Bondi Beach or Manly Beach: Which One is Better?
Bondi or Manly?
If you had time to visit only one beach in Sydney, would it be Bondi or Manly?
This is a prickly question to ask locals in Sydney. Everyone seems to have a firmly held view of the best beach and takes just a titch of offence if you choose the other. As a tourist, I pick Bondi … no, Manly … actually, both. To help decide on the best beach to visit, I will compare them on the following factors:
- Getting there
- Surrounding amenities: Lunch
- The beach
- Coastal walk
1. Getting There
Hands down, Manly Beach wins on this factor. We took the bus to Bondi Beach, which was fine.
The trip to Manly Beach, on the other hand, is spectacular.
Actually, we didn’t really plan on going to Manly Beach. I wanted to see the Sydney Opera House from the water. All the reviews suggest that the best way to get a water view of the Opera House is from the ferry to Manly Beach.
We set out with a plan to take a ferry ride. We ended up on a fabulous beach.
The ferry leaves from Circular Quay on the Sydney harbourfront.
The walk to the ferry terminal in spring is beautiful because of the blooming jacaranda trees. We walked under a purple cloud of blossoms. Sydney in spring is synonymous with blooming jacaranda trees.
Visit Sydney in November to see the jacaranda blossoms at their peak.
We could almost touch the Opera House from the ferry
This is the same photo that I included in last week’s post on the Sydney Opera House.
From this angle, the Opera House looks like a sailing ship.
Everyone on the ferry was snapping pics of the Sydney Opera House
From the ferry, there are sweeping views of downtown Sydney, the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
There are lots of sailboats in Sydney Harbour
I am not really a boat person but I might be convinced to take a sail in one of these boats in Sydney Harbour.
Is this Manly Beach?
The ferry ride to Manly takes about half an hour. Since the purpose of the trip was to see the Opera House, our original plan was to stay on the ferry for the return trip. As a side benefit, we could see Manly Beach as we docked at the ferry terminal. It looked like a lovely beach to me. Much smaller than Bondi beach but beautiful, calm and almost empty. It also looks like it has a net in the water to keep out unwanted marine visitors, like sharks.
Since it was a beautiful day and almost time for lunch, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to disembark and have lunch in Manly. There is a tourist information site just as you exit the ferry terminal. We went in to get some lunch suggestions. I off-handily asked if this was Manly Beach at the ferry terminal. She stared at me for about 10 seconds to see I seriously thought that this was Manly Beach. She then said, “No, this is not Manly Beach. Cross the street and walk down The Corso to the beach.”
“What is The Corse?” I wanted to ask but decided that we could figure it out on our own.
The Corso is the main street in Manly that runs from the ferry wharf to Manly Beach
The Corso is a pedestrian street, filled with bars, restaurants and lots and lots of shops … really fabulous looking shops. Something to do for next time there.
It is a 5-minute walk along The Corso to Manly Beach (or a full day walk if you go into the stores).
There are lovely art deco hotels at the end of The Corso, just across the street from Manly Beach.
2. Surrounding amenities: Lunch
This section on my comparison between Bondi and Manley is completely unfair on my part: We did not have lunch at Bondi Beach. There are many restaurants and bars in Bondi, just steps from the beach, but we took the bus back to city centre for