What To Do in Manly: Your Family Guide to Manly, Sydney

‘What to do in Manly?’ I hear you ask. How long have you got!?

Manly, beloved Manly. Ice creams and surfers, fish and chips and a beautiful rock pool, your iconic Norfolk Island pines and delightful little shops and cafes.

Waterslides, an aquarium, early morning swimmers, and walkers, runners and cyclists at all hours of the day. Our family adores Manly, there’s just so much to do there.

Below, there’s a map of Manly, you’ll see the long sweep of the ocean beaches, plus the Sydney Harbour side where the Ferry Wharf is.

Map of Manly

Manly to Shelly Walk Fairy Bower
Crystal clear water on a warm and sunny winter day, by Fairy Bower rock pool

Manly’s Beaches, Rock Pools and Baths

Manly’s surf beaches are world famous, rightly so. But fear not for your safety, there are areas to swim between the flags by the surf clubs on the main beach:

Here are our favourite top three Manly beaches

South Steyne, this is the most southerly end of the main beach, near the Corso and probably the easiest place to jump into the surf safely. The area between the flags is found close to Manly Surf Club, right at the southern end of the beach.

Shelly Beach, just a short walk along the beautiful walkway from Manly Beach,  you’ll find Shelly Beach. Although an ocean beach, Shelly is very sheltered and rarely has any surf. It’s also teeming with marine life as it’s part of the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

Fairy Bower Rock Pool, this delightful small rock pool is halfway between South Steyne and Shelly Beach.  You might easily be tempted to jump in for a cooling dip if you walk between the two. There’s a lovely cafe here and toilets and changing rooms, and the water is often crystal clear all around the rock pool. Check out the famous sculpture too.

But there are more!  Check out these other fantastic Manly beaches too:

  • North Steyne, the middle section of the beach, where most surf lessons take place.
  • Queenscliff beach, still part of the huge sweep of beach, at the northern end. There’s a rock pool here too, check out more info here
  • West Esplanade Beach, just to the left as you come off the ferry, there’s a netted swimming baths here and lots of sand to play in
  • Little Manly Cove: a little piece of Sydney Harbour heaven with a cafe and netted swimming baths
  • Forty Baskets Beach is a 30 – 40 minute walk away along the Manly Scenic Walkway

Snorkelling Tours at Manly

The Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve at Manly, running from South Steyne past Fairy Bower and to Shelly Beach is an excellent place to go snorkelling. If you are new to Manly or new to snorkelling then I highly recommend doing a two hour guided snorkelling tour. 

Included in this ecotourism adventure is the tour guide who will explain the maritime ecosystem and show you the many different fish that live here, including some huge blue gropers. You also have all wetsuits and snorkelling gear covered.

If you’re an experienced snorkeller then do read up our own DIY snorkelling adventures at Shelly Beach here. You can rent snorkelling equipment at Dive Centre Manly at  10 Belgrave St, Manly.

Find snorkelling and other tours of Manly Beach below.

things to do in Manly with kids
This is a small waterslide park but good fun

Manly Surf n Slide

If your kids like water slides and are over 110cm tall then this is the place for you. On the West Esplanade, this is not a huge waterslide centre, but there are three thrilling slides; sessions usually last for two hours. Children under 10 must be supervised whilst sliding. Open over summer and usually in the autumn and spring school holidays too.

Address: Commonwealth Parade, Manly NSW 2095

Phone: 02 9949 6645

Manly Surf n Slide website is here

See more photos and find more info on our detailed article about Manly Surf n Slide here.

Manly surf lessons
This learner surfer is doing well!

Surf Lessons at Manly

Manly Surf School is the very well known place to enjoy surfing lessons at Manly. The lessons usually take place at the part of the beach called North Steyne, just by the North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club. 

You do need to book ahead, so click here to read more and book your surf lessons at Manly.

Hire Bikes to Explore Manly

You can hire a bike for an hour or two or for a day or two in Manly. You are given self-guided tour maps to follow when you hire the bike. You can choose from a mellow flat cycle all along the beachfront, to more challenging mountain biking trails around Manly Dam. Cycling around Sydney Harbour National Park all the way to North Head is very popular. 

Check out the Manly Bike Tours website here.

Hire Kayaks, Boats and SUPs at Manly

You can rent kayaks by the hour at the Manly Kayak Centre which you’ll find at East Esplanade, just east of the Ferry Wharf on the Harbour side of Manly.

Read about one family’s kayak visit to lovely Store Beach on this article.

You can also rent SUPs and boats from here, the harbour waters is usually fairly calm (famous last words) and so good for families and beginners.

Manly Kayak Centre website is here.

Walks Around Manly

Read these posts for detailed descriptions of the best places to walk in and around Manly with kids.

Manly Four Beaches Walk: This is a walk right along the promenade at Manly

Manly Scenic Walkway: The Start of the Walk with Strollers + Kids

Find the best description of the entire Manly Scenic Walk on Sydney Coast Walks here.

