The starting point of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Manly beach is a 1.5 km long stretch of sand starting at South Steyne and Shelley Beach in the South and ending at the Queenscliff headland.
On any given day, especially in Summer, Manly is a hive of activity. In the water surfers and board riders congregate at the various peaks whilst swimmers set off from the protected southern corner. On the beach, sun bathers, volleyball players and other disciples of the sun will have staked out their little place in the sand.
Manly’s famous beach side promenade is lined with pine trees and it’s walkway and cycle path gets busy with walkers, joggers, parents with strollers and small and big kids on skateboards. The grassy lawn is ideal for picnics, and a favourite place for yoga and fitness classes.
Easy access by ferry and public transport means that Manly can get a bit of a crowd - a mix of locals, day-trippers and tourists, but you can easily venture out from the main corso area for some breathing space.
Running from the Manly Wharf to South Steyne is the Corso - a pedestrian mall with a variety of shopping, dining and drinking options. This is possibly the only mall where you are allowed to skateboard and ride your bike through. A number of surf & beach lifestyle brands have their outposts here. The side streets is where you will find a few smaller, independent shops.
Tucked under the Fairy Bower head land, Shelly is a protected little beach in South Manly. Just a short walk along the Fairy Bower walkway from the Manly Surf Life Saving Club. The beach is great for families as little ones can play safely in the calm waters. The sloped grassy area behind the beach is a good picnic spot and there are 2 free gas bbqs which see frequent use. Adjacent Boathouse restaurant and takeaway serves top-notch food at prices you would expect given the surroundings. Shelly beach is part of the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, a sanctuary for sea life.The reserve is an excellent spot for snorkelling and a favourite for scuba dive schools. You will often spot blue groupers, marwangs and squid and sometimes even dusky whaler and wobbegong sharks.
There is another aspect of Manly on the harbourside where the Manly Wharf is located. Part of Sydney Harbour, the waters here are more suited to kayaking and boating. To the west of the wharf is a small beach with a netted swimming area. Explore the waters by renting kayaks and stand up paddleboards at the Manly Kayak centre adjacent to the wharf.
Little Manly Beach
Little Manly Beach is a harbour side beach to the East of Manly Cove with calm waters and a netted swimming area. Its popular with local families and less busy, as tourists don’t usually make the trek here. Nearby Little Manly Beach Kiosk serves up food, takeaway and icy poles.
Swimming in Manly
From Spring to Autumn, There are 2 flagged areas set up by lifeguards for swimming at South Steyne and Queenscliff. Lifeguards keep a watchful eye on the swimmers in these areas for their safety. At the Southern end, Shelly beach offers protection from ocean swells and the waters there are calm for swimming.
Manly Rock pools
Queenscliff rock pool is 50m rock pool at the Northern end, and Fairy Bower pool is a smaller pool along the walkway from South Steyne to Shelly Beach. Both have toilets and change facilities.
The Bold & The Beautiful
Manly is home to The Bold & The Beautiful a social swimming club recognizable by their signature hot pink swim caps. Every morning without fail, the group takes off from the South Steyne for a round trip swim to Shelly beach, a distance of about 1.5km. The group welcomes new swimmers, so check out their website if you would like to join in. boldandbeautifulsurfmanly.com.au
Surfing in Manly
If there is a rideable wave in Manly, there will be a surfer in the water. Manly surfers are quite an eclectic group from super groms, longboarders to learners on foamies. From Queenscliff to South Steyne, there are various peaks and beach breaks, Furthest South around the North Head headland, the Bower and Deadmans are reef breaks which can fire under the right conditions. There have been legendary days here when the swell is huge. Freshwater beach, North of Queenscliff is a smaller more protected beach with a gentle slope good for beginners.
Checkout our comprehensive Guide to Surfing Manly.
Learning to Surf in Manly
Manly is a fine place to learn surfing. There are no submerged rocks and the rips are usually manageable. Professional surf guides and schools operate along the length of the beach. A couple of surf shops across the road from the beach will rent out surfboards and wetsuits.
