Before you finally get to Sydney it’s likely that you’ve only ever heard of the famous Bondi Beach in this area. Bondi is a gorgeous cove and it’s very easy to reach from the tourist areas of Sydney, but it’s actually quite small and usually very crowded in season. The small village behind the beach can be a really fun place to spend an evening, but the place’s popularity can also be a drawback since it really becomes kind of a “scene” and doesn’t really feel very local. Manly Beach is much larger, and thanks partly to the fact that it’s more difficult to reach from the Central Business District, it’s much more authentically local as well.
Getting to Manly Beach
Fortunately, it’s extremely easy to reach Manly Beach if you know where you are going. There are ferries from Circular Quay (the main ferry terminal in the Central Business District) that leave about every half hour from 6am to midnight during the week, with more frequent service during morning and afternoon rush hours, and similar service starting around 8am on weekends and public holidays. You can find an updated ferry schedule on the Sydneyferries schedule page. The journey takes 30 minutes, although there is a faster JetCat catamaran service that takes only 15 minutes, costs a bit more, and runs only during morning and evening rush hour times.
How much does it cost?
One way ferry from Circular Quay to Manly: AU$6.40
One way JetCat from Circular Quay to Manly: AU$8.20
Return/round-trip tickets cost twice as much as a single/one-way, so the only incentive for buying both in advance is skipping the ticket line on the way back.
What you’ll find in Manly
The ferry terminal itself is filled with shops and restaurants, including an Aldi grocery store for those who want to stock up on food at cheap prices. Once you exit the terminal you’ll be across from the Corso, which is a pedestrian mall that leads to the beach itself. This area is also lined with bars, restaurants, and surf shops, although not quite with the touristy feel of Bondi.
Once past the Corso you’ll find that Manly gets less dense. Along the beach it’s mostly apartments with a few restaurants mixed in, and Pittwater Road, which runs parallel, is the main business street with plenty of local shops and such. The atmosphere is traditionally beachy and not at all touristy, especially as you go farther north and then on to Queenscliff Bay just beyond Manly itself.
The beach itself is wide and long, and there are surf spots (and places for lessons and to rent boards) as well as an abundance of beach volleyball. It’s also easy to rent a bike or a kayak, and there’s even a scuba diving training center.
Where to stay
There are a few Sydney hostels located in Manly, although none of them are right on the beach. There are also quite a few traditional hotels in this area, mostly in the moderate to expensive price category, although there are a few budget places mixed in.