Outdoor Activities cycling tours surfing swimming shopping streets ferry Australia > New South Wales > Sydney > Manly

9 Of The Best Things To Do In Manly, Australia - Updated 2020

things to do in manly australia

No trip to Sydney would be complete without visiting its northern beaches, and Manly is arguably the best of these. The story goes that Manly got its unusual name because Captain Auther Phillip was so impressed by the strength of character and manly behavior of the native aboriginal people, he felt compelled to name the place “Manly Cove”. Nowadays, the long sandy beach at Manly is a popular place for surfing and swimming and makes a perfect destination for both family vacations, as well as solo explorers.

Make the most of your visit to Manly and explore the history of this beachside suburb by visiting the local museum, then wander through the pedestrianized shopping streets and discover the many amazing restaurants that specialize in local seafood. When you are done, don’t forget to take a walk along the famous beach which has sand so fine that it squeaks underfoot! For more suggestions of what to do in this lovely town, read on to discover seven of the best things to do in Manly, Australia!

1. Take a ride on the iconic Manly Ferry

Source: Photo by user https://www.flick... used under CC BY 2.0

The Manly ferry runs from Manly Wharf to Circular Quay and takes about 30 minutes. The locals call it “the most beautiful commute in the world” and it would be hard to argue with them, as the short trip takes in the impressively huge Sydney headlands, the world-famous Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bennelong Point and Taronga Zoo.

The ferry service has been running since the 1850’s and is still going strong, with both traditional ferries and “Fast Ferries” being used. The traditional ferry is the longer ride of the two, but if you are not rushed for time, it is the far nicer option, allowing you the opportunity to sit outside and take in the extraordinary scenery - it also has the added bonus of being cheaper! You do not need to book in advance and during the summer months, additional services run, so you will have plenty of times to choose from.

Manly Ferry

Address: Manly Wharf, Belgrave Street and W. Esplanade, Manly NSW 2095, Australia

Website: Manly Ferry

2. Explore the fantastic food at Manly Wharf

Manly Wharf 2006
Source: Photo by user A... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Historically, Manly has always been a place of leisure for the people of Sydney, with the impressive Pier Hotel for fine dining and the Corso for shopping, but in more recent times, even the wharf itself has been transformed into a destination in its own right, with cafes, bars, bistros, and restaurants all vying for your attention. Ranging from fine waterfront dining, specializing in local seafood to fast and simple “grab and go” style food, whatever you are in the mood for and whatever your budget, this is a taste destination not to be missed!

Manly Wharf

Address: Belgrave Street and W. Esplanade, Manly NSW 2095, Australia

Website: Manly Wharf

3. Manly Quarantine Station

Q Station+whales
Source: Photo by user me used under CC BY 3.0

From the 1830’s until 1984, the North Head Quarantine Station was an operational quarantine facility. Now, perfectly preserved and restored, it is a beautiful hotel, complete with restaurants, cafe, and a visitor’s center. You do not have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy everything this unique place has to offer and visitors are encouraged to learn about the history of the building with the free quarantine exhibition in the visitor’s center.

You can also take part in a “Quarantine Wanderer” guided history tour, which departs every day at 11 am. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, there is a lantern-lit ghost tour. If you would like to stay here, there are a variety of different accommodations available, all of which were originally either quarantine rooms or staff cottages. It is worth pointing out that there is a lot of walking involved in getting around this place, but it is not strenuous. Set on a slight headland, with the harbor on one side and the native bushland on the other, a visit to Q Station, as it is now called, is a uniquely Australian experience.

Q Station

Address: 1 North Head Scenic Drive, Manly NSW

Website: Q Station

4. Take a cycling tour of Manly (from USD 95.0)

Manly has over 20 km (12.5 miles) of specially built cycle paths, making a bike one of the best ways to take in this delightful beach town. Hire a bike and explore the area at your leisure or, if you prefer, take a guided tour. Manly Bike Tours offer a range of tours with varying degrees of difficulty, but you can’t go wrong with the two hour long guided cycling tour of all the best parts of the Manly Peninsula.

Your guide will tell you all about the history of the area, point out attractions and give you access to landmarks that you would otherwise not be allowed to visit. Included in the tour price are your bike rental and helmet, as well as refreshments.

