We are pretty spoilt here on the North Shore, with some amazing beaches right on our doorstep. Manly has it all and is a fabulous, family-friendly option with rock pools, sheltered coves, playgrounds, water slides, as well as plenty of great spots to eat and drink.
I have to be the first to admit, I am not a beach person. The sand, the waves and three kids aged 5 and under – it’s often a recipe for disaster… But the kids love spending time there. They will sit and happily play for hours on end, no fighting, no whining. So, the trade off is worth it. I am even starting to enjoy our trips…
Manly is what got me over the edge. I pre-booked parking at Manly Wharf car park and it made the trip! Beaches parking is always a nightmare – and I should know. I worked in Manly for a year and had to park a 20-30 minute walk from work. It was so easy getting the kids there and home, it made the entire trip so much more pleasant.
Plus, there is plenty to do to keep everyone entertained – big and small.
Family-friendly Manly Beach: Everything to see and do
Manly actually made up of a number of different beaches. The beach curves 2km from South Steyne to North Steyne and Queenscliff.
- Manly Cove: this is on the harbour side near the ferries. It’s got netted swimming baths, perfect for kids.
- North Steyne: this is the middle section, where the surf lessons take place.
- Queenscliff: this is still part of the same stretch of beach, right at the Northern end. There is a rock pool here as well.
- Shelly Beach: right at the end of the stretch, you will find Shelly Beach, which is sheltered and has plenty of shade.
- Fairy Bower Beach: a perfect spot for kids, there is a little rock pool here. It’s in between Manly and Shelly Beach.
- Little Manly Beach: another great sheltered spot, which is a little further out of the way. It’s in the same side as Manly Cove.
We spent the afternoon at Manly Cove. You come out of the Manly Wharf Car Park, walk a few metres and you’re there! The swimming area is surrounded by nets, making it nice and safe. And the best part, the water is nice and calm! If you have little ones like me, or kids who are a bit hesitant around the big waves, this beach is perfect for them. Vivi (3) was determined not to go in the water and wouldn’t let me put her swimmers on. Once we got there, she wouldn’t get out! She just loved it.
Be warned, there isn’t much shade on this beach at all, so you want to come prepared with a beach tent if you are planning on spending the day.
The toilets are also a bit of a hassle, as they are back at the carpark. If one needs to go, you all need to go. Thankfully, we were there with friends, so I was able to take Cassie (5) and leave my other two behind. There are also some toilets on the West Esplanade near Manly Art Gallery.
Playgrounds at Manly
Manly Lagoon Reserve Playground
Right at the North end near Queenscliff Beach you will find the huge Manly Lagoon Reserve Playground, which has so much for kids to do. There’s swings, slides, climbing equipment and more, as well as a fabulous bike/scooter track around it. There’s also plenty of shade which is an added bonus, and lots of seating for the adults. It’s fully-fenced, which is perfect for the younger kids. It’s just one of the great options at family-friendly Manly Beach.
North Steyne Beachfront Playground
Towards the middle of Manly Beach you will find the North Steyne Playground. It has swings, a climbing structure, slides, a merry go round and more. There is a partial fence around it, but it doesn’t enclose all the way, so you have to keep a good eye on younger kids.
If you’re looking for some added fun, Manly Surf n Slide is just at the end of Manly Cove. The water is heated, so it will always be warm enough! Kids can slide away while you sit back and relax on the spectator’s deck.
Dine in cafes or take-away food at Manly Beach
There are plenty of places to grab some fish and chips or a refreshing ice-cream by the beach. The Corso runs from Manly Beach to Manly Cove and is full of fabulous choices.
If you are looking for dine-in options, you can choose from a variety of different cuisines. Some of the favourite restaurants are Hugos, Manly Wine and 4 Pines Brewing Co.
We checked out The Bavarian, which is conveniently located right next to Manly Cove. You can look out onto the water while you dine. We were treated to a new Feed The Family share-style menu with pretzels, chicken schnitzels, fries, salad, apple strudel and ice cream. There was so much food it was delicious. You definitely get your money’s worth with it and it’s food the whole family will enjoy.
Getting to Manly Beach
If you’re heading to Manly, you can make a day of it by heading to the Circular Quay and catching the Manly Ferry. It’s about a 30 minute journey. Plan your trip at beyondthewharf.com.au
Manly is about a 25 minute drive from Chatswood via Pittwater Road, or 15 minute drive from Mosman coming via Military Road over the Spit Bridge.
We booked in the Manly Wharf Car Park. It’s $29 for a flexi-saver pass, and you can park right next to Manly Cove, which was convenient for us. There are two car parks on Central Ave: one in Whistler Street and one in Wentworth Street, where you can enjoy two hours of free parking, as well as the Manly National car park.
- Up to 2 hours: Free
- 2 – 2.5 hours: $10.50
- 2.5 – 3 hours: $13.50
- 3 – 3.5 hours: $17
- 3.5 – 4 hours: $21
- 4 – 5 hours: $33.50
- 5 + hours: $45
If you’re looking at public transport options, bus is another way to get to Manly. Visit Transport NSW for timetables.