Manly, North Head, O’Malley’s

Manly is famous mainly for its beach, but there is so much else to see and do there, that it meant planning another day trip. We went there in December 2009, on one of my days off, a Monday. Unfortunately on that day, the weather wasn’t that great and so instead of spending the day at the beach, we did the sightseeing. From our flat, Neil, Daniel and I headed to Parramatta train station. On route I stopped off at the Commonwealth bank for money and was greeted by a chant of “Northern Ireland” from a sales person at the Westfield shopping centre entrance. I was wearing my Northern Ireland top, which he had noticed. I stopped and chatted: he was from Orangefield in East Belfast!


Home of Van Morrison and where my Uncle Jack once lived. Small world! Then we caught the train from Parramatta City Centre to Town Hall, bang in the middle of Sydney City centre, from there we walked down to the seafront quay. Getting to Manly from Sydney requires either your own transport, walking, bussing or a boat! So we opted for the boat option, or rather “The Manly Ferry.” From Wharf 3 at Sydney Harbour Front, we each bought a $6.40 single ticket to Manly Wharf. The ferry is regular, and takes around 30 minutes. There was a massive queue and the ferry was quite busy, and bigger than I thought.

There were a load of school kids in front of us, but we got on board and managed to get back row seats looking back on Sydney harbour from the ferry. Soon the boat had left, there was a touch of light rain in the air and we were set off for Manly. Two of our other housemates, Rebecca and Ruben had agreed to meet us later on, so in the meantime we planned our own trip. The views from the ferry were excellent, Sydney harbour is immense and really needs to be seen.


Half way through the crossing and we passed into the forward section of the boat for views of a different kind – north Sydney and the creeping Manly in the distance. manly itself as an area looked massive – and well it is fairly big! After a textbook docking by the crew, we were off the ferry and into the tiny port mall featuring McDonalds and a German Beer Bar. We went straight to Aldi though and got our food for the day – some fruit, sweets, drink and samijes. Then we planned to do the Manly Scenic Walk. Its a 10 kilomtre trek from Manly Wharf round the pretty harbour to a place called Spit Bridge. Sadly the art museum by the harbour was closed, but it was on with the trek. It was a coastal scenic walk.


We passed Manly Cove and Fairlight Beach on a quiet and cloudy day. OUr walk took us up some streets and back onto the coast at North Harbour Reserve. We stopped at various points for photos and water. One of these points was a playground area, another just beyond this was a foresty area with a massive lizard resting on a tree. It was the biggest lizard I have seen. randomly we met a gut from Huddersfield there.


After this it was on round on the random scenic walk. We passed Wellings Reserve, 40 Baskets Beach and Reef Beach. All nice places and great views over the harbour – we saw a few boats pass through. The area is well signposted and the Scenic Walk is very easy. At various points there are fantastic views and lookout points, all facing into Sydney Harbour, some from miles away looking back at the bridge.

It was a misty day which obscured some of the views – and as we twisted on round you could see Sydney city in the distance, with its skyscrapers. It was relaxing and still pretty warm – Australia just hasnt been cold yet since I arrived in late October 2009.

Further round was a place called Crater Cove and the walk wound itself in again towards Tania Park. Once we got to Grotto Point (a half way marker if you like) we could see the end. It was pretty far round, and although we would have been up for walking back (either the same way or inland) we decided to do the walk until the very end and then bus it back (provided we could find a bus!)

We passed a bay called Castle Rock into the Middle Harbour, which didnt remind me in the slightest of the quiet, non commercial seaside village of Castlerock in Northern Ireland. A place where I spent manys a summer in the 1990s kicking ball about, watching the Milk Cup and drinking in the wee bar at the Golf Hotel.

On round we got to the peaceful, dreamlike Clontarf beach, where we saw pelicans and the beach backed onto people’s houses. Apart from some beaches in Tasmania (and Lido near Venice) this is probably the nicest beach I’ve been to. On a day not to be savoured for beach weather.

It was onward to finish the Manly Scenic Walk though, and the end point was a place called Spit Bridge. Before we arrived there there was still a Primary School Kids end of year party at a playground/beach near Sandy Bay, which we had to trawl through. We also passed Fisher Bay which I believe was once used to film that awful TV show “Home and Away” (was popular in the UK in early 90s).

WE had reached the end of the Manly Scenic Walk and were now at the entrance to the area known as Manly, as ever I took time to get my Northern Ireland flag out and pose for a photo at the Welcome to Manly sign. Then we saw the bus stop round the corner for the main bus back to Manly town centre – or basically the area by the beach.

