Access: Circular Quay Wharf 3 – F1 Manly Ferry to Manly.
Fuel Stop: Fish and Chips in Manly, or coffee in Shelly Beach or on the way there
Duration: This is a half to full day tour. This is a quiet tour on a weekday, and much less crowded on the ferry, but the weekends are good because the Manly Market is on
Note: This is pretty much a “must do” tour with sweeping harbour views and a nice, relaxed beach destination. On a nice day, you can pack bathers for the rock pool or Shelly Beach, or a picnic for Shelly Beach to barbecue.
The starting point for this tour is Circular Quay, Wharf 3. Tap on before you board the ferry. On weekends ferries are heavily crowded and if you can’t get a seat at the top, aim for a seat on the side left or right of the entrance door in fine weather. If seas are choppy, sit inside. F1 Ferries to Manly leave every half hour. The Manly ferry has two steering wheels, so it does not turn. If you want a good view of the city and opera house on the way to Manly, aim for a seat facing Circular Quay on the way out. You’ll have the Opera House on the left side of the ship, and the Harbour Bridge straight ahead disappearing in the distance. On the way back from Manly, aim for a seat upstairs “away from Manly” as the ferry will get towards the city that way.
There are Manly Fast Ferries, which take half the time, but they don’t work on the Opal card, and you’ll need a separate ticket, and since getting there is half the fun, don’t bother unless you are a regular commuter.
Same thing with buses: sure there are buses – since you asked, from the city catch the L90 from Wynyard to Warringah Mall and change to the 155. Or catch the 247 or 245 to Military Rd opposite Watson St and change to the 144 to Manly. Now, seriously, get the ferry…
A word of warning: the seas get a bit rough here – between Watsons Bay and the heads of Manly. Sometimes, very rough. So if it is a windy day, consider sitting inside, downstairs, towards the middle of the ferry. Sea sickness bags are provided.
Once you get to Manly, no Opal tap-off is necessary, as the ferry does not stop, the fare gets deducted upon entry.
When you get to Manly, walk across the street, and keep walking along the “Corso“.
Fuel: Towards the end on the right is a good Fish and Chip shop. This is a good option for lunch. Another option, aside from any of the cafes along the Corso (in varying quality), is to grab a lunch at supermarkets Coles (on the Corso) or Aldi (at the ferry wharf) and take it to Shelly Beach. There are barbecues there too, so you can grill sausages and have a salad by the beach. On weekends, the Markets are on.
So Manly has a “cove” where the ferry arrives (alongside with a sea life sanctuary, and nice walks all the way along the beach and up towards the “Spit” [a whole other day trip]), an “ocean beach” at the end of the Corso, which is end of the line for most tourists, as well as a pretty rare west facing beach (Shelly Beach) which is worth the extra 15 minutes easy walk to. To get there, walk right at the Ocean Beach, and turn left at the Surf Life Saving Club (which has toilets) and continue along the foreshore past cafes, the rock pool (take a dip if you like) to Shelly beach.
A lot of diving schools use Shelly beach for PADI divers, so if it’s evening and you see strange lights in the water, they’re probably divers.
If you didn’t bring supplies, there is a cafe at Shelly Beach.
Walk back to Manly and, coming from the corso, walk right at the ferry terminal along the beach to the Sea Life Sanctuary, or even further for scenic views and a walk all along to the Spit.
If you are into that kind of thing, you can do ghost tours at the Manly Quarantine Station. The 135 bus goes there from Manly Wharf.