Australia // Why Manly is the best place to live in Sydney

Planning your trip
ahead is always a bit tricky, especially when you’re planning to stay in a certain place for a longer period. Although Google Street View can give you an idea on what a certain neighbourhood looks like, it will never be able to show you how it feels to actually live there!

This is sort of the situation we were facing about a year ago, when we were planning our big move from Belgium to Australia.

Manly Beach Sydney

We scanned the Lonely Planet guidebook, talked with people who had actually been there and finally googled our way through dozens of articles just to find out where exactly we should be living in Sydney. We finally ended up in Manly, on the beautiful northern beaches of Sydney.

The thing is, just about every neighbourhood in Sydney has something to offer, so for some people Manly might not be the perfect spot… But here are 10 reasons why we think it is the best place to live in Sydney :) !

1. Life’s a beach

First of all, Manly = beach! And what’s not to love about a good long and wide stretch of sand! Whereas Bondi Beach is Sydney’s most famous beach within the city limits, Manly is (in our humble opinion) a waaaaay better place to be!

A longer stretch of sand, beautiful pine trees lined up along the beach, lots of space to get some tan and awesome waves. What more do you want, right!?

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2. A bad day surfing is better than a good day working

Manly = surfing! Although other Sydney beaches offer equally good waves to ride your board on, Manly Beach has a legendary draw to surfers. You’ll see them catching waves as soon as the sun is out! After all, this is the birthplace of the Australian surf culture!

Surf newbies (like us) can take lessons at the excellent Manly Surf School, where they’ll take plenty of time to get you up and ride your first waves. Believe us, those few seconds you manage to stay up standing on your surfboard make you feel invincible! Well, maybe not invincible, but pretty close at least :)

Manly Beach Surfing Sydney Manly Beach Surfing Sydney

3. A walk a day keeps the doctor away

If surfing is not your cup of tea, no worries mate! Just have a stroll along the Manly Scenic Walkway and enjoy the spectacular surroundings. The name basically says it all, this trail will take you along some of Manly’s best kept secrets!

You can either walk the 10km western trail along the Sydney Harbour to Spit Bridge, or do the eastern loop around North Head and gaze at the jaw-dropping Sydney skyline from the Fairfax Lookout.

Manly Beach Sydney Australia Manly Scenic Walkway lookout Sydney Manly Beach Sydney Australia

4. Life’s at ease with an ocean breeze

We absolutely adore Manly Beach, but there are plenty of beautiful smaller beaches nearby. Our favorite is only a short powerwalk away from Manly Beach, called Shelly Beach. Head down there to spend an afternoon on a small beach in front of a little bay with smaller waves and a rocky coastline – also great for snorkeling!

The awesome Boathouse Café has a great terrace to enjoy a yummy carrot cake and an extra hot cappuccino. This is also the last spot to receive direct sunlight if a romantic sunset is your thing this is where you should be!

A little further towards the north of Manly beach is Freshwater Beach. Tucked in between two sets of sea cliffs, this is a picturesque place where frequented more by locals than daytrippers.

Manly Shelly Beach Sydney Manly Shelly Beach Boathouse Sydney Manly Shelly Beach Sydney

5. Worry less… paddle more

Probably the best way to explore the Sydney Harbour and Manly North Head coastline is by kayak! On a hot summer day we paddled our way from Manly Wharf along some of the most beautiful coves, bays, creeks and beaches.

Great exercise and unbeatable views! Check out our kayak report here!

Australia // Kayak Manly BeachAustralia // Kayak Manly Beach

6. Ride the most iconic ferry in the world

If you ask us, this is the best part of the entire public transport system in Sydney, if not the entire world! The Manly Ferry has been operational since 1855 and continuous to astound people every day. The ride to Sydney’s CBD takes about 30 minutes, and we enjoy every minute of it, EVERY SINGLE TIME!

The ferry takes you along the Northern Head coastline, through a short stretch of open sea (usually the rockiest part of the trip) and then make its way to Sydney’s city center. Just before docking at Circular Quay, it cruises past the gorgeous Opera House and Sydney Harbour bridge. An excellent vantage point and a moment not to forget!

Manly Beach Sydney AustraliaManly Ferry Sydney Manly Ferry Opera House Sydney

7. Explore Manly Dam by bike

A great alternative for those who want to see something else in Manly besides the beach! Rent and ride a bike along Manly Beach, past the Manly Lagoon and through the lovely residential streets of Manly until you reach the Manly Dam.

You can follow the 7 km trail around the reservoir lake which takes you through its beautiful setting in an eucalyptus forest dotted with wildflowers. There are a couple of playgrounds and barbecue areas on the shores of the Manly Reservoir, perfect for a picnic! The reservoir is also popular with water ski enthusiasts.

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8. Treat yourself to a little retail therapy

Still not convinced Manly is the perfect place to be? Well, Manly attracts a lot of tourists, so there are plenty of shops and eateries around! The Corso, Manly’s pedestrian shopping mall, and surrounding streets are packed with all kinds of boutiques and restaurants.  And not to forget, Manly has street markets every Saturday and Sunday!

Manly Corso SydneyManly Beach Sydney Australia

9. Good food puts you in a happy mood!

Hungry from riding the waves or from hiking in the Sydney Harbour National Park? Manly has plenty of options to reboost your energy! Great places to have lunch are the Banana Blossom salad bar or Mortar and Pestle for delicious Thai food. Fancy some dessert? We think Mövenpick has the best ice cream (try the crème brûlée and pistachio)!

Manly Beach Banana Blossom Salad Bar SydneyManly Beach Corso Sydney

However our number one restaurant has to be excellent but high-end Hugo’s, located at the Manly Wharf. Having a classy sunset dinner overlooking Sydney Harbour as the famous Manly Ferry rolls in, now that’s something we’ll never forget!

Manly Beach Hugo's Sydney Manly Wharf Ferry Sydney

10. Bring on the night!

Even after dark Manly remains a busy place, with many buskers showing off their skills. We often liked to just hang around on The Corso, or grab a drink at one of the many bars in Manly. There’s always something going on! For those interested in some brain exercise while having a beer, check out the weekly Trivia Nights at the New Brighton Hotel!

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And there you have it! We absolutely enjoyed our time in Manly and if we ever make it to Sydney again we would probably end up in the same place! We really loved the cosy vibe that runs through Manly’s streets, and the fact that we could chill out on the beach after a hard day’s work :)

Have you lived in Sydney or are you planning on going there? Where do you think is the best place to live? Feel free to share your thoughts below!