We got bus number 144 from Battle Boulevard to Manly (Ivanhoe Park) and it cost just $3.20. Once out at Manly we were back near the main beach there. It was a bit of a cloudy day and there had been a fall of rain which was why the pretty streets leading down to Manly beach were deserted. The area looked modern and trendy. It was all pedestrianised.

It was at this point that we heard, by phone call to Daniel from Ruben and Rebecca who were nearby. Instead of going to the beach and ocean for a swim, the day was dull so they were waiting in the car. On the walk down, we walked along the beach passed where proud flags display Manly’s obvious place alongside the top beaches in Australian. In fact many Sydneysiders see it as better than the slightly more popular Bondi Beach (another which I visited). I didn’t agree. Certainly it’s a bigger beach – but a bit too posh looking for me!

Then we saw Ruben, and the three of us got into the back seat of the car. It was a bit of a squash and Ruben said “We’re going up the hill to see a real Castle!”, “Yeah right!” thought me and Dan, given that the last castle we were promised to see was actually just a load of bricks on top of a hill : the ‘Ruined Castle’ of Jamison Valley. It all got a bit “irish” actually. First Ruben randomly gets out an “irish” CD from his glove compartment and asks me if I know any of the songs! He fires it on, and I don’t recognise any of the songs, except for She Moves Through The Fair. “Remember I’m from Northern Ireland, not Southern!” I said. And I laughed at this Irish CD he’d somehow picked up.

Then we turned into St. Patrick’s Estate, the patron saint of Ireland. That was very strange. We had turned off from Manly town centre and were on a peninsula heading north east. The peninsula is known as North Head. It dates back to 1788 as being a place for aboriginal meetings, and had since become an area as part of Sydney’s harbour defence system. There is a lot of history there to see and quite a few sights on North Head.

First stop we made was at St. Patrick’s Seminary, established in the late 1800s. It was a pavilion and quarters for the army and defence to use. North Head was basically a quarantine reserve. This was the “Castle” but as Daniel said it was more like a Church or a Cathedral, it was an elegant brown building in a pretty courtyard – actually there were a few separate buildings in there. The main building, the ‘castle’ wasn’t really a castle and it had a lot of international flags around it, on the front on the outside. The buildings we saw in there were The International College of Tourism and Hotel Management (it also had the Aboriginal Flag on it – a black and red flag with a yellow circular ‘sun’ in the middle)

The area was St. Patrick’s Estate on Cerretti Crescent, which was off Darley Road at North Head. The large Church there was a Catholic one – Cardinal Cerretti Memorial Chapel. I took a photo of it anyway and we headed back to the car to go on up the hill past a hospital and up to the North Fort Artillery Museum. Unfortunately for the second time that day – the museum was closed.

First we had found the Manly Museum and Art Gallery closed – now this one – something about Mondays and things being closed in Australia. With the North Fort Artillery Museum closed, our short trip to North Head could easily have been over – but never fear, there was plenty more to do. The map showed Sydney Harbour National Park, part of which we’d already seen and walked along on the other side. We turned the car round and decided to head to North Head Sanctuary – it had been signposted from the main road (North Head Scenic Drive) and was on my map – though really we had no idea what the fuck it was.

We turned in to a car park, to find out that in fact the North Head Sanctuary had a bit of history, a small ‘museum’, a map, a guide and free sun cream. In the ‘museum’ part we spoke to the lovely lady on reception who explained to us all what the sanctuary was all about, and showed us the route to take on the map. I noticed the box of sun cream and enquired about it. “Can we have some free sun cream please?” “Yes, of course, take some” she said. So I took 2 packs, not even sure the others took any, but I still have my North Head Sanctuary sun cream un-used here in Tasmania.

In fact I’ve only used a bit of my sun cream in the last 5 months. I mainly keep covered up. But my current job I wear a T-shirt most of the time and work outdoors, but they provide free sun cream! My previous job was indoors so I didn’t need it! So here I am in Australia with 3 packs of sun cream. That should keep me going till about 2013 at this rate. Yet I know it won’t, but thanks to North Head Sanctuary for the free sun cream, with “North Head Sanctuary” written on it.

We were given a visitor’s guide to North Head Sanctuary, which was actually a self guided tour, containing 14 points of interest. Rebecca is a bit lazy though, and doesnt like to walk anywhere, so at this point we split up. Ruben and Rebecca headed back to the car and we decided to meet up again down at the end of North Head, at Fairfax Lookout.

