South Steyne, North Steyne and Queenscliff
Iconic Manly Beach is a surf beach that has three main sections South Steyne, North Steyne, in the centre, and Queenscliff (Queensie) at the northern end.
In the summer months there are usually three sets of flags - one at each of these sections, where swimmers can swim with the added assurance that these areas are patrolled by lifeguards.
Queenscliff also has a large ocean pool where you can simply splash around or do lengths. The perfect spot when bluebottles are around. There are also volleyball nets between North and South Steyne where you can grab a game or watch as others try their hand at this beachside sport.
Around the corner from South Steyne is the picturesque Shelly Beach. The popular walk from South Steyne to Manly is often busy in the summer and there is the added attraction of Fairy Bower Ocean Pool part of the way round. Shelly is a popular spot for divers and snorkellers. Shelly Beach has a grassy area with public BBQs making it the perfect picnic spot.
Harbour beaches mean calm waters and no waves. For waves and surf stick to the ocean beaches previously mentioned.
West Esplanade Beach
This sheltered beach stretches from Manly Wharf round to the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary site. There is a netted swimming area and the waters are usually very calm and clear. A perfect spot for young families, there are shops and cafés nearby to grab a bite to eat or drink, as well as grassed area behind the sand with plenty of trees and shade and picnic tables.
East Esplanade Beach
On the other side of Manly Wharf – to the left as you face out towards the harbour, is East Esplanade Beach. Another popular spot for families, you can hire SUPs, kayaks and other water craft. Boats are close by and the beach itself tends to be shallower than the other side of the wharf.
A short stroll from Manly Wharf are some beaches few tourists ever make it to, and they are accessed by a beautiful harbour walk suitable for all levels of fitness and stroller friendly. As you walk away from Manly and past the Manly Museum and Art Gallery, you join the scenic walkway and in a mere ten minutes, if that, you could easily walk straight past Delwood Beach without knowing it’s there. Steps from the walkway lead down to Delwood where you find calm waters to swim and snorkel in without having to vie for a spot. View across the harbour and the chance to watch the ferries and boats add to the endless appeal of this sheltered beach.
A few minutes further round the walk you come to the larger and more popular Fairlight Beach. The sand may be rougher than you find at most of the beaches in the area but the ocean pool and beautiful outlook are favoured by many Manlyites. There is path down to the sand that is fully accessible, public toilets and grassed areas, as well as many great rocks where you can set up camp to while away the hours. So close to Manly centre, it feels as if you are far from the buzzing resort and yet getting back couldn’t be simpler via the scenic walkway.
A short 10 to 15-minute walk from Manly Wharf, this gorgeous family favourite beach at Stuart Street is a popular haunt with locals. This gorgeous family friendly harbour beach has a netted swimming area for extra reassurance and rocks with shallow pools to explore. The net is a popular jump-off point for adults and kids. A grassed area behind the beach is the perfect picnic place and there are public showers and toilets as well as a kiosk open in summer serving ice creams, drinks, snacks and more. One of the most popular family beaches around, it is best to get there early to reserve your spot and parking can be tight, so walk if you can.
Further on from Little Manly are Collins and Store Beaches. Store beach is accessible by water and hence very private. This secluded harbour beach has no facilities but is a beautiful spot.
Collins Flat Beach lies between North Head and Little Manly Cove. There are no facilities but there are wonderful views across The Heads, and a waterfall to complete the picture. This is home to Manly’s Fairy Penguin colony so absolutely no dogs are allowed. Quarantine Station is just around the next bend. Boats sometimes anchor offshore but this tends to be one of the quieter beaches in the area.
Forty Baskets Beach
The name Forty Baskets lies on the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk and its name comes from a catch of 40 baskets of fish made in 1885 and sent to troops at North Head Manly Quarantine Station. The beach faces north east across Manly Cove with toilet facilities, a children’s playground, barbecue areas and a shark proof netted swimming area. The beach is backed by a grassy reserve, making it the ideal picnic spot.
Once a nude beach, getting to Reef Beach is the very committed among us. You can get there via a bush track through Sydney Harbour National Park. If you take the challenge, you are likely to be delighted. You are unlikely to have to share it with many others and can enjoy this beautiful harbour beach for yourself, or at least with only a few others. The facilities are basic with bush toilets, cold showers and tap water available, so bring along all you might need.
Located along the well known Manly to Spit Bridge walk, Clontarf beach is a great spot for families with BBQ’s, an extensive playground, toilets, a café and a netted swimming area. There are great views looking across Spit Bridge and towards Chinaman’s Beach on the other side and water crafts of all sizes meander past.
The Northern Beaches Council’s Hop Skip Jump free bus service goes to Clontarf as does the 132 or 171 bus. Get off on Beatrice Street. There is also plenty of free and paid parking.
One of the most popular beaches on the peninsula, picturesque Freshie Beach lies between two headlands and is especially loved by families. Great for surfing and swimming, there is an ocean swimming pool at the north end of the beach for those who are serious about getting in a few lengths. It is part of the Manly-Freshwater National and World Surfing Reserve that was declared in 2012. It is here that ‘Duke’ Kahanamoku gave locals a surfing display and a life-sized statue of the man sits high above the beach on the northern headland.
South Curl Curl
The next beach after Freshie, South Curl Curl has arguably one of the best ocean pools on the Northern Beaches. A local’s hangout, South Curly is seldom crammed with people and this deceptively long beach is one where you can usually find a little more space to relax. Be careful to swim between the flags here (as everywhere) as there are several well-known rips.
North Curl Curl
A little further along the beach from South Curl Curl it becomes, you guessed it, North Curl Curl. The beach is backed by the cliff and there are rocks and crevices to explore. A short stroll away is a picture-perfect ocean pool, accessed over the headland pathway or the beach at low tide,
A popular friendly beach with a beautiful grassy area behind, Dee Why is perfectly placed next to the main café strip so you can easily pop over for food or drink. At the south end there is a great ocean pool with areas for doing lengths and space for younger kids to have fun. The beach is suitable for swimming, surfing and body boarding.
Lying between North Narrabeen and Warriewood Beaches is Turimetta Beach. While this unpatrolled beach is great for swimming, body surfing and surfing, it can have some strong shore breaks and a number of rips. Backed by 20 to 30 metre high steep shale bluffs,
it is little known beach that is only about 350 metres long.
Hidden from view from above, you walk down to Warriewood Beach, via a path from road level. This pretty beach is a little off the beaten trail and so not frequented by tourists. There is a café at the south end and others on the road above. It is also home to the blowhole – look but do not jump off for obvious safety reasons. A great surfing beach, Warriewood offers a true locals experience far from the madding crowds.
East facing Whale Beach, that lies between two sandstone headlands, is a great family destination with a 25 metre ocean swimming pool, picnic area and playground. Suitable for surfing and swimming, it is home to a well-known surf break called the Wedge, that lies to the north end close to the rocks. You get there down the twisting and turning Whale Beach Road and it is usually patrolled on the weekends.
The last beach on the peninsula, Palm Beach is well known for its starring role in the popular TV show Home & Away. About 30km from Manly, the south end of Palm Beach has an ocean pool with a shallow end that is great for kids. Pittwater lies on the other side so a day trip to Palm Beach means you can enjoy both a day at the beach and time on the sheltered harbour of Pittwater. Above Palm Beach is Barrenjoey Lighthouse and there is a good walk up to the lighthouse with spectacular views. This quiet area is perfect for a chilled day out and there area has a range of cafés for snacks drinks and a meal.