How to spend 12 hours in Manly – the ocean suburb where laid-back beach vibes meet city sophistication
Only a 20-minute ferry ride from Sydney’s CBD you’ll find Manly Beach – the crown of the Northern Beaches where laid-back beach vibes meet city sophistication.
This is where tanned locals can be spotted surfing the waves early in the mornings before enjoying a coffee and a ridiculously healthy breakfast at one of the many trendy beach cafes.
The popular ocean suburb has in the last decade risen in popularity among families, retirees, expats and young professionals making it a dynamic, family friendly and trendy place to visit for anyone who’s looking to escape the big smoke.
With an endless amount of outdoor activities coupled with numerous bars, cafes and restaurants Manly is a holiday destination in itself. However, if you only have a day to spare in this stunning suburb, here’s what to see and do.
Breakfast at FIKA Swedish Kitchen
Situated on Market Lane just off The Corso this Nordic cafe, popular among locals and visitors, is run by three Swedish girls who know a thing or two about great coffee and food.
Fika is a Swedish word which translates to ‘taking a break for coffee and a bite to eat’. Open daily from 7am to 5pm this is the perfect place to kick off your day in Manly and fill up on coffees and a Scandinavian breakfast.
Try the Kaviar Sandwich with smashed free range egg and Swedish Kalle’s caviar on crispbread or the Ålandspannkaka, a think oven-baked semolina pancake served with cream and homemade jam.
Snorkel at Shelly Beach
A visit to Manly wouldn’t be complete without getting into the crystal clear water.
If kayaking or paddle boarding isn’t your thing, perhaps dipping your head under the water exploring a giant aquarium is?
Shelley Beach, regarded as one of Sydney’s top snorkelling spots, is just a short walk from Manly Beach and offers great snorkelling for the whole family.
Bring your own (or rent) mask and snorkel and you’re ready to check out toadfish, kelpfish, starfish, blue groper and sponges.
Bordering to Freshwater Beach, the iconic beach where the Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku first introduced Sydneysiders to surfing in 1914, Manly Beach is today perhaps the more popular surf spot out of the two.
If you’ve been longing to get up on a board and hit some waves why not get the wetsuit on and enjoy a private surf session? Manly Surf School offers lessons seven days a week for absolute beginners to pros.
Not only will you be able to brag about having surfed in Sydney you’ll be able to say you’ve surfed the same beach hosting the world-famous Australian Open of Surfing.
For more information and bookings: www.manlysurfschool.com
Lunch at Bower Restaurant
Restaurant locations like Bower Restaurant, with its pristine spot, is a bit of a rarity. Located right on the waterfront halfway between Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, this hidden gem and modern European kitchen serves up refreshing lunches daily.
Try the Tasmanian Salmon Bowl with lightly cured, salmon sashimi, sushi rice, wasabi avocado and pickled cucumber or the classic Local Beer Battered Fish and Chips served with homemade tartar and lemon.
During the weekends the tables are filling up quickly, however, the wait is well worth it.
Afternoon walk to the North Head
Make the most of your day in Manly by enjoying a relaxing walk up to the North Head for one of the city’s most stunning views.
Start the 9km loop from the famous Manly Beach and head towards Shelly Beach. From here walk up towards Sydney Harbour National Park and through North Head Sanctuary and end the walk back at Manly Wharf.
Once you’ve reached the lookout point you’ll see the CBD, the South Head and if you’re lucky you might even spot whales during the winter months and dolphins.
Enjoy a tea break at Bella Vista (http://www.bellavistamanly.com.au) whilst soaking up the sun and the magnificent harbour view.
Pre-Dinner Drinks at the Manly Wharf Bar Hotel
Sunday session at Wharf Bar is when the locals dress up and head down to the popular waterfront bar for afternoon drinks. However, Sundays are not the only day to enjoy the best in Australian and imported beers, wines and spirits with the popular bar being open Monday to Friday from 11.30am – midnight.
Enjoy a quick pit-stop and a relaxing afternoon tipple at the Harbour Bar or the Jetty Bar for a true al fresco experience before making your way to dinner.
Dinner at Papi Chulo
Conveniently located next to the Wharf Bar right on the waterfront at Manly Wharf, Papi Chulo is the perfect place to end your day in Manly.
Enjoy the harbour view and sea breeze whilst tucking into the famous slow cooked BBQ pork, beef and lamb prepared in the restaurant’s own smokehouse.
Order a shared platter and the amazingly delicious curly fries (a must) with a group of friends and finish the meal off with the Chocolate chip & macadamia cookie, marshmallow, butterscotch and vanilla ice cream. Say no more!
Julia Gralberg is a freelance travel writer, editor of Hotel & Resort Guide, Lux Nomade and founder of Boutique Communications Consultancy, Lux Collective. When she isn’t busy jumping in hotel beds and eating her way through breakfast buffets you’ll find her on her yoga mat.