Katie Bell is a travel blogger based in Sydney and a host on Homestay.com. Here she offers her local tips on how to spend a weekend in her local suburb Manly. You can read her blog The World on my Necklace and follow her on Facebook.
Ever since I first lived in Sydney over ten years ago I have loved Manly. It epitomises the beach culture that makes Sydney such a fantastic city to live in and where else can you commute to work by ferry across one of the most scenic harbours in the world?
Despite being an extremely popular suburb on the northern beaches of Sydney, Manly retains a village-like feel and has pretty much everything you would ever need on your doorstep including beautiful beaches, walking trails, fantastic restaurants, vibey bars, great shopping and even an award winning brewery. There is no reason to leave if you don’t want to and a lot of weekends, I don’t.
If I only had one weekend to enjoy the best of my home suburb, this is how I would spend it.
I'd kick off the weekend on Friday night with drinks and dinner at Manly Wine. This funky wine bar and restaurant is across the road from Manly beach and specialises in seafood, offering delicious dishes such as prawns a la plancha and soft shell crab po’ boys. The wine list is impressive and they offer some inventive cocktails too.
Rising early on Saturday morning, I'd head down to the ocean pool in Fairlight (pictured above) for a few laps before breakfast at The Pantry cafe, right on Manly Beach. It's a little on the pricey side but the views are unbeatable, and it has a great menu including buttermilk pancakes with candied walnuts and banana and a full breakfast with homemade baked beans and organic sourdough bread.
Photo courtesy of eyeintim.
After re-fuelling with breakfast I'd walk the scenic ocean path to Shelly Beach, a beautiful sheltered bay only fifteen minutes’ walk from Manly’s main beach. It's a great spot to snorkel, hunt for sea dragons, or take a dip in the calm waters followed by some sun-worshipping on the golden sands.
After a couple of hours enjoying the laid back charms of Shelly beach, the action continues with a short hike up to one of the rocky viewpoints above the beach, which offer spectacular views of the coastline north and out to sea. From there the trail winds through the North Head Reserve (pictured above), through scrubland with more ocean views.
Emerging from the reserve, the trail continues along a quiet road lined with tall Eucalyptus trees and to small harbour beach surrounded by native bush. Continuing around to Little Manly Cove, a sheltered beach perfect for families, the hike eventually finishes at Manly Wharf.
For dinner, I would head to Chica Bonita, Manly’s hottest Mexican Restaurant. The fish tacos and margaritas are a great way to end the day.
If I'm in the mood for a great night out I head to Hotel Steyne, which has live music and lots of bars to choose from including a cider and rum bar upstairs. The hotel has a relaxed atmosphere and is a fun destination for a big night out or a couple of quiet drinks, depending on which bar you choose.
Sunday morning would start with me grabbing a luxuriant salted caramel latte from Barefoot Coffee Traders then, coffee in hand, browsing the eclectic stalls at the weekly Manly Arts and Crafts Market. You can pick up original prints of local scenes, bonsai trees, South African biltong and quirky jewellery among other things. For a low key breakfast, you can’t go wrong with a custard or Nutella filled cronut or plump sugar crusted jam donut at Criniti’s, at the Wharf end of the Corso shopping district.
After lunch I would set out for an afternoon of hiking along the 10km Manly to Spit Bridge walk. The walk skirts Sydney’s famous harbour and takes you through National Park bushland, past deserted beaches and incredible viewpoints over the sparkling waters and surrounding headland. After reaching the Spit Bridge, I would bus back to Manly for an afternoon rest, perhaps sunbathing and swimming at one of the beaches, before heading out for dinner.
Right image courtesy of Christopher Eden.
My last dinner of the weekend would be at Manly Italian, a family run Restaurant that has been a Manly mainstay for years. It is upstairs on the Corso and because of its narrow door and small sign, most people walk right past without noticing. I love their gorgonzola gnocchi and the hostess/owner is so welcoming and friendly.
After a relaxed dinner, I would round off my perfect weekend with a visit to Manly’s Little Penguin colony. Part of the colony nest under the wharf right by where the ferry comes in! They are usually spotted under the ramp by the wharf from around sunset until about an hour after. They are the world’s smallest penguins and the only mainland colony left in New South Wales. They are incredibly cute and very vocal, if you are lucky you will hear them singing to each other.
For me and a lot of other Manly locals, the best thing about our home is the stunning coastline, and that should be the main focus of any visit to Manly. Incorporating some amazing food into the mix makes this my perfect weekend in Manly. It is definitely a spot that deserves more than just a day trip.
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Main photo courtesy of Christopher Eden.
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