Manly lies on the land of the Guringai people, the traditional owners of the land. It was given its name by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788 when he travelled north of Botany Bay after finding it ‘unsuitable for settlement’.

He initially named the area to the north of the harbor Manly Cove after spotting a group of Aborigines in the area, about who he stated, "their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place".

The men he encountered were from the Kay-ye-my clan - of the Guringai people. As he scouted for fresh water in the area, Phillip met members of this clan and, following a misunderstanding, he was speared in the shoulder. He ordered his men not to retaliate preventing further bloodshed. 

People gradually began settling in the Manly area around 1820 and by the 1850s Henry Gilbert Smith, the founder and developer of Manly, had the vision of Manly as a seaside resort.

In 1853 he acquired two large parcels of land and built a wharf two years later and there were soon regular steamer services to Manly.

Ferries eventually took over from steamers and ownership was taken over by the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company which coined the expression about Manly being ‘Seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care’, to promote its ferry service. 

The Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company built several attractions including a large ocean pool and bathing pavilion, and the Manly Fun Pier.

The company changes hands and was sold to The NSW Government in 1974 becoming part of Sydney Ferries. Today several ferry and cruise companies operate out of Manly Wharf.

From the nineteenth century onwards Manly cemented its position as a popular seaside resort and is alleged to be where daylight sea bathing began in 1902.

Manly Council made the decision to allow all-day bathing in 1903, provided a neck-to-knee swimming costume was worn. Seventeen people drowned in the first official bathing season at Manly Beach. Manly Life Saving Club is one of the oldest life saving club’s in the world and was established in 1911.

Today Manly is a world-class seaside resort and regarded as the birthplace of Australian surfing. It is part of the Northern Beaches Council.