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Three people walking on the beach holding surfboards
Photograph: Supplied | Northern Beaches Council

5 ways to experience Manly like a local

We’ve rounded up Manly’s best-kept secrets


If you’re not lucky enough to be a local, Manly is the perfect getaway where you can find all the buzz of a popular beachside area, plus stunning natural beauty and fresh, coastal air.

Known as the gateway to the Northern Beaches with sparkling-clear seas, long stretches of golden sand and a laid-back feel that will have you coming back time and again, it’s safe to say that Manly is well worth the hype. 

Head to this historic suburb for a weekend away and find all the tucked-away spots only locals know about. Swimming togs mandatory.

5 experiences in Manly

Explore Manly in new ways with these offbeat tours

Discover the history and wildlife of Manly by joining an immersive three-hour guided walk with TripSlow. You’ll trek from Manly Wharf to North Head and learn all about the history of the track, and everything from the traditional healers of the Gayamagel People to the origins of the haunted Quarantine Station will be covered. Situated on the northern most edge of Sydney Harbour, this charming walk is well-worth the panoramic views at the end where you’ll gaze out across the harbour and Sydney skyline. There’s also animals galore, with more than 100 bird species and 23 reptile species to look out for. Plus, you’ll find one of the best locations to view Humpback Whales if you come during peak season. 

If you want a bit more action with your walk, Ecotreasures offers scenic walks with a one-hour snorkelling tour of Manly led by a seasoned local. Explore the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve in a small group of eight, swimming with incredible blue gropers and rainbow-coloured creatures, and learn about the rich diversity of wildlife thriving within the stunning area.

Unwind with a surprising activity

Whatever your style, there’s a yoga studio to suit your practice – even if that means balancing on a board in the middle of the ocean. Manly’s FlowMocean is throwing out the rule book when it comes to the historic practice by holding classes out on the water using paddle boards and kayaks. There’s no need for a background track of tranquil sounds when the wind and waves will lull you into a state of focused relaxation. Pair the sounds with a breathtaking view by booking in for a sunset session. Beginners are welcome but if you don’t want to risk falling overboard, then beach yoga is also on offer.


Swim at this local’s hangout

If there’s one thing you must do when visiting this seaside suburb, it’s the classic Spit Bridge to Manly walk. The three and a half hour route takes you from sandy coves to beautiful vantage points, and to several secret beaches including a local favourite Reef Beach. This pristine beach on the Dobroyd Head leg of the track is often overlooked by walkers because of its sheltered position within the North Harbour. But don’t be deterred – the swimming conditions are excellent and well worth the hike it takes to get there. When the tides are low you can also spot ancient Aboriginal carvings depicting fish and shields in the rocky outcrops at the beach’s southern end. Be sure to pack a hat, snacks, and water for the walk, as it gets sweaty.

Leave behind the troves of tourists at these eateries

Take a walk down the well-trodden Corso (Manly’s main eating, drinking and shopping hub) and you’ll pass a number of cafés and restaurants that give the city's spots a run for their money. Though this main strip brings in a lot of tourists, even locals are known to head down to the Corso to grab a quick lunch, afternoon vino or dinner with friends. Though you might find them in the  long-line institutions like Butter Boy, it's more likely they'll head straight to Manly’s hidden gems. Starting with the plant-based café Orchard St Manly, where you can build your own nourishing drink at the elixir bar, or the easy-to-miss cheese shop The Artisan Cheese Room, where you can pick up indulgent cheese and wines from all over the globe. For beachfront views The Pantry is a deli-style restaurant that offers a menu made for sharing and stellar beachfront views, or head waterside to The Boathouse Shelly Beach, which is a place locals have been flocking to for years. (Let’s also add: Barrel One Coffee Roasters for a cracking morning coffee and bagel, Norma’s Deli for loaded focaccia sandwiches, Manly Wharf Bar for an Aperol Spritz on the Jetty Bar, Pocket Pizza for banging pizza, and Queen Chow Manly for plump dumplings with a sea view.)


Pick up a souvenir from these local sellers

No trip to Manly is complete without a souvenir from a local business. While there’s plenty of boutiques to help you fill your home, bar and fridge, plus second hand stores to sift through discounted books and vinyls, we reccomend you commemorate your visit with a photography print of the area from Sprout Daily where you’ll find a number of local hotspots captured and framed. For those already planning their next visit, a pair of Budgy Smuggler’s are sure to come in handy. Pick up a pair from the now-global brand, which started in Manly more than a decade ago.

With so much to pack into one day, turn your daytrip into a staycation by booking a night at one of the areas best hotels. Stay close to the action at Quest Grand Esplanade or for something more secluded, head to to Q Station's 84-room hotel. Our pick? The wellnes hotel palace Manly Pacific Sydney where you can get an ocean-front suite and the rooftop pool is spiced with magnesium. 

Start planning your trip to Manly with the help of The Manly Visitor Information Centre who can be reached by phone, with a visit to the Manly Wharf forecourt or online here


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