brunch menu to choose from.

Best Fish & Chips Shop

Fishmongers Manly takes the trophy in this category. Their gourmet fish & chips have people lining out the door during weekends. Thus expect some waiting time and order your food early!

Buskers usually set up not far from this shop, which is a bonus for Fishmongers. Live music attracts a crowd together with the smell of hot seafood baskets bring flocks of seagulls here at The Corso.

Best Steakhouse

There are many waterfront restaurants along Manly Beach, you will enjoy a nice Aussie steak at whichever restaurant you decide to walk in.

Aussies are big on their barbies (BBQ), so a good ol’ steak is a must-try in Manly!

Manly Grill Seafood & Steakhouse serves the tastiest kangaroo steaks and crocodile fillets… serves what?! Yup, try the famous roo & croc pizza!

If that doesn’t sound appealing, some fresh seafood won’t go wrong. I felt so spoiled indulging in my seafood platter last time here, I literally had to cancel my early morning shift the next day!

Best Ice Cream

Manly-Best-Ice-Cream-Ben-Jerrys

I have to admit, I’m a little biased on this one. I have always been a fan of Ben & Jerry’s ice-creams, so every time without fail, I get myself a scoop of ice cream and watch the surfers by the beach.

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Manly North Head

If you have more time to explore this little pocket of the city, North Head is about a 30 minutes easy walk from Manly Beach.

You can look up Shelly Beach To Barracks Precinct Walk if this is your area of interest. As for me, I preferred an easy scenic drive to Fairfax Lookout instead.

Sydney-Manly-North-Head-Panoramic-View-Cruise-Boat
Fairfax Lookout

© Photos by Kida

Hidden Beaches

There are small local beaches at North Head that not many tourists know about, such as Little Manly Beach and Collins Beach. This beach is usually calm and clear, but I came across a few occasions where the water was murky. Nonetheless, Collins Beach had been my favourite place to go for a swim and read a book before kids.

There are jump rocks for the adventurous, just be cautious of the slippery rocks in wet season.

© Photos by Kida

North Head Scenic Drive View Point

Most people stop by the Scenic Drive View Point, where you can take in one of the best uninterrupted panoramic views of Sydney city across the harbour. There is a handy little café – Bella Vista Café with an amazing view if you need to recharge.

Sydney-Manly-North-Head-Panoramic-View
Panoramic View from North Head Scenic Drive View Point

© Photos by Kida


Where to stay in Manly North Head?

Did you know, there is a quiet chic hotel – Q Station Retreat nestled amongst nature? It’s one of the unique accommodations around here. Q station Retreat has its own private beach and overlooking Sydney Harbour. If you’re brave enough, join the Q Station Ghost Tour for a fun night out!

Photo © Q Station Retreat Manly North Head

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There goes all the hidden gems I have found over the years in Manly. Manly has quickly become my favourite place to go to relax and reconnect with nature.

Although I enjoy watching the crowd gather on the beach, I love my own piece of paradise more. So I favour the local beaches for a day of serenity. What about you?

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Have you been or planning to visit Manly? What are your favourite things to do there?

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