Snorkeling & Diving in Manly
There is amazing snorkeling around the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic reserve. The area is a not take zone - fishing or collecting shells from the waters or beaches is not allowed. You can enter the water via Shelly beach or jump off the rocks anywhere along the Fairy Bower walkway. The sanctuary boasts a large variety of marine life with morwangs, squid, and blue gropers being a common sight.
Learning to Dive in Manly
Several dive schools use Shelly Beach as a launch site for their classes. The protected area off the beach is always calm, while the reef on the other side of the headland is a more technical dive.
Hikes and Walks around Manly
Spit to Manly
Manly is the endpoint for the famous Spit to Manly hike - a 15km trail starting at the Spit Bridge in Seaforth. The walk takes you along the Manly scenic walkway through various headlands, coves and look outs with great views of the harbour.
Manly Coastal Walk
Heading North along the promenade is a coastal walkway which takes you through Freshwater, Curl Curl and Long Reef beaches.
Shelly to North Head
From the car park at Shelly beach, you can access a 9km loop trail to North Head the Northern side of the entrance to the Sydney Harbour. At the top of North head, the Fairfax lookout platform gives visitors sweeping views of the harbour. Along the way you can check out the remnants of gun battlements and native Australian flora and fauna.
Shopping in Manly
Manly Longboard Co
Look around Manly and it may seem like almost everyone is wearing a Manly Longboards hoodie. Check out their shop for cool souvenir or gift for someone who likes to hang ten.
During the weekend Manly’s open air marketplaces are buzzing with activity. At the intersection of the Corso and the pedestrian section of Sydney road, there is the Manly Fresh Produce Market where you can pick up some vegetables, artisan bread and takeaway food. Adjacent the Manly market place with stalls selling everything from arts & craft, postcards to bodysurfing handplanes. The beachside markets along the promenade usually has a variety of beach inspired fashion and accessories. Nearby, the grounds of Manly Village school are transformed into a second hand market place on the 3rd Saturdays of each month.
Taste of Manly / May
Annual event featuring food from Northern Beaches restaurants, wine from Australian makers and microbrews from local breweries. Lots of entertainment including live music performances, and kids play areas.
Manly Jazz Festival / Oct
Manly Jazz Fest is a week long event with live jazz performances at indoor and outdoor open air venues. The event culminates on the weekend, with a pop up festival bar set up in the corso and a big stage right by the beach.
Manly Fun Run & Walk / September
A charity fun run organised by the rotary club. Anyone can take part by running or walking the 10km, 5km or 2km distances.
Sydney Surf Pro / March
The biggest surfing competition in NSW, the Sydney Surf Pro attracts local and professional surfers from overseas who will compete for qualifying points as they head to the World Championship Tour. Apart from the action in the water, there are usually food trucks and stalls from surf brands.
Food & Drinks in Manly
From high end restaurants around Manly Wharf, local pubs and simple hole in the wall takeaways there is something for everyone in Manl
Manly Point Cafe
A little kiosk at the side of the Manly Surf Lifesavers Complex does a rapid trade in coffee, snacks & icy poles for swimmers & beach goers.
4 Pines Brewpub
Manly’s own microbrewery has all it’s favourite beers on tap and a selection of gourmet pub food. The upstairs balcony is a great location for sunset sessions.
Overlooking the South Steyne, Manly Wine does great seafood, shared platters and drinks. You can also grab takeaway coffees and rolls from the front kiosk.
The Pantry Manly
Situated right on the beach, The Pantry has great gourmet food & the best views of the surf.
Local pub with a relaxed atmosphere and great grub. Grab a seat by the window for views of the beach or a large table if you have a big group.
The BoatHouse Shelly
Popular restaurant on Shelly Beach which does seafood and salads and drinks. The kiosk on the side has fish & chips and burgers for takeaway.
Bakehouse down a Manly laneway specialising in freshly baked croissants and coffee. Choose from sweet or savoury croissants with exciting non traditional fillings you just have to try.