We started at the Gatehouse, which was guarded day and night as the entry to the army base, infront of it is the Parade Ground where the army assembled and marched, and then beyond this the barracks or living quarters. It wasn’t amazing stuff, just great to be doing something cultural and informative on one of my days off. Then we reached a path through a “Gun Park”, no sign of guns anywhere, this is presumably where they used to practice their shooting.

On the right hand side past many precious shrubs there is whats known as the “Northern Lookout”. From here you can see a line of headlands along the Northern Beaches, including Manly. The shrubs are precious as this area contains one of the few remaining patches of Eastern Suburbs Banksia Shrub. I couldnt really tell the difference to be honest and wasn’t blown away. The Northern Lookout though was great views north and the next lookout, the “City Lookout” was super vantages over Sydney harbour and that famous skyline featuring Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the skyscrapers.

On round was the entrance to the museum (the one we had drove to, some 35 minutes before) which was closed. So we posed for a few photos there and realised how quick a walk it really was right down to the lookout point, where we had agreed to meet Ruben and Rebecca.

They were sitting in the car park and we did the Fairfax Lookout Walk, basically a loop to the 2 lookout points and back. The Faifax Loop walk is 15 minutes return. We turned it into a 30 minute return, stopping for some samijes ( I had Hungarian Salami and Australian Cheddar in mine) and some photos, plus a video. It was relaxing. Ruben and Rebecca also then invited us to a Uruguayan Restaurant for dinner, but we declined. We don’t often go out for dinner, it’s much cheaper to eat for cheap at home or snack it with fruit as you travel.

Fairfax lookout is cited as being one of Sydney’s best lookouts, and I’d agree with that. Fantastic ocean views over the rocks and out to sea with New Zealand far far away to the east, and from the other side a splendid view of Sydney Harbour.

It was our plan to go to O’Malley’s pub that night in the first place. O’Malley’s was “the local” pub to me when I first moved to Australia, as we stayed at Chili Blue in King’s Cross and it was round the corner. Me and Daniel spent manys a night in there, and we particularly liked the Monday night Pub Quiz and the Tuesday night Darts Competition. Whilst staying in the hostel of course, we got lots of free drinks in there.

But now we had a flat, there weren’t free drinks available to us, but O’Malley’s always does $8 jugs of beer (Boag’s, Toohey’s New, XXXX). We got a lift from Rebecca and Ruben to North Sydney, where we caught the rush hour train to King’s Cross (there was a brief change at Town Hall and a slight delay) to make it to O’Malley’s for the 7 pm start of the pub quiz. That night there were 9 teams in for it, we got a table easily, got the beers in and sat to play.

With only 3 of us, and up against loads of Aussies we were hardly going to win (as part of the hostel crew one night we had won the quiz), and in the end we finished 8th out of 9. Our team name that night was ‘team name’, hardly inspiring and summed it up. After the pub quiz, the band played acoustic versions of “Live Forever” (by Oasis) and “Gangsta’s Paradise” (by Coolio) and we were ready to leave th pub by 11 pm and take Neil to the Sports Bar for a pint.

The Sports Bar in KIng’s Cross shows all the English League televised matches. That night it was Liverpool v Arsenal live from Anfield (actually the match wasnt live, but had been played 12-14 hours before but we didn’t know the score so it was as good as live). I banked on Arsenal, Daniel went for Liverpool and Neil reckoned a draw. In the end, Arsenal won 2-1. After that it was kebab, final drink and home time. We walked towards the train station, there we had a quick beer in Star Bar, and opposite that one of the massive $10 kebabs with everything you can fit in it…

Instead of getting a train (the first train of the morning), we went for the night bus, which was leaving earlier, and took us to Parramatta station. A successful day at Manly, North Head and O’Malley’s was over.

Who Went – Jonny Blair, Daniel Evans, Neil Macey, Rebecca Yu, Ruben Funai

Transport Used – Parramatta – Sydney train, Manly Ferry, Ruben’s car, Sydney Underground, Sydney – Parramatta bus

Bars Visited – O’Malley’s, The Sports Bar, Star Bar

Food – Greasy beef kebab, samijes (Hungarian Salami and Australian Cheddar), fruit


Lizard On Manly Scenic Walk:

Clontarf Beach:

North Head Sanctuary View Point:

Manly Ferry Leaving Sydney Harbour:

Manly Ferry Docking in Manly Wharf:

Manly Ferry In Sydney Harbour:

Manly Beach:

Fairfax Viewpoint, North Head, Manly:

Driving At North Head, Manly:

Join 15,017 Monthly Readers! If you enjoyed this article and LOVE travel and SAVING money, get e-mail updates from Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel! (It’s Free) 😉 Jonny

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

CommentLuv badge