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Manly, Australia: A Backpackers Guide


Manly is 100% where I would live if I had the ability to click my fingers and move anywhere in the world…I LOVE it…so so much!

It is the only place I have ever travelled that felt like a home away from home – I don’t know what it is – but you’ll understand when you get there, it’s got it all.

Manly is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay but tends to be ignored or put to the bottom of the pile when it comes to Sydney’s must-see beaches. I don’t see why this is the case, but I’d chose Manly any day over going to Bondi or Bronte beach.

w h e r e  t o  s t a y

a i r b n b

There are plenty of Airbnb’s to chose from in Manly.

My advice, get a ‘private room’. They’re usually half the price and, let’s face it, a room and access to a kitchen is all you really need, right?

h o s t e l

Usually, I would tell every backpacker/budget traveller/student to stay in hostels when travelling Australia buuuut, Manly is an exception.

The place lacks a decent hostel, to say the least. Manly Backpackers hostel is up there at number one, in my list of bad hostel experiences. Just don’t put yourself through it – believe me.


w h a t  t o  d o

f a i r y  b o w e r  s e a  p o o l

Located along Marine Parade (the path to the right-hand side of Manly Beach) is where you’ll find this spectacular, glistening sea pool.

There are a load of sea pools at Sydney’s beaches, I’ve never seen them anywhere else in the world, but I love em. It’s just like swimming in the sea, but better; there’s no current, no waves and the water is a lot warmer.

My favourite thing to do here is pack a picnic, roll out a towel along the edge of the water and alternate between sunbathing and cooling off in the water…perfection!

T O P  T I P: If you want a space to set up camp for the day, get here early or after lunch – it gets pretty packed very quickly.


s h e l l y  b e a c h

A little further along from the sea pool is Shelly Beach.

This small cove is simply pure beauty. Surrounded by protected nature – North Head national park and Cabbage Tree Bay aquatic reserve, the beach is pretty much untouched and unspoilt (with the exception of the Boathouse Cafe – but when you’re in need of a cool refreshment, you’re thankful it’s there).

Shelly beach is ideal for snorkelling and swimming around the headland to spot Manly’s marine life. Do be warned, the sea is FREEZING! But don’t let this put you off…it’s alright once you’re in (ahahah).

T O P  T I P: Try the berry smoothie at The Boathouse – delicious.


l i t t l e  m a n l y  c o v e

Now, this spot was shown to us by a local we were staying with, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem.

If you’re facing Manly Wharf, to your left there is what appears to be, just more housing but, if you follow the road round and down you’ll stumble across this little cove.

The sea here is much warmer than at Shelly (for some reason) and much deeper – there is a jetty in the water that you can climb up on and jump off!

When I was here, I spotted a huge turtle and a massive stingray, both swimming around at the same time – so keep your eyes peeled and bring snorkels.

T O P  T I P: This spot is perfect for paddle boarding and weaving between the moored boats.


k a y a k  a t  t h e  w h a r f

Hire a kayak from Manly Kayak Centre (linked). It’s a little expensive but really worth it. I’d say an hour is plenty as it’s pretty sweaty work on a hot day, but you get your money’s worth and it’s so peaceful and relaxing.

Besides, Manly is a pretty cheap place to be anyway; I’m sure your days will mainly consist of lounging around on the beach or taking a walk along one of its headlands.

C O S T: Single kayak | 1 hour = $25 Double kayak | 1 hour = $45


m a n l y  t o  s p i t  w a l k

All I can say is be prepared: bring plenty of water, dress lightly, pack a lunch, bring your camera, bring a towel and swimmers and get ready for a long walk ahead of you.

That all makes it sound like no fun at all but it is…believe me! It’s just a long one – 10k to be exact (a leisurely stroll would take about 5 hours).

There are so many stunning look outs, varients of terrain, bush walks, bridges – it’s got it all.

On your way are a few beaches to look out for and stop for a quick dip in the sea or a pit stop lunch: Forty Baskets beach, Reef beach and Crater cove.

T O P  T I P: When you reach Spit Bridge, there is a bus route that takes you all the way back to Manly.


s u r f  a t  m a i n  b e a c h

Manly is known for its popular Pacific Ocean surf. So why not hire a board, and give it a whirl!

There are a couple of hire shop along the Steyne, set back just behind the beach, where you can hire out surfboards, paddle boards and body boards.

At Manly Surfboards you can try your hand at surfing from $13.64.

T O P  T I P: Check out the beach at sunset – it’s insane!

n o r t h  h e a d  w a l k

Set back behind Shelly Beach is the North Head headland walk.

This coastal walking track opens up to amazing views of Sydney’s skyline and is also a popular whale-watching location if you’re there from June – July and August – October migration seasons.


w h e r e  t o  e a t


The Boathouse – dine on the beach

Doughnut Time – free doughnut on your birthday

Barefoot Coffee Traders – The best hot chocolate ever

Donny’s – $5 steak and chips

Betty’s Burger – insane burgers

Manly Wharf Hotel – enjoy a cocktail on the water

New Brighton Hotel – rooftop bar

Banana Blossom Asian Salads – pricey, but delish healthy salads

In Situ – lively cocktail and tapas bar

Daniel San – trendy Japanese food bar


T R A V E L  H A C K S  1 0 1

p a d d l e  b o a r d

Manly is the ideal place to go if you want to try your hand at stand up paddleboarding (or as they call it over there, SUP).

I would recommend doing it at either Manly Wharf beach or Little Manly Cove.


f r e e  d o u g h n u t s

If you’re lucky enough to spend your birthday in Manly, head on down to Doughnut Time – they give you a free doughnut if it’s your birthday.


s n o r k e l

Planning to spend a day at Shelly Beach? Be sure not to forget a snorkel! The cove is a protected aquatic reserve meaning there are tonnes of species of marine life that live there.




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