As the wise tale goes, Manly Beach is 7 miles from Sydney and 1000 miles from care. This guide to Manly Beach comes from experience, because I was lucky enough to live in the gorgeous place for about 5 months. During this time I got to know it and its unique charm quite well. Everyone has their opinion on what is the best beach in Sydney, and their arguments as well – but I think Manly is just so much less of a scene than Bondi, has great waves, has an awesome vibe, and good looking people. It’s top in my book! Here are my recommendations for the best adventure spots, sunset spots, and places to eat and stay in Manly:
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Guide to Manly Beach: Adventure Spots (Places to Explore!)
This is Manly’s central street, where all the shops, people, and bars are, and where you really feel the Manly vibe! The Corso is mostly a pedestrian-only street, leaving space for skaters, street performers, and people galore to explore the street. You’ll find tons of places to shop, eat, and drink, with many overlooking the busy, colorful, and historical street.
Beaches in/Near Manly
Duh! This one goes without saying, but has to be mentioned. The famous Manly Beach is knows for its expanse of sand, its amazing surf, and the crowds it draws to its shores each day. Just watch out for the currents if the waves are strong!
A rock pool about half way from Manly to Shelly
Shelly Beach is just less than a kilometer’s scenic walk from the main beach, and is a bit more secluded and smaller. There are beautiful trails you can take up around the point or to North Head from here, and some people scuba here too. Click here to read more about all the amazing coastal walks in Sydney – as told by me!
Freshwater is technically not part of Manly but it’s just around the point from Queenscliff and is another absolutely beautiful beach. ‘Freshie’ has a rock pool also and some great surf.
Manly Wharf Beach
This is a calm sandy beach right on the wharf where you can watch the ferries come in. It’s not the absolute cleanest but its a lovely little spot.
Looking out over Queenscliff
Queenscliff is technically still part of Manly Beach, but is the northern part of it. ‘Queensy’ is characterized by a big rock pool and a beautiful cliff you can climb/drive up for a lovely view all the way down the beach.
Little Manly/Collins Flat
These tiny beaches are around a little peninsula from Manly Wharf and are much more secluded and calm for swimming.
One of many trails in North Head
The ‘secret’ rock pools of North Head!
No Guide to Manly Beach is complete without North Head! North Head is a fascinating huge point of land that juts out into the sea to begin Sydney’s massive harbor. You can walk just a mile or two from the Corso and suddenly be immersed in seemingly remote nature at North Head. There are tons of trails, plenty of abandoned army barracks and structures (North Head was one of the main points of defense of the harbor during WW2), some amazing rock pools to find, and even an old Quarantine station you can tour.
The Quarantine Station
North Head’s Quarantine station was used when ships came in to Sydney’s Harbor bringing people during disease outbreaks. There were massive outbreaks of influenza, cholera, and many other things during Australia’s colonization and to make sure the population didn’t get infected they used to keep the people in quarantine for a period of time before they could enter Sydney. It’s fascinating and eerie to tour and learn about, and you can even do ghost tours at night because it is very haunted!
North Head Secluded Rock Pools
If you go when the tide is right, you can discover some incredible rock pools down the cliffs of one corner of North Head (pictured above). I went with someone who knew the way and the tides (you MUST go when it is low!) but if you are lucky maybe you will find your way too.
Surfing is a must in Manly!
Manly Wharf, where the ferries come in and a lot of great restaurants surround.
Manly Wharf Beach!
Manly wharf is where all the ferries come in from Circular Quay and the rest of Sydney Harbor. There are many shops and restaurants on the wharf that look out to the calmer side of Manly which faces the Sydney Harbor.
One of the best adventures in Manly beach is surfing! You can rent a board from many places of take a class to learn.
Similar to surfing, kayaking is poplar in Manly (especially on the Sydney Harbor side!) This is a great way to explore the lovely coves and water.
Snorkeling + Scuba Diving
The Cabbage Tree Aquatic Reserve is a protected marine area right outside Shelly Beach, and is home to some beautiful sea life. Grab your goggles and go for a swim in this beautiful area, or jump on a snorkeling tour or a scuba tour (there are a few dive shops in Manly!).
Guide to Manly Beach: Sunset Spots
As it is on the east coast, Sydney is not best known for sunsets. However, a few party of Manly face perfectly West, in preparation for a great sunset! Here are some of the best places to catch the sunset over the water.
Little Manly Beach/Little Manly Point Park
This secluded and calm beach has a great sunset view. You can also walk through the grassy park next door for a lovely view of the harbor.
Although on the other side of Manly, Shelly ends up in a pretty good sunset direction as well. Watch it from the beach or climb around the point a bit for a great sunset view.
