Complete Beach Guide: Manly Beach

Manly Beach is located in the heart of Sydney, only 15 minutes from the city centre, and easily accessible via public transport. Manly Beach is considered one of the top tourist destinations. Along with Freshwater Beach, Manly is one of the most beginner-friendly beaches with its gentle but consistent waves and no localism in the surf. Being close to the city, it attracts tourists and the general public in Sydney.

Pros and Cons of Manly

Easy Acess from the City centreCrowded (in and out of water)
Gentle wavesParking difficulty
No Localism in the surfCrowded surfing
Many other activities to doMany beginners making unsafe at times
Family Friendly (not many topless sunbathers)Expensive parking
Great Food and CafeBusy Traffic


Ferry from Circular Quay – Use Opal

Bus From multiple Bus routes

Hop-Skip-Jump: Manly local free/donation-based transport

Private car

Best Surfing Condition

Best Swell Direction: NE

Best Wind: W, SW and NW. Southerly wind also creates excellent smooth conditions at manly.

Best Tide: mid tide, ideally going low to high.

Unique Things for Manly

There is a drainage pipe throughout the Manly. Some may call it iconic, and some believe it improves surf quality: but this has not been proven. Be aware as some surfers have suffered a few scratches from these pipes.

General Surfing information

Types of break: Beach Break

Optimal wave height: Manly can be difficult to surf once it goes over 5-6 feet as there is no channel to paddle out, and consistency can be low.

Length 1.5km stretch of sand. You can surf anywhere on the beach except between the flags (Swimming zone)

It is divided into Queenscliff (North) and South Styne – but it’s just one big beach.


There have been three recorded shark attacks on Manly Beach; the last attack was in 2019 (suspected).

Click here for more information about shark attacks in Syndey

Blue Bottle during summer: These jellyfishes are harmless but have an excruciating sting. They do not swim but float and go wherever the current takes them. So be aware when you paddle and sit on the board.

Rip/Current: it usually does not get strong unless the surf is above 4 feet. There are channels for an easy paddle out on south style or North Styne. However, being a beach break, the middle sections’ sand bar moves constantly, changing the rip conditions.

Crime: Northern Beaches area is one of the safest areas in Sydney. However, with many tourists and travellers, you need to be sensible with your belonging when surfing: Do not leave them behind you.

Surfing Equipment Hire

Dripping Wet: Located at the heart of Manly Beach, they offer a great range of surfboards and wetsuits for you. When surfing use their locker room. Do not leave your bag unattended. There have been many cases where people lose their belongings when they leave valuables behind.

On your first try, do not overestimate your stamina. Surfing can be pretty tiring and 1-2 hours should be plenty. Always consult professionals before deciding to take your surfing on your own.

Surfing lessons.

This is the only beach that offers consistent surfing lessons. See Manly Surf School for more information. Here is what to expect in your first surfing lesson

Also, see here if you want to know whether surfing lessons are necessary

Is Manly Beach Safe From Shark Attack?

There have been some cases of shark attacks at Manly Beach. Read here for full details

Crowd and level of Surfing

Very Crowded. Avoid the weekend if possible.

There are many beginner surfers, and surf school run their classes throughout the year.

No localism here, but always stick to your general surfing etiquette.


Difficulty level: Extremely difficult on the weekend. (Not easy during weekdays either)

Beachfront parking: Paid parking spot 2 hours max, 10 dollars an hour. ( Free if you have Northern Beaches Council Sticker – You can find it often on, generally selling from $AUD100-150. You can also buy them on the council’s website.

Northern Beaches Parking Permit

All the side street parking is Free 2 hours max. Do not exceed the limit, as Manly is notorious for merciless council parking rangers.

Best Place to Have Coffee

Well, there are quite a few. You can find a coffee shop every 50 metres at Manly, many of which offer excellent quality. Our favourite spot is Barefoot Cafe at Whistler St.

Best Place to Eat After Surfing

After surfing, people tend to go for something heavy and satisfactory. Here is the best Fish and Chips at Manly. I will be very impressed with your self-control if you can pass this place after smelling the deep-fried fish and chips.

Salty Rooster serves amazing chicken burgers and is one of the most popular places and expects a large crowd and some wait time. There are not many places to sit, so you will have to walk a little to find a place to eat – there is a peaceful playground just behind the restaurant.

Best Place to spend time with kids and family

There are several playgrounds throughout Manly. The best playground is Manly Lagoon Reserve, behind Salty Rooster.

Other Activities to do at Manly

  1. Bike ride. A flat, long bike track runs from North Styne to Shelly Beach. Just be aware that the section from South Styne surf club to shelly is closed for bike riders on the weekend. This is a two-lane bike path, and each lane is somewhat narrow. So if your kids cannot control their bike or scooter well, keep them within arm’s reach to avoid a collision.
  2. Snorkelling/Scuba diving. Shelly beach is marine life reverse where fishing is not allowed, so there is plenty of fish and sea life to see.
  3. Rockpool Swim. At North Styne, there is a moderate-sized rock pool for swimmers. It does not get too crowded. There is also a very shallow pool halfway between Manly and Shelly Beach. This is the perfect place for kids to play around.
  4. Bush Walking. North Head, South of Manly, provide excellent bush walking tracks and breathtaking views. You may consider doing the Spit-Manly walk.
  5. Ocean Swim: Bald and Beautiful swim group has been running for over a decade in the early mornings. Many swimmers gather early morning to swim from Manly to Shelly and back.

Surrounding Beaches

Bondi Beach

Freshwater Beach

Dee Why Beach

Fairlight Beach


I have spent the last 15 years in Northern Beaches in Sydney and loves beaches. I have raised three beautiful children, all loving beaches and waves. I hope you share the same passion.

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