Sydney, Australia is such a fun, vibrant city to visit. But a trip to Sydney would not be complete without a ferry ride across the harbor to visit Manly for a day. There are endless beaches, many hiking trails along the ocean, the Sydney Harbor, and tons of places to eat and shop!
We housesat in Manly for 10 days in 2019 and it was a blast. Before we got to Sydney, I was a bit worried we would miss opportunities being out in Manly, but by the end, I was so glad that is where we ended up staying since there is so much to see and do there!
How to Get to Manly
While you can take a bus to get to Manly from Sydney city center, I would highly suggest taking the ferry. The ferry ride will give you perfect views of the Sydney Opera House and the beautiful harbor. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes long and will drop you off right in the Manly city center.
To get on the ferry to Manly, you must go to the Circular Quay station in Sydney city center. From there, you will go to Wharf 3, Side B, and take the F1 Ferry. Manly ferry gate closes two minutes before the scheduled departure times. But the ferry leaves about every 30 minutes during the day, so one will always be coming soon. Opal is the name of the transportation system in Sydney that allows you to ride busses, ferries, the metro and trains. One way to Manly on the ferry costs $7.65 AUD (about $5.21 USD) and you just scan your Opal card or tap your Opal app to ride.
Travel Tip: If you are visiting Sydney and happen to be there during a Sunday, visit Manly on Sunday! Public transportation in Sydney is a maximum of $2.80 AUD (about $1.91 USD) all day on Sunday. So once you spend $2.80 AUD, the rest of your travel that day is free! Budget friendly travelers rejoice!
On the ferry you can sit inside, outside, upstairs and many places to get gorgeous photos of the Sydney harbor and Opera House. It is a very large ferry so there is plenty of room for everyone to have good views.
Things to Do in Manly
When you get to Manly, you’ll be surrounded by beaches, hiking trails, restaurants and places to go shopping. I would suggest getting to Manly in the morning, going for a hike, then getting some lunch and spending the afternoon relaxing on a beach or two. If you take the ferry back to Sydney city center around sunset you’ll be in for a real treat. Here is a map version of the places and things I list below:
This is my favorite beach in the area. It is about a 10 minute walk along the coast from the Manly Wharf. This beach is great because it has a built-in tide pool, so if you’re afraid of sharks or the sea, there is a nice area for you to swim safely. It faces inside the Sydney harbor so there aren’t huge waves. There are also toilets and showers available at the beach. I often saw people snorkeling here also, but I had never tried.
This is a busy beach full of tourists and locals alike (except early in the morning when I too that picture). It is facing the open ocean so there are larger waves. You can try to surf at this beach. They even have a surf school that offers lessons.
While there is not actually freshwater at this beach, there is a big cliff face near this beach giving it great views. This beach also has great surfing since it is facing the ocean. During the summer months it will be very busy with locals. Freshwater beach also offers a rock pool for swimmers not in the ocean.
Shelly Beach is a smaller beach adjacent to Manly Beach. It faces the ocean; however, it is in a smaller cove area so the waves are not as large. On the way to this beach there is also a little rock pool for swimming. Great hiking trails also start from around here.
Grotto Point Lighthouse
This trail is to the west of Manly. It is a bit of a hike from the Manly ferry drop off spot, but it winds all along the harbor and coast. It goes up pretty high along the rocky cliffs giving you gorgeous views of the area. A very famous walk in Sydney is the Manly to Spit 10km hike. If you hike from Manly Wharf to the Grotto Point Lighthouse, you are a little more than halfway to Spit.
This trail is to the east of the Manly Wharf. It is the northern entry point to the Sydney Harbor which means it gives you stunning views of the transition from the ocean to Sydney Harbor.
Shelly Headland Upper Lookout
This trail is a shorter hike and great if you’d like to spend time at Shelly Beach. The Shelly Headland Upper Lookout will have views of the wide open ocean along large cliffs. If you’re feeling up for it, you can make it a large loop and connect it to the Fairfax Lookout.
There is lots of shopping to do in Manly area. There are many chain stores around the main walking areas, especially in the car free strip (called The Corso) from Manly Wharf to Manly Beach. But here are a few different and more unique places to shop in Manly.
Aboriginal Dreamtime Fine Art Gallery – large selection of quality art from Aboriginal Artists. They have large, fine art and smaller unique trinkets to purchase.
Manly Market Place – outside market in Manly city center open every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. There are any booths and vendors selling crafts, fashion items and souvenirs.
Eating in Manly
Hugos Manly Restaurant – not the most budget friendly, but has great seafood and wonderful views of Manly Wharf.
The Pantry Manly – looks out over Manly Beach into the ocean. Fresh seafood and a relaxed atmosphere.
Ruby Lane Wholefoods Cafe – focuses on using sustainable, organic produce from local suppliers. Has meat and dairy available, but also many vegan and vegetarian options.
Verd – completely plant-based cafe in Manly. They offer big bowls, fresh smoothies, and raw desserts.