Manly was one of the first places in Australia to get a name. Soon after his arrival in Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip began exploring the harbour in search of fresh water.
The Tank Stream which ran into Sydney Cove near what is now Circular Quay was hardly enough to serve the immediate needs of the First Fleet, let alone support the farm animals the ships had brought or any worthwhile food crop.
Passing near Manly a group of unarmed Aboriginal men waded into the water to greet Phillip’s small boats. Impressed with their stature and bearing, Phillip is recorded describing them as ‘manly’, and the name stuck. Despite mounting an expedition several miles inland to what is now Beacon Hill north of Manly, Phillip failed to find a stream.
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Because of its distance from Sydney Cove, Manly remained largely untouched by white settlers until 1846 when it saw the beginnings of a village. It began to flourish in the 1850s when a ferry service was established from Sydney.
One of the native men who greeted Phillip was named Bennelong, and he and Phillip developed a friendship so firm Phillip took Bennelong to England when his tour of duty ended. Out of place in faraway London, he returned to Sydney. In the meantime he was built a hut at Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House now stands.
From the outset, Manly became a popular seaside suburb for Sydneysiders to visit. Even now it is a holiday destination for people living in country areas, and a day trip for those who live in suburbs well away from the water. Manly is 11 kilometres (seven miles) by ferry or jet-powered catamaran from the Sydney CBD.
Ferries and Jet Cats operate from Sydney’s Circular Quay seven days a week from about 6am to 11pm, taking 35 and 14 minutes respectively to make the crossing.
Buses run from Sydney’s Wynyard interchange and take about 40 minutes in light traffic. A taxi trip from/to the city takes about 30 minutes and costs $25 to $30.
There is no local bus service except to Manly Hospital at the entrance to the North Head reserve, which is nowhere near hotels. But Manly township is flat and walking easy. Taxis can reach all hotels and are generally plentiful. It is best to book by telephone as few cruise the streets because of the town’s layout.
Manly is a popular day out for Sydneysiders and offers a very wide choice of places to eat and drink – from fast-food outlets to quality seafood, steak, Asian and Italian restaurants.
Manly is at the northern end of Sydney Harbour and has a harbour beach and one of Sydney’s longest and most beautiful ocean beaches. The surfing beach at Manly is about three kilometres long and has three names, North Steyne, South Steyne and Queenscliff. It is an ideal `city escape’ for visitors who enjoy swimming, surfboarding or windsurfing and is the gateway to the Northern Beaches. Manly has numerous restaurants, cafes and pubs – some with discos.
It has no historic buildings of significance, but it does have a really good, though small, aquarium. Coming from the city, it is a 5-minute walk to the left of Manly Wharf. Oceanworld is open daily from 10am to 5.30 pm and has daily shark feeding sessions and a seal show, which is very well done and a treat for children. Though much smaller and less spectacular than the Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour, it is well worth visiting.
Manly’s main street, The Corso (very Italian in name only), crosses a spit of land from Manly Wharf on the harbour side to the surf beach – about 500 metres – and is closed to traffic for half its distance.
Also on West Esplanade is the small but highly regarded Manly Art Gallery and Museum. It has a permanent collection of historic and modern Australian art and craft. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
The Quarantine Station is one of the most unusual and eerie attractions in Sydney. Built on the harbour inside North Head, at a very pretty but isolated spot, it operated from 1832 until the 1960s. Immigrants entering Sydney who were suspected of having been exposed to an infectious disease were incarcerated there until the incubation period for the disease and the danger of spreading it had passed.
A ‘Quarantine Station Story’ (day tour) is held 10am & 3pm on weekends, and 3pm Wed-Fri, and bookings must be made at least 24 hours in advance. Many people died at the station in early years. Ghost tours are run 8pm & 9pm Friday and Saturday nights; and 8pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. Family Ghost Tours also offered Tuesday and Thursday nights at 6.30pm. Again advance bookings are essential.
The Quarantine Station is off the North Head Scenic Drive, which starts at the end of Darley Road just past Manly Hospital. The drive runs to the end of the headland, which has an Army reserve at its centre, surrounded by National Park. It offers sweeping views out to sea, up Sydney Harbour to the City, and back to Manly.
There is a short walking track right to the edge of the headland, which is some 100 metres above the rocks and the sea below. The ocean side of the park includes remnants of World War II gun emplacements. The Army reserve incorporates an artillery museum, tunnels and gun sites. It is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4pm.
Manly is the accommodation centre for the Northern Beaches, though limited three-star motel-style and bed and breakfast accommodation is available at some beaches from there to Palm Beach, 28 kilometres north. Buses operate from Manly to almost all beaches and to sections of Pittwater.You may also be interested in beaches, surf, sydney