Mainland Sydney can be overwhelming. Luckily, Sydney is a city of a thousand faces. After spending an hour and a half battling with dysfunctional and expensive public transport we reached Circular Quay and crammed onto the Manly Ferry with the tourist hordes. Manly is on Sydney’s north shore and is a half hour ferry trip from Circular Quay, or a twenty minute trip on the licensed and privately owned Fast Ferry. I liked the slow ferry, which I am told is a tourist activity in itself, for the views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
Pulling into Manly, I instantly felt more relaxed. It was sort of like escaping bustling Paris for a day and heading to Reims and Champagne, except without bakeries on every corner and less wine. Manly was a welcome reprieve from the big city.
We didn’t stop at the first beach near the wharf, but headed down the main promenade to the main beach. It was big, but crowded and a significant chunk was thick with seaweed. We took a happy snap but wandered further down to the aptly named Shelly Beach for our swim.
Composed of crushed shells, the beach is a little crunchy but not as uncomfortable as you’d expect. If anything, it was hugely convenient because the shells didn’t infiltrate our phones, food, or bags as badly as sand does. The water was beautifully clear and refreshingly chilly, perfect on a hot day of trekking through Sydney. The sheltered waters were calm, perfect for when you want to chill out rather than battle waves. Further out from shore, people were kayaking, doing laps and stand up paddle boarding, which I’ve always wanted to try. The clear, calm water here would be perfect for SUPing.
I never imagined such a pretty and chilled out beach to be only half an hour outside of Sydney. There’s Bondi, but it has a reputation for being a tourist magnet and being a little overrated as far as beaches go. It’s meant to be big, but bigger isn’t always better. Living in a city surrounded by beaches to the north, south and even in the middle of the city, it’s easy to become a bit of a beach snob.
A big beach is nothing new, but a shallow, shelly beach where the water was calm, clear and cool only a few minutes walk from great bars was just what the doctor (or shrink) ordered after a morning of getting around Sydney. An absolute must-do in the middle of a jam-packed Sydney weekend for sure! I can see why my friend Dani, who lives on the North Shore and took us to Manly, rarely ventures into the CBD – with beaches, bars and shops, Manly has everything I need!