There are also good walks around North Head, see the National Parks and Wildlife website here.

Manly playgrounds 2

Manly Playgrounds

There’s some modern play equipment for kids on the seafront at Manly close to North Steyne Surf Club. It isn’t fully fenced, just alongside the road, but it makes a nice place to stop and play when walking along the Manly promenade.

At Queenscliff, right at the northern end of Manly’s huge bay, there’s a large and fully fenced playground called Lagoon Park. It is terrific for toddlers, preschoolers and early primary kids.

You can find it just across the road from the Surf Life Saving Club there. See photos and read all the info about Lagoon Park playground here.

things to do in Manly with kids
Lagoon Park playground, terrific for wee ones

Tours from Manly Beach – click images below

Explore the old Quarantine Station

Step back in time at North Head with a visit to the old Quarantine Station, read about it, and its scary ghost tours here.

Manly’s Q Station

Manly’s Indoor/Outdoor Swimming Pool

Read all about the gorgeous Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool at Manly on this post.

Manly Cafes and Restaurants

Here are three places to eat in Manly that we love.

Manly cafes restaurants
The Boathouse at Shelly Beach

The Boathouse Shelly Beach

1 Marine Parade, Shelly Beach Manly NSW 2095

Boathouse website is here

Open from 7am – 4pm daily

There’s both a cafe/restaurant and a kiosk here, so the Boathouse does equally well for takeaway lunches and for multi-generational sit down lunches. The food is Modern Australian, with their fish and chips famous far and wide. No bookings are taken… can get VERY busy on warm days and at weekends.

Manly wine 1 2
Early morning views from The Little Pearl

The Little Pearl Bar + Dining

8/13 South Steyne, Manly NSW 2095

The Little Pearl website is here

Close to the surf life saving club at the south end of the huge sweep of ocean beach at Manly is this cafe with wondrous views. As good for coffee and breakfast as it is for lunches and dinners, The Little Peark is chic and cheerful. Asian hawker-style shared plates are thespecialty, you can visit just to enjoy the wine bar too. There is a takeaway section with chairs outside which is our family favourite.

Manly cafes restaurants 8
The small but unmistakable Hemingways

Hemingway’s Manly

48 North Steyne, Manly NSW 2095

Hemingways website is here

Open seven days 7am until late

Just around the corner from the Corso, Hemingways serves an interesting mixture of French, Mediterranean and Australian cuisines. The views over the ocean are lovely, there are a few tables outside to enjoy them. Enjoy all day breakfasts, light and full lunches and dinners, or just stop in for a coffee and a chat.

Little Shop Of Waffles lo res 3
Little Shop Of Waffles lo res 7

The Little Shop of Waffles

Address: 7 – 9 The Corso, Manly MSW 2095

Little Shop of Waffles Facebook page

This is a bubble waffle shop selling all sorts of varieties from the humble waffle to the most deliciously extravagant. You van built your own waffle creation. This is a great alternative to the usual Manly ice cream shops.

Little Shop Of Waffles lo res 8

Shopping + Markets in Manly

Your teenagers will especially enjoy mooching round the shops in manly. The main shopping street is the Corso, with lots of surf shops and clothes shops as well as all sorts of others. Then there’s the excellent (but expensive) Nordic Fusion at 1/2 Wentworth Street, a shop full of Scandinavian design and fashion. Gorgeous!

Henrietta Lane, Whistler Street and Central Avenue also have little op shops and boutiques that are fun to explore. You’ll also find markets here every Saturday and Sunday. Every third Saturday of the month there are also markets at Manly Village public school.

Food shopping in Manly: you’ll find an Aldi at the Ferry Wharf, and a big Coles supermarket on the Corso, then there’s a Woolworths. Get great breads and rolls, pies and pasties at Sonoma bakery also at the Wharf. There’s an Artisan Cheese Room at 1/40 East Esplanade.

Novotel Manly pacific hotel manly
A hotel pool with a view in Manly, the Novotel Manly Pacific!

Where to Stay in Manly

Read about the best Manly Beach Hotels here.

Find out about Manly Holiday Apartments here.

We can recommend the Novotel Manly Pacific Hotel, read our post here about why it’s great for families. We adored the rooftop pool, it’s in the most magnificent location right in the middle of the main beach at Manly too.

Check prices and availability here.

Q Station views buildings_14
Interesting buildings and history, amazing views and a pretty beach at Q Station.

For a stay with a fascinating historical twist, try Q Station. This was Sydney’s old Quarantine Station, you stay in the rooms in which people lived when in quarantine. There are all sorts of fascinating stories, carvings, a museum and even a ghost tour or two.

Read more about Q Station and photos from our stay here.

Check Q Station prices and availability here.

Have I forgotten anywhere?

Your thoughts much appreciated!

Hope that you enjoyed this guide to family-friendly Manly and surrounds.

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