The Wharf – Bavarian Bier Cafe/Hugos Restaurant/Skiff Club/Wharf Bar
The wharf faces the sunset quite nicely, so any of the above restaurants on and around the wharf would be a great place to catch the sunset in Manly.
Not looking to spend too much money? That’s alright, just chill on the beach next to the wharf or the grass area above that for some lovely viewage.
Go on a Sunset Cruise!
Watching the sunset from a boat is definitely the best way to get a perfect view, and this tour right here combines a sunset cruise with a Manly Beach bike ride. Sounds like a good combo to me!
The edge of Manly Beach of a stunning summer day
Guide to Manly Beach: Where to Stay
If you’re on a budget, there are a couple hostels in the area. I stayed a few weeks at Boardrider Backpackers. It’s not the most flash hostel in the world but the community there is just like one big family and the location looks right over the corso – it couldn’t be a more perfect view! They also have a job center and help find jobs for backpackers.
If I had a bit more money to spend I would definitely go for an Airbnb. There are tons of incredible places for rent on airbnb and also a few other renting sites like VRBO.
Food & Nightlife Guide to Manly Beach: Where to Eat and Party
There are SO many good food places in Manly; it’s hard to choose. Most of the main bars have good food options as well; Aus is known for having massive multi-story/area hotels that are also bars and restaurants at the same time.
A few smaller and more intimate places to grab a bite to eat are:
Pretty darn good Mexican food, and I don’t say that outside of the US very often.
Fika Swedish Kitchen
This is a lovely little place serving great coffees, teas, and meals. ‘Fika’ in Swedish means a coffee break, and they also serve amazing breakfast/lunch type meals.
One of my favorite places to go and work, Ground Zero has incredible smoothies, breakfast, lunch, and coffee. Honestly, everything is good here!
Manly actually has a large selection of places to get a great Acai Bowl, and I did a blog post on the best acai bowls in Manly Beach right here! All these little cafe’s are great.
The Pantry Manly
This is a nicer place directly on the water across from the Corso. It has a nice breakfast and lunch menu so you can watch the waves while you eat.
The Hot Dog Man
If you are on-the-go, this place on the Corso has incredible, creative hot dogs.
Banana Blossom is near Chica Bonita and is a yummy healthy place to get a salad bowl.
This is technically in Queenscliff, but it’s a fantastic whole foods cafe where you can get all sorts of creative and healthy items and coffees. It doubles as a small grocery shop for healthy things as well.
As the same suggests, this is another place to get yummy healthy meals and breakfasts along with coffee.
Some surfers making the most of Manly waves
An espresso martini at Havana Beach’s happy hour – my fave!
Dinner in Manly to check out:
This place has yummy dinner and great happy hours + cocktails.
This is an Italian place across from the wharf with an extensive menu and great cocktails.
A fancier dinner place directly on the wharf where you can watch the ferries.
Bavarian Bier Cafe
This is where I worked! There’s good German food and some other options, including build-your-own salads and wraps, some great cocktails, and of course a wide selection of Bavarian Bier.
Mex and Co
A Mexican place right on the water, with a couple other nice (but probably expensive) places next to it.
Nice place on the wharf.
A few venues that parallel as bars for nightlife and restaurants and have great food and drink options are:
A popular bar at night and also has pool tables, sports bars, and different food options too.
New Brighton Hotel
A great second-story balcony for having a beer, watching a game, and people-watching right on the Corso. Also great nightlife – home of the notorious ‘Shark Bar’ where northern beaches residents tend to end their nights.
The Steyne Hotel
The Steyne is a multi-level hotel venue that is very popular for nightlife as well. They have a balcony that looks out over the beach, a great menu, and also live bands upstairs quite often.
Manly Wharf Hotel (Wharf Bar)
‘Wharfy’ is a classic northern beaches option and a good place to start your night out. This bar is right on the wharf and also has a good menu and many different bar areas.
This is a more ‘private’ club (you will have to sign in when you go) around the bay from the wharf. The view here is amazing, as is the food, drinks, and atmosphere.
One of my favorite places to both eat and go out, Four Pines is a brewery based on the Northern Beaches and has fantastic beer and food that varies every time. The drinks are always changing with their new brews and it looks out right over the grass area on the wharf.
And, Nightlife! (Places that don’t double as a restaurant or bar… but most do!)
Old Manly Boatshed
This bar is actually down a staircase on the corso and always has live rock bands.
Like I said above, this is the top story of the New Brighton Hotel and is where you end quite a grimy (but fun) night.
Sugar Lounge/BRKLYN Bar
Sugar Lounge is a pretty beach-themed bar right on the waterfront, and BRKLYN is the crazy dance floor below sugar lounge that is popular late at night.
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