Cheap Sydney Trips – A Day in Manly

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While it’s true that Sydney can be an expensive city to visit, that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to spend an enjoyable day exploring one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

One of my favorite cheap Sydney trips is to spend a day exploring the many beaches that comprise the northern beaches. Manly Beach is the most well known of these, but the likes of Shelley Beach, Dee Why, Collins Beach, and Freshwater Beach are all worthy additions to any visit to Australia.

And all, just quietly, put the often crowded Bondi to shame.

Getting There

One of the best parts about any day in Manly is the memorable ferry ride from scenic Circular Quay across to the Manly Wharf. Ferries depart from Wharf 3 every 20-30 minutes on week days and a ticket will set you back only $6.60. You can get complete information on the ferry here at the Sydney Ferries website.

The Manly Ferry offers up a great opportunity to snap some photos of iconic Sydney landmarks.

The ferry ride takes you past the Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the ominous headland where the Harbour opens out into the vast Pacific Ocean – so be sure to have your camera ready to snap plenty of memorable shots. If the weather is sunny, as it often is, sitting outside with the sea wind whipping through your hair and the sun on your skin is a great way to start your day of adventure.

The ferry ride takes approximately half an hour and there’s free Wi-Fi on board, so if you’re not content to soak in the natural beauty of one of the world’s most iconic harbours – you can get some emailing done.

The Wharf, Ocean World, and “The Corso”

Your first stop upon departing the ferry will be the Manly Wharf, and it’s not a bad place to grab a bite to eat before you go exploring. Budget options such as Subway, Gloria Jeans, and Nandos are on hand as well as pricier fare such as Manly Phoenix and the very good Belgian Bier Cafe.

Perhaps most useful of all to those on a budget is the presence of an Aldi Supermarket. This (or the nearby Coles on the Corso) will be a much cheaper option when it comes to picking up drinks and snack food. My personal preference would be towards the Coles, but only because I know their selection a bit better.

As you exit Manly Wharf, you’ll see Ocean World to your left. I’d link you to their website, but it just keeps redirecting me to some annoying site trying to sell me access to a whole slew of tourist attractions. I’ve not been to this particular aquarium just yet, but have heard good things.

A look back down ‘The Corso’ towards Manly Wharf.

Directly ahead is The Corso, a kilometer or so long stretch of cafes; souvenir shops; sit down restaurants; and bars. There’s plenty to see, do, and eat along this particular stretch of road, and the pedestrian arcade is often full of people window shopping or simply lolling around and soaking up the sun.

A few of the better establishments along the way include the Ivanhoe Hotel and the Watervue Restaurant. The Ivanhoe is a great old fashioned Aussie pub that offers up a brutally good $10 steak for those on a budget, but has a menu of considerably more decadent fare if you fancy splashing out.

If you’re headed down to the beach for a BBQ, as I thoroughly recommend doing, there’s an attached bottle shop that will sell you virtually any beer, wine, or spirit your heart could desire.

The Watervue is a tad pricey, with foods ranging from $8-$22 at lunch, but is nice and close to the beach and has a good view of the Corso. It’s a great place to stop for a milkshake and a Full English after an early morning run.

Those on a budget will be more attracted to the likes of Hungry Jacks, Cold Rock, and a selection of bakeries and pie shops. There’s good old fashioned Aussie fish & chips to be found all over the place as well.

Assembled at 4 Pines Brewery for some good beer and great burgers. Photo by Brendan Brumby.

One last mention goes to 4 Pines Brewery, one of my absolute favorite places in Manly for a bite to eat and a beer. They brew their own beer on site (I recommend the Kolsch) and serve up some pretty good burgers as well. This one isn’t for those on a budget, but it’s worth a look when you’re feeling a little more flush.

The Beaches

At the end of the Corso lies Manly Beach. This long stretch of white sand is bordered on one side by the Pacific and on the other by a grassy plaza where tall pines provide excellent shade for those wishing to have a BBQ.

There’s good surf to be found at Queenscliff (head left) and great snorkeling and scuba diving to be found at Shelley Beach (head right). As more of a swimmer than a surfer, I’ve got a particular fondness for Shelley Beach.

A scenic 2k or so walk along the coastline takes you from Manly Beach to the more sheltered Shelley, where there’s plenty of sand to stretch out on and a generous grassy park area at the rear where barbecues and tables can be found. There’s a cafe, restaurant, and bar on site for those who didn’t prepare their own meal in advance.

The walk along to Shelley Beach alone is worth it.

My personal preference for a visit to Shelley is as follows:

  • One packet of ‘snags’ (sausages)
  • One loaf of bread or six pack of rolls
  • Potato salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw from Coles
  • Drinks – Whether they’re soft drink (soda) or beers
Enjoying a birthday BBQ in 2008.
If done right, and believe me I’ve had practice, you can get in a good feed and a few beers and not be out of pocket more than $20 a head – and most of that is the beers. An alternative is to buy a $10 BBQ chicken (again from Coles).
Bring along a football, soccer ball, or cricket bat & tennis ball and you’ve got the makings of a good afternoon of cheap, healthy fun. My last group visit featured all three and a pair of frisbees, and I daresay we all burned off more than what we consumed on that particular hot summer afternoon. That’s where that broad expanse of sand comes in handy…

Shelly Beach is my personal favorite in Sydney
Shelley Beach is also a well known spot for scuba divers and snorkelers hoping to catch sight of an octopus, groper, or even a shark or two. The sheltered bay means you don’t have to contend with rough waters or dangerous currents, and it also means there’s plenty of aquatic life just off the shore.

Other Beaches of Note

My mate Adam fresh from his first surf experience at Dee Why.

Dee Why Beach is another well known surfing beach in Sydney, and is actually where I made my first fumbling attempts at learning to surf. in October of 2010.

Freshwater Beach, sometimes known by its old name of Harbord, is also held in high regard for shore dives and snorkeling, as are Fairlight Beach and Fairy Bower. You can find more information on scuba diving the northern beaches at the Dive Sydney website. With dives started at $75 for a single dive, it might be something I look at doing again real soon.

Other beaches worth looking at include Narrabeen (particularly for water sports such as kayaking), Little Manly (great for a family picnic), and Collins Beach (a well kept secret).

A Day Well Spent

Whether you spend it surfing, swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply enjoying a lazy beer with a few of your nearest and dearest – a day in Manly can set you back as little as $13.20 for the return trip (if you bring your own food and drink) or much more if you’re feeling like taking a dive or a lesson.

With food options for all manner of budgets and no shortage of beaches to check out, there’s something for all kinds of traveler – be they adrenaline junkies, tan chasers, or simply somebody looking for a quiet escape from city life.

But enough from me. I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

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