The entire suburb of Manly lies on the traditional land of the Guringai people. It was first named Manly Cove in 1788 by Captain Arthur Phillip. Phillip stated that he gave the name to the suburb because of the locals’ “confidence and manly behaviour”.
When he first arrived in the area, he spotted a group Aborigines who belonged to the Kay-ye-my clan of the Guringai people. As he was searching for freshwater, he encountered members of this clan and the interaction ended with a misunderstanding. Phillip was speared in the shoulder, but progressively-minded as he was, he ordered not to retaliate to prevent further bloodshed.
British settlement in the area eventually began in 1820. In the 1850s, Henry Gilbert Smith expressed a desire of turning Manly into a seaside resort. He acquired two large parcels of land in 1853 and built two wharfs two years later. Because of this, Smith is hailed as the founder and developer of Manly.
By the 19th century, Manly Beach had become a popular seaside resort. Daylight swimming and surfing were first allowed in the area in 1902 making it one of the first resorts in the country to do so. In 1903, the Manly Council started allowing all-day bathing under the condition that neck-to-knee swimming costumes would be worn by the swimmers.
However, during the first official bathing season, seven people drowned in the beach. This prompted the creation of a life-saving club to prevent the same incident. In 1911, the Manly Life-Saving Club was established and it was one of the oldest life-saving clubs in the world.
There are also two other lifeguard teams patrolling the beach – the Northern Beaches Council lifeguards and the Volunteer Life Savers. The former operates all-year round at South Steyne and at Queenscliff and North Steyne from October to April. The latter, on the other hand, patrols the beach every weekend on public holidays from October to May.
Things to Do at Manly Beach
Getting to Manly Beach is pretty easy. From Sydney’s Circular Quay, take a 30-minute ferry ride to the Wharf. Then from the Wharf, take a short stroll along the Manly Corso. This lively shopping strip leads straight to the Beach.
When you get there, Manly Beach offers a wide assortment of things to do. With different amenities and spots to visit you can do anything from food-tripping, swimming, sunbathing, surfing and many more.
When you get to Manly Beach, the first thing you are most likely to do is find a place to eat. And you won’t be disappointed. With a bunch of restaurants and bars hanging around, you can treat yourself to not only delicious food but also great panoramic harbour views. Places like Manly Pavilion Bistro and The Four Pines Brewing Company are excellent venues to eat, drink and merry with family and friends.
Manly Beach is a popular and significant surfing location. One of its best spots to go surfing in is Queenscliff, located at the northern end of the beach. Even beginners won’t have to feel out of place because there is Manly Surf School to teach them. This surfing school has been offering surfing lessons since 1983, and they accommodate all kinds of learners; kids, adults and even experienced surfers.
What is the beach if you can’t swim in it? Manly Beach does not fall short of great sports where you can swim all your worries away. At the southern end of Manly Beach, you can find a famous ocean pool called the Fairy Bower Sea Pool.
Ideal for swimmers who do not appreciate strong currents, the Fairy Bower pool is a rectangular rock pool built in 1929. The pair of impressive sculptures of dancers twirling above the water, called “The Oceanides” and created by artist Helen Leete, make it stand out from other ocean pools in Sydney beaches.
If you are up for a deeper adventure, you can also go for guided snorkelling with EcoTreasures. Also, there is Dive Centre Manly that offers scuba diving lessons for beginners. They also offer guided dives for certified and professional divers.
Manly Beach’s golden sand is also ideal for lazing out in the sun. Choosing a nice spot to bathe in the sun, even during peak seasons, wouldn’t be a problem as the beach stretches out up to 1.5 kilometres long.
Aside from these four major things, there are a lot of other activities you can do at Manly Beach. There are also superb amenities such as playgrounds, picnic areas, spaces for electric barbeque and kiosks if you are looking for non-extreme activities to do with family and friends.