Magnificent Manly Beach

Manly Beach is a magnificent long sweep of golden sand and surf lined with tall Norfolk pines. It stretches about two kilometres.

If you can only choose one remarkable Sydney beach to go to in your short stay here, make it Manly. You won’t be disappointed.

Why the name “Manly”? Is it something to do with the athletic looking lifeguards on the beach? Well, some of these young men may suggest so – but actually … no!

Way back in 1788 the area’s Aborigines impressed our first Governor, Arthur Phillip, with their “confidence and manly behaviour”.

... And that’s how Manly Cove got its name

Present day Manly still impresses – and it is family friendly, whether you’ve got teens or little ones.

Should the weather turn unpleasant or the surf be wild on your day at Manly, you still can make your visit here memorable.

Getting the best day trip to Manly Beach

... Two top tips - Start Early and come by Ferry!

You can board the Manly Ferry from Sydney's main ferry terminal, Circular Quay.

It's an enjoyable 30-minute ride to the North Shore ... and it's also the most cost-effective way to enjoy our great harbour. (If you want a quicker trip, take the Jetcat).

Be sure to have the camera ready for snaps of those two great Sydney icons . . . the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

The ferry trip ends at Manly Cove’s tranquil inner harbour beach wharf.

"... a million miles from care"

Someone wrote a century ago about Manly Beach - “Seven (nautical) miles from the city, a million miles from care." Manly still has that same feeling today!

Manly is surrounded on three sides by ocean and harbour. A peninsula with great views, it has 18 small cove harbours and ocean beaches.

What’s Manly like? Well there’s a great mix of long sandy beaches, towering Norfolk Pines, little inlets and coves.

Add lots of life - bikinis, beer, music, the sunburned, the strolling lovers, the beautiful bodies working out down the oceanfront promenade, surfboards, thongs, sunscreen, ice creams, fish ‘n chips, lifeguards, yachts, boats and screaming seagulls.

Get the picture? - this is as Australian as it gets!

When you get off the harbour ferry it doesn't take long to reach the ocean beach on the other side of the peninsula - with a short walk through The Corso.

Manly is a wonderful blend of casual and trendy tastes. There's an easygoing beach culture.

Popular pedestrian plaza

The Corso is one of Manly’s main streets for stylish and sophisticated shopping and dining. Even so, the atmosphere is laid-back … a reflection of sun, surf and holiday-making.

Every weekend Manly features an impressive showcase of often unique quality artworks at its Arts and Craft Market held in Sydney Road and Market Lane.

If you're after a distinctive Aussie hand-crafted item you've many to choose from here. The Market is open every weekend 10am-5pm except on public holidays. 

The long golden Manly Beach strip embraces South Steyne, North Steyne and Queenscliff Beaches.

The southern end (near The Corso) is South Steyne. North Steyne is in the centre and Queenscliff is at the northern end. Each has its own surf lifesaving club.  

There are rip currents to watch out for - but just follow directions from the lifesavers on where to swim. Swim between the flags they erect and most times Manly Beach will be fine for the whole family.

The major rip current here is the "Escalator" - so named because it can have you 200m out to sea in about two minutes! It's at the south end of the beach. Board riders use it to quickly get back to the waves after surfing in.

Should all the surf beaches be too rough for your family, try those on the harbour side.

When you need a change from sun 'n surf

. . . Take a break at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary and see the aquarium’s sharks and colourful fish.

You can pay to dive with the sharks (like those pictured above) - if you dare!

Need an ice-cream? … there are plenty of shops close by to choose from. Kids want a meal? … great fish ‘n’ chips too. And there are top quality restaurants.

Enjoy a walk along the beach front and round the headland to the less populated Shelly Beach (pictured below). Keep your eyes open and you may well see large lizards beside the path.

Shelly Beach is unique - the only inland facing ocean beach on the east coast of Australia. It's protected from ocean swell by a reef.

Shelly Beach is special

It has beautiful clear water and is very safe for youngsters.

If you're keen on snorkeling or learning to bottle dive it's a great spot - with plenty of fish to make it interesting.

Don't be tempted to spear the fish! Shelly Beach is part of Cabbage Tree Bay which since 2002 has been a "no take" aquatic reserve.

Among the sea creatures at Shelly is the Leafy or Weedy Sea Dragon (a protected fish in NSW) and the Gloomy Octopus. You might also see an Eastern Blue Groper.

A beautiful Weedy Sea Dragon. Loss of habitat, pollution and being sought after for the international aquarium trade are putting sea dragon populations at risk, but you can still find them here at Shelly Beach. 

Snorkel the reef on the right side of the beach, or enter at the boat ramp. From there you can snorkel following the walkway to Fairy Bower ... then return.

Shelley Beach is one of Sydney's hot spots for snorkeling. Have fun but respect the lovely beach and please dispose of your rubbish wisely!

Walk or cycle to beauty and history

Try the many great walking areas and bicycle paths around Manly. Both activities bring you wonderful views and much history.

Just make sure you've got the usual sun protection (hat, sunscreen cream, etc), comfortable shoes, water and some fruit or sandwiches to munch. Take your cozzies too so you can cool off with a dip where the water looks inviting.

  • Manly to Spit Bridge walk. This takes three hours one way. The walk goes across Manly Cove to Manly Sea World Sanctuary. Steps lead to the coastal path. It's a walk of beauty which takes in Delwood and Fairlight beaches, Forty Basket, Dobroyd Head, Crater Cove, Castle Rock, Washaway Beach, Grotto Point, Fisher and Sandy Bay.
  • Bike along the Beach. There are more than 20kms of special cycleways in Manly. A great place to start is at the Manly Beach ocean promenade. Follow the dedicated bike path along to Cabbage Tree Bay and lovely Shelly Beach. Ride back past The Corso, the "Hole in the Wall" and Manly Lagoon. Hey, this is just the start, biking is the best way to enjoy so much of Manly. It's easy and safe. You don't have to hassle with competing traffic. Lots more here about the fun you can have on bikes at Manly - including bike tours.

Can you visit Sydney in October?

... If so, come to Manly on the Labour Day long weekend for great jazz at the annual Manly Jazz Festival.

In 2015 the much-loved event will be in its 38th year!

It draws thousands of jazz lovers to Manly Beach over the three days (Oct 3-5). While the climax is the long weekend, the Jazz Festival actually starts a week earlier - and in 2014 had Manly jumping and jiving for 11 days!

This Jazz Festival is Sydney's biggest celebration of all things jazz. Pictured below putting it out there for Manly a few years back is the Big Ol' Bus Band.

Unbeatable attraction with food and wine

On any day of the week Manly Beach is a great place to be. Add a food and wine festival and the place just can’t be beaten.

That's what tourists found on May 31 and June 1 this year, when they took in the very popular Manly Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival.

Also known as "The Taste Of Manly", it's held right in the heart of Manly (on The Corso and Manly Beach).

You can enjoy a combination of the Pacific Ocean and the best Aussie and international cuisine and wine at the annual festival, which typically draws 15,000 visitors a day.

The festival showcases Manly restaurants and NSW wineries. It's supported by live entertainment - music on stage and roving, and cooking demos.

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manly weekly forecast

Surfing Manly

Good breaks the length of the beach.

Best breaks into the northern rip and 150m south of the surf boat shed.

Queenscliff bombora breaks off shore when the swell is above 3m.

Manly Point has a good right when the swell is up.

Sun Safety

Don't let Sydney's punishing sun ruin your holiday ... see my Sun Safety tips.

Beach Safety

Find out what to do if you get caught in a Rip Current.

Skinny Dipping

Find the Sydney beaches where you can skinny dip!