Manly Four Beaches Walk
This walk follows the long honey-gold crescent of sand that is notionally divided into three beaches: Manly Beach, North Steyne Beach and Queenscliff Beach.
The fourth beach on the walk is the small and delightful Shelly Beach, a short walk from Manly along the Marine Parade walkway.
There is a wide, smooth promenade that goes all the way from Queenscliff Beach to Shelly Beach, a distance of 3 kilometres each way.
There is not a single step to negotiate along the way. The only drawback is that it can be pretty busy down at Manly.
The Four Beaches Walk is terrific for when you are feeling a bit cooped up at home with your baby and you need to see for miles and miles.
The ocean is blue, green and endless, the sea breeze blows away cobwebs and exhaustion.
The walk is described from the mid way starting point of Manly, since many people will want to spend some time there and because it is the easiest place to reach by public transport.
The walk is done in two halves: to Queenscliff and back, and then along to Shelly Beach and then back to Manly.
Car drivers can easily do the walk starting and ending at either Queenscliff or Shelly Beach and details are given for each at the end of the description of the walk.
Manly Four Beaches Walk
Length of walk: 6 kilometres
Time to walk: 40 – 60 minutes if you don’t stop BUT YOU MUST STOP!
Start: Manly Visitors Centre at South Steyne (on the promenade opposite the Corso), Manly
Toilets: At the Visitors Centre, at all the surf life-saving clubs and by Le Kiosk restaurant and the kiosk at Shelly Beach
Shade: Between Manly and Queenscliff Beach a narrow strip of reserve divides the promenade from the road. This strip is dotted with the imposingly tall Norfolk pines so closely associated with Manly.
In the afternoon the pines provide some shade, but for the rest of the day this walk is exposed and can be hot in summer. A sea breeze cools things down in summer but can be chilly in winter.
Parking: Meter parking on South Steyne and North Steyne, but these streets are often very busy.
There are several carparks that have the first two hours free: Whistler Street car park, and National carpark and Pacific Waves carpark off Central Avenue.
Nearest ferry: Manly Wharf is a 5-10 minute walk away
Bus stop nearby: Yes
Manly Visitor Information Centre to Queenscliff Beach
From the Visitors Centre, turn left and head north along the wide promenade towards Queenscliff Beach.
There is a low seawall here and wonderful views in both directions: ahead of you along the great sweep of beach, and back towards Shelly Beach.
On the beach are dedicated sunworshippers, surfers and surfer-worshippers.
There are permanent volleyball nets on the beach a little further along the promenade, usually the centre of games between teams of bronzed and youthful jet-setters. Opposite, on the reserve, is a beach shelter with picnic tables. Next to it is a small playground and beside that a shower and bubbler.
The seawall stops a little before the North Steyne surf life-saving club building, which houses toilets and changing rooms. There are cafes on the road opposite. My family’s favourite is Jellyfish Cafe.
Swings and a slide are set on the reserve just to the north of the life-saving club.
Power walkers and casual strollers regularly make their way along the promenade. It is easy to get up a good speed on the walkway as it curves gently towards the Queenscliff life-saving clubhouse.
Queenscliff beach itself is pleasant, with a wide sweep of sand and a low headland marking the end of the beach. There is a lovely rock pool by the cliff but it has no children’s pool, no shallow end and no shade. To reach the pool one has to push the stroller across the sand which can be tricky.
Use this as the turning point for the return to Manly or continue along the promenade under Queenscliff Bridge and alongside the lagoon.
Lagoon Park Playgound is close to the bridge and makes an excellent stop for a toddler who needs to be let loose after sitting in the stroller.
From the playground return to Manly along the promenade.
Manly Visitor Information Centre to Shelly Beach
From the Visitors Centre walk south along the wide promenade. There are lots of seats here on the reserve and over the road the many cafes along South Steyne beckon.
This is Manly Beach proper, mecca to surfers and travellers and all sorts of cool dudes to whom a person walking by with a baby in a stroller is truly invisible.
Before one starts to feel incredibly old and past it, along the promenade comes the resplendent Art Deco Manly Surf Life-saving Club, a wonderful building to behold.
At 7am every morning the marvellous Bold and Beautiful Swim Squad set forth to swim to Shelly Beach and back. Lots of info here.
Past the clubhouse, the walkway winds around, following the coastline. It is now named Marine Parade and the reserve is no more.
Note that bikes, rollerblades, skateboards and toy vehicles are not allowed to travel along Marine Parade between 9am and 6pm on weekends and public holidays.
From Marine Parade there are the most wonderful views of the four headlands of the northern beaches, each jutting out into the ocean. On a good day you can see all the way up Palm Beach and beyond to the Hawkesbury.
As you continue along the promenade Manly Beach is left behind and there is a rocky drop to the left. The wooden railings here are not childproof. The shady benches are good spots to have a rest, however.
Sculptures have been placed along Marine Parade, the first is the lovely figure named the Arch Back Bather.
On sunny days when the sea is clear the most wonderful patchwork of colours appears beneath the sea by the walkway. This is excellent snorkelling territory, should one have a pair of flippers and a mask handy (and someone else to mind the baby!) Read a post about snorkelling at Shelly Beach here.
The delightful Fairy Bower rock pool soon appears. This beautiful, triangular pool is a lovely place to stop for a swim. It has a small shallow area which is good for little ones to splash in. There are toilets and showers here but no shade.
From Fairy Bower it is just a stroll to wonderful little Shelly Beach with its kiosk, restaurant, shade and changing rooms.
Shelly is very sheltered and doesn’t have the big waves which Manly often does. There’s also the lovely cafe, the Boathouse at Shelly Beach, to enjoy. I like to use the takeaway part though as the cafe can be noisy and I love to sit under the trees with my coffee.
Enjoy a tranquil stop at Shelly and then return to Manly along Marine Parade.