Manly, on Sydney’s northern beaches, is the birthplace of Australian surfing. On a small peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, the suburb lies 7 nautical miles across the water from Sydney Harbour. It's best reached by the iconic Manly Ferry, and this seaside neighbourhood will reward you with outdoor cafés, lively markets and more than 40 beaches and nature walks. Hit the waves with a board or splash about in the shallows as you marvel at its magnificent natural landscape.
You can stay at hostels in Manly just 80m from the beach or moments from the area’s vibrant heart. You'll find Manly hostels that offer free surfing and snorkelling equipment so you can get straight out onto the water and most have barbecues for the ultimate Aussie experience. Pick a Manly hostel with a rooftop bar for views across the bustling streets and calming ocean. Some even let you bring your own drinks. There are hostels that provide a free breakfast, while others have shared kitchens.
The Corso is a buzzing pedestrianised street connecting Manly Wharf with the beach. You’ll see plenty of street performers and surf shops, as well as places to stop for a bite to eat as you head to the golden sands. Manly Beach, filled with surfers and volleyball courts, has one of Australia’s oldest Surf Life Saving Clubs. A quieter option is Shelley Beach further along the peninsula, known for snorkelling and diving. Keep walking and you’ll reach North Head with views across to Sydney harbour.
Surfers can hit the waves right away, and there are surf schools to help novices tackle their first waves. The 10km Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk passes a series of quiet beaches like Fisher Bay and Sandy Beach as well as lush bushlands and 1,000-year-old Aboriginal rock engravings. On weekends, the heart of Manly transforms with outdoor markets selling organic produce, fresh-cut flowers and delicious snacks.
The Manly Ferry has incredible views of the Harbour Bridge on the 30-minute trip to Sydney’s Circular Quay. The fast ferry does the same route in just 18 minutes and has routes to Barangaroo and Watsons Bay. There's also an express bus that travels from the central business district’s Wynyard Station to Manly Wharf in around 40 minutes. Sydney Airport is 30km away and the quickest route from Manly is via ferry to Circular Quay before connecting to the airport by train.