explore manly


The ocean and harbour beaches are a major draw bringing people to Manly and the surrounding area. The water is the number one recreational venue but it is essential everyone takes care and follows rules to stay safe and respect the water, marine life and other water users AT ALL TIMES.

Here are some essential guidelines to make sure you enjoy your time at the beach or harbour.


Slip, Slop, Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat, Slip, Slop, Slap! This Cancer Council message stands today. The sun is strong, especially in the summer months. People are advised to stay off the beach between 11am and 3pm and to wear hats and rashies for sun protection. Better still, just don’t spend too long at the beach in the heat of the day. You know the saying about Mad dogs and Englishmen… make sure you don’t follow that example. High factor sunscreen should be used and reapplied regularly.


No water is entirely safe but when it comes to a beach you do not know, then the dangers are far greater. 

For safety in the surf, you should only swim between the red and yellow flags which mark the safest swimming areas. Manly's beaches are patrolled all year round by lifeguards. Surf Life Saving offers the lifeguards top tips:

  • Always swim between the red and yellow flags. These flags mean there is currently a lifesaving service operating on that beach.
  • Be sure to read the safety signs. This will ensure you are aware of any warnings or dangers on
  • the beach.
  • Ask a lifeguard for safety advice.
  • Swim with a friend and look out for each other.
  • If you are not feeling comfortable in the water get help before you get tired. If you require a lifeguard’s assistance to get back to shore, stay calm, raise your arm in the air and wave it from side to side.



Rip currents are strong currents of water that flow away from shore through the surf zone. Visitors are not the only ones to be caught out by rips. In fact, young men aged
15-39 years are most likely to die in rips. They are the number one hazard on Australian beaches. 

The best way to avoid a rip is to swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags. 

Spotting a rip is not always easy. The things to look for are deeper, dark-coloured water; fewer breaking waves; a rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters; and anything floating out to sea or foamy, discoloured, sandy, water flowing out beyond the waves. 

If you do find yourself caught in a rip, stay calm and MOVE with the current at an easy pace to conserve energy.

If you are near others, signal for help by waving one arm and call for help. 

Don’t waste energy swimming against the water flow but try to swim parallel to the shore or use the breaking waves to help you to shore. 



manly sea & wildlifE

Little Penguins

Little Penguins

The Northern Beaches is home to an abundance of wildlife both in and out of the water. There are more than 400 species of native animals, many of whom are endangered.

Shelly Beach is a popular spot for divers and snorkellers but there are other great spots for snorkelling and diving in and around Manly.

Bandicoots and possums can be found in various places around Manly. You may be lucky enough to see echidnas at Shelly Beach and bearded dragons on the walk from Manly to Shelly. There are snakes, rats, flying foxes, frogs and brush turkeys, plus many others.

Manly is home to an endangered population of Little Penguins, which is the only mainland breeding colony of penguins left anywhere in NSW. There are around 60 breeding pairs and this unique bird population is an icon of Manly, surviving in one of the most urbanised areas of Sydney. 

The water promises an array of marine life from fish and sharks to whales coming in close as they travel north and south. The Manly area is home to the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

It covers an area of approximately 20 hectares, including the entire bay, rocky shores and beaches from the southern end of Manly Beach to the northern end of Shelly Beach Headland.

Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve includes seven main types of habitat: sandy beaches, rocky shores, rocky reefs, kelp, seagrass beds, sandy seabed and open water.


'No Take' policy

'No Take' policy

More than 160 species of fish have been recorded in the Reserve.

These fish species range from common temperate species through to tropical species that move south on the East Australian Current (EAC). Various species use the Reserve, including pelagic species (open water) that range widely, such as dusky whaler sharks, and sedentary species that would rarely leave the Reserve. Iconic species such as blue groper, cuttlefish and Wobbegong sharks inhabit the Reserve and protected species such as seadragons, elegant wrasse and black rockcod are also seen here.

The Reserve and its surrounds are popular areas for recreational activities such as walking, beach going, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, underwater photography and boating.

This is a 'no take' Aquatic Reserve, which means you are not permitted to fish by any method, harm marine animals or plants, or collect marine organisms whether dead or alive (including empty shells as they provide homes for living organisms). Please remember, you must not harm any organisms, including sea urchins, to feed the fish. There are four of the eleven protected species in NSW at the Reserve including the Weedy Seadragon, Elegant Wrasse, Grey Nurse Shark and Black Rock Cod. One semi-protected fish species, the Eastern Blue Groper and one threatened population, the Little Penguin.

Endangered species in the area include the Eastern Pygmy Possum, the Loggerhead Turtle and the Long-nosed Bandicoot as well as the Grey-headed Flying Fox and Squirrel Gliders as well as a variety of birds.



Bluebottles most often come in on north easterly winds.

Signs on the beach will usually alert swimmers that they are in the water. Their stinging tentacles often make contact with swimmers and surfers before they spot the main part of the bluebottle in the water. They can cause a sharp, painful sting that develops into an ache, that can last for a few minutes to several hours. The best treatment is to remove
all tentacles from the skin, preferable with tweezers or a gloved hand, and have a hot shower.

If hot water is not available apply ice packs, avoiding direct contact with the skin by wrapping the ice pack in a towel.People can be left with red welts and if there is a major sting to the face or neck, it should be treated immediately. Medical assistance may be required in severe cases or in cases involving children, asthmatics and people with allergies. Council and volunteer lifesavers on the beach can assist you with treatment to painful Bluebottle stings.



Many visitors to Manly and Australia generally fear shark attacks. The last fatal shark attack that occurred on the Northern Beaches was in 1936.