What to Do at Manly Beach

Located among the swathe of pristine Northern Beaches in Sydney City, Manly Beach stretches north to south, encompassing Queenscliff, North Steyne, and South Steyne. It got its name from Captain Arthur Phillip, who named it after the indigenous people living there, claiming that their “confidence and manly behaviour” were the reason for the naming.

Just along from Manly Beach, you’ll find Fairy Bower and Shelley Beach, between which there are plenty of shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs for visitors to enjoy. Many will choose the Manly ferry for the journey, the mode of choice for most locals and tourists. It’s a 30-minute ferry ride and a great way to see some iconic landmarks of Sydney on the way there.
The most popular way to explore Manly is walking through the Manly Corso. The reason that Manly is so beloved by locals is that it’s a leisurely suburb where you can leave your car at home as everything is within walking distance. On the Corso, you’ll discover a range of shops and restaurants that will keep you entertained all day. The pedestrian mall is also the quickest way to get to Manly Beach.

At one end of the 1.5km stretch of sand, Manly Beach boasts a sheltered ocean pool. To the north at Queenscliff, there is a spot perfect for surfing, where many experienced and novice surfers hang out and hit the waves. To the south, there is a pathway that curves around to Shelley Beach, which is a popular place for joggers and cyclists. Nearby, there are plenty of pretty bushwalks and historical sites to explore.

Things to do in Manly Beach

Things to do at Manly Beach

Manly Scenic Walkway

This picturesque walkway takes visitors around the harbour between the Spit Bridge and Sydney Harbour. Along the route, you can take in panoramic views and beautiful bushland. This walk takes about three to four hours, and you’ll be greeted by some of the Harbour’s most iconic landmarks at the end. During the 10 kilometre walk there are plenty opportunities for swimming so be sure to pack a towel. You can stop at Reef Beach along the way for a spot of swimming if you so choose. This is a family friendly trail, perfect for the older kids however you can take sections of this walk if you’re travelling with a pram or young kids where the ground is levelled out.

North Head Sanctuary

Stroll through the bushland, stopping to admire the birds and animals as you go, and take a tour of North Fort, a prominent military base that dates back to World War II. This is one of Manly’s hidden treasures, only 11 kilometres from the heart of Sydney. While at the sanctuary you can participate in a guided tour to the Third Quarantine Cemetery and discover the stories of those unfortunate souls who were plagued with smallpox during a widespread epidemic. It’s at North Fort that you’ll be able to take a guided tour down in the tunnels used during World War 2 and take a stroll along the Australia Memorial Walk that commemorates Australia’s involvements in wars over the past 150 years. Well worth a visit for history lovers!

Sydney Harbour National Park

In Sydney Harbour’s National Park at North Head, you can check out Q Station, which is Australia’s first and longest-running quarantine station. Here, you can learn more about Australia’s early settlement. Q Station is now used as a hotel however it once housed immigrants in the 1800s who had been fallen ill. Nowadays, there are a couple ways to explore Q Station, the most popular is by taking a ghost tour, as its reportedly one of the most haunted spots in all of Sydney. It’s also home to some great swimming spots and bushwalking trails. During the winter period, you may even spot a whale on its yearly migration. There are shorter trails you can do during the day such as the 1 kilometre South Head Heritage trail for a scenic and easy walk.

Oceanworld Manly

Marine life is a huge part of Australian nature, and Oceanworld at Manly gives you the chance to learn more about what species are in the area. You can check out Penguin Cove, where you can see Manly’s popular colony of Little Penguins. In addition, you can go to the Manly Art Gallery and Museum, where you can delve into the history of Manly and Sydney’s northern beaches and admire the collection of swimwear, hats, towels, beach bags, and surfboards that span the 1900s.

Sporting and Cultural Endeavours

For the more active traveller, Manly Beach offers the chance to play volleyball, kayak around the coastline, and scuba dive. At the weekends, a flea market pops up selling handmade arts and crafts, while pubs and bars host lively music. There’s always a festival or event on in Manly that is on at any time of the year. Some past events include the Manly Fun Run and Walk, the Manly Jazz Festival and the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro competition.

Grotto Point Lighthouse

When you take the Manly Scenic Walkway take a look at the Grotto Point Lighthouse, a great area for birdwatchers. This active lighthouse will give you an idea of just what life has a lighthouse keeper is like! Fondly nicknamed ‘Disney Castle’, this lighthouse was built in 1911 and is a popular stop on many walking trails. During the winter months you may also spot a whale on their annual migration. Around Grotto Point there is also rock art engravings left by Aboriginal locals thousands of years ago.

 

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