Best of Manly Beach Electric Bike Tour

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

5. Manly Art Gallery and Museum

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Established in 1930, the Manly Art Gallery and Museum is a celebration of beach culture and the history of the Northern Beaches, with over six thousand artifacts on display including artworks, ceramics, and photographs.

The gallery section has regularly changing exhibits as well as the permanent collection and every September hosts the Manly Arts Festival, a showcase of local artists and musicians, which is well worth your time if you are visiting at this time of the year. Entrance is free, and all ages are welcome.

Manly Art Gallery and Museum

Address: 1 West Esplanade & Commonwealth Parade, Manly NSW 2095, Australia

Website: Manly Art Gallery and Museum

6. Explore the Manly Corso

The Corso Manly 2011
Source: Photo by user Terrazzo used under CC BY 2.0

Named after the Via Del Corso in Rome, the Manly Corso is a pedestrianized street that connects the Manly Wharf with the Pacific Ocean. Built as a boardwalk in 1855, by the 1920’s, it grew to become the most popular shopping district in Manly. Today it is still one of Manly’s best shopping destinations and with boutique stores, designer shops, pubs, galleries, and restaurants, it is an easy spot to spend a few hours in!

If shopping is not your thing, the Corso is also home to street performers, buskers, and dancing fountains that are designed as play areas for children.

Manly Corso

Address: Main street in New South Wales, Australia

Website: Manly Corso

7. Snorkel, walk and talk tour (from USD 48.0)

Get ready for an ocean deep adventure in Manly, Australia! If you’re a nature lover and love the waters, this Snorkel, Walk, and Talk tour is perfectly designed for you. Begin by meeting your guide at Shelly Beach, then you will begin by enjoying diverse marine and even endangered species at the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve. After the snorkeling, you will then travel the surrounding land and search for local wildlife while taking in all the beauty that Manly has to offer. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours but is packed with adventure, knowledge, and also gives you a chance to make new friends. The fee already includes snorkel hire, wetsuit or vest, flippers, and foam floating noodles for safety reasons so all you need to bring is your swimming attires and you’re off to begin an experience of a lifetime!

Manly Snorkel Walk and Talk Tour

Duration: 2 hours

8. Challenge yourself at Room Eight Escape Rooms

Escape Room Mystery
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

If you’re already done with the more touristy things to do in Manly and would like to try something new, then spend an hour at Room Eight. Pick from various themed rooms that can accommodate two to six players. Each escape room presents a combination of puzzles, clues, and brainteasers that you must carefully analyze in order to get out of your chosen predicament. The gruesome details—in both the physical design of the rooms and the plot of the mystery stories—further enhance the realism of your experience. For those looking to be outside, they also offer outdoor scavenger hunts which make a great day out with the whole family.

Room Eight Escape Rooms

Address: 2B The Corso, Manly, Sydney NSW 2095 Australia

Website: Room Eight Escape Rooms

9. Visit Manly Sea Life Sanctuary [PERMANENTLY CLOSED]

According to the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, there are more different types of fish species in the Sydney Harbor than in the whole of the Mediterranean Sea! That’s a lot of sea creatures! The sea life sanctuary plays an important role in the preservation of many of these species, and you can learn all about them on your visit. Take a free guided tour of the facility or wander around at your leisure, the choice is yours.

With interactive rock pools, an impressive shark display, seahorses, and the littlest penguins you will ever see, not to mention a fantastic play zone, the sanctuary welcomes children and is a great fun and educational day out for the family. If you are not visiting with young children and have always wanted to dive with sharks, you can do it here - without a cage! There are some restrictions that apply to this activity, so if you are keen to try it, be sure to read the rules in advance to avoid being disappointed.

Plenty to see in Manly

There is something about Sydney’s Northern Beaches that exudes the laidback, easy-going lifestyle that Australia is so famous for. No matter what your mood or interest, a visit to Manly will have you relaxed and rejuvenated in no time.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

Still Need Travel Insurance?

You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101

*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.

Genevieve is a self-confessed adventure and travel junkie who tends to end up living for a while in the places she visits! Having lived all over the world she loves sharing her travel stories and...Read more

Have a question? Ask fellow travellers and travel experts here.
 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Manly
Good things are meant to be shared!