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Manly area guide

Restaurants, bars, shops and events in Manly

Photograph: Justin Steinlauf

Once just a quick stop-off on a mandatory tourist trip for your visiting uncle, Manly has increasingly come into its own. Right now it's got a cracking bar scene, and a whole lot of exciting dining venues for when you want to come in from the golden sands. And nearby Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary (formerly Ocean World) still provides an old-world treat too. Grab that ferry, or maybe do a sidecar tour. Manly version 2.0 awaits.

Manly highlights

Shopping in Manly
Shopping

Shopping in Manly

There's more to Manly than the beach and the bars (although both of those things come highly recommended). When you wander off the Northern Beaches' suburbs well-trod mainstreet, you'll find a growing number of independent boutiques, antique stores and other knick knack sellers, as well as killer spots to pick out a sun hat or cossi to wear back out onto the Corso.  

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary
Museums

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

For decades Oceanworld Manly has been overshadowed by its big brother in Darling Harbour. But after a $1 million makeover the aquarium is better and wetter than ever, and now called the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. The ‘Sea Life’ aquarium brand is attached to some 34 aquaria in Europe and the US. The adoption of the new brand comes with an endearing new exhibit – Penguin Cove, home to a ten-strong Little Penguin colony – but also a renewed focus on rehabilitation. “Our ultimate goal is to successfully release rescued animals back into the wild,” says Brendan Kelly, the Sanctuary’s operations manager. “We see ourselves as protectors of the underwater world. We’ve been rehabilitating turtles and breeding Grey Nurse Sharks for years. But in adopting Sea Life’s ‘breed, rescue, protect’ ideology, it’s really coming to the fore.” It’s also coming out from behind the scenes. Visitors to the Sanctuary will get to witness the process of nursing ailing aquatic life back to health in the ‘Rehab Room’. “We’re now geared towards ensuring all guests leave us with a greater understanding of marine issues, what we are doing about them and how they as individuals can make an impact. “We will be advising the public about medical assessments of rescued animals, the treatment plan that has been formulated for those animals and the assessment of animals suitable for release.” But, yes, you can still go diving with the sharks. In fact, we sent our roving reporter Yana Novak to the aquarium to do

Shelby’s Sidecar Tours
Things to do

Shelby’s Sidecar Tours

Nothing puts a smile on a grumpy motorist’s face quite like seeing a vintage-style motorbike chugging uphill. We’re getting a ride on one of Shelby’s Sidecar Tours – a guided adventure from Manly to Dee Why, including a short bush walk at Long Reef Point – and as we cruise around the quieter streets of Sydney’s Northern Beaches we get waves, giggles and lots of smiles from passers-by.  The authentic Ural motorcycles clunk and hum at a comfortable pace, putting the ease into ‘easy rider’. Managing director Marc Jaackson (seated on the pillion behind rider Dom) leans in to tell us he’s taking a 73-year-old grandma on a tour with 12 family members, and he plans to run dog-friendly journeys too.  Shelby’s Sidecar Tours were named for Marc’s autistic son Shelby, who used to ride on the back of his dad’s motorcycle before he started having epileptic seizures at age 15. For Shelby’s safety, Jaackson started giving his son rides in an old sidecar – which gave Marc the idea to start a new business for laid-back, comfortable motorcycle tours around Sydney. He now has a fleet of 12 drivers, and tours range from solo outings around the CBD to family trips to Palm Beach and Narrabeen Lakes. Prices start at $175 for a one-hour city circle ride and extra riders cost from $50-$100, depending on the journey. For the most part it’s couples looking for a romantic picnic at the beach, or visitors wanting to explore Sydney’s lesser-known suburbs. They offer a fully stocked picnic basket packag

The top snorkelling spots in Sydney
Sport and fitness

The top snorkelling spots in Sydney

You don't have to head north to the great, fading Barrier Reef to catch sight of some colourful underwater scenery – Sydney is home to several hotspots that veteran pipe-breathers reckon are among some of the best snorkelling sites in the country. (Or, at least, sites that will tide you over until you get your summer holidays). Where are these great snorkelling spots? To find out, we enlisted the help of the good people at Snorkel Safari, who run scuba-diving courses and snorkel trips from several locations across the city. They gave us their picks of the five best places to bury your face in the water in Sydney, from a strange little island in La Perouse to Shelly Beach at Manly.

The best bars and restaurants in Manly

The best restaurants in Manly
Restaurants

The best restaurants in Manly

This popular pocket of the Northern Beaches is best known for its foamy shore breaks and ferries, but Manly also dishes up some good dining options for after the sun goes down and before the party vibes are cranked up to 11. 

The best bars in Manly
Bars

The best bars in Manly

What's not to love about a suburb that boasts both a harbour waterfront and a beautiful beach with a cracking surf break? That's why Manly is such a popular spot. But once you've changed out of your sandy togs, you need indoor entertainment, and ideally, a drink.

More things to do in Manly

Dave’s Brewery Tours
Things to do

Dave’s Brewery Tours

Dave’s Brewery Tours are a great way to find out about Sydney’s craft beer scene while exploring parts of Sydney you may not be familiar with and, of course, getting to drink tasty beers. At the Northern Exposure tour of Northern Beaches breweries you’ll be greeted by knowledgeable guides Tom and Jamie, who will take you to three Australian breweries. Nomad is home of the Freshie Salt and Pepper Gose and the Cruisin’ Pale Ale, both of which are perfect for a hot summer day. Mona Vale’s Modus Operandi is where you learn about the history behind the name of Former Tenant Red IPA. Then there’s 4 Pines, a giant among craft breweries whose range of beers is as impressive as their microbrewery set-up. The Northern Exposure tour is lengthy but includes burgers and tastings.

Dive Centre Manly
Attractions

Dive Centre Manly

You don’t need to travel to the Great Barrier Reef to discover Australia’s marine life – you can see cockatoo fish, leatherjackets, sea urchin (so much sea urchin) and teeny tiny pomfrets right here, in Manly. Dive Centre Manly runs Snorkel Safaris of three popular spots in the area, and they take visitors on underwater adventures every day. Today we’re heading to Fairlight (the wind isn’t in our favour to snorkel at Shelly Beach) and our guide Ana explains the route we’ll take and what we’re likely to see before we arrive at the beach. In a 40-minute swim, we navigate over the kelp and seagrass in the quiet bay and Ana points out a school of goatfish, pygmy leatherjackets and crimson banded wrasse. Snorkelling is a social sport and having Ana to guide us means more eyes for spotting sea creatures as we concentrate on breathing and swimming. Before our eyes can adjust, Ana spots a pair of smooth cornetfish in the deep. We swim round to the boulders and the drop goes from three metres to 12, suddenly we’re surrounded by tennis ball-sized jellyfish that we scoop up with our hands to see the currents of light travelling through them. Already a snorkelling pro? Hire a mask, snorkel, fins and floaty for the day for $25.

Manly Waterworks
Museums

Manly Waterworks

Manly's Waterworks is hell-for-leather excitement when you're a kid. Giant water slides, safe harbour swimming, boardwalks and a hands-on aquarium - good, wet family fun.

The Boathouse Shelly Beach
Restaurants

The Boathouse Shelly Beach

This spot is tucked away right around the bend from beautiful Manly Beach, and it's a triple threat: kiosk, café and restaurant in one. The Boathouse duo of Pip and Andrew Goldsmith added this spot to their existing trio of eateries in Palm Beach, Balmoral and Whale Beach. Wood-fired ricotta with honey, cucumber and buckwheat; autumn ravioli of duck, potato and rhubarb; and the famous Boathouse beer-battered flathead and chips are highlights of the café menu. The venue is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it incorporates the previous Shelly Beach kiosk, which was given a polish and reboot – it now boasts an open kitchen, a tropical-tinged proportions and a wood-fired oven to bake seafood and bread to succulent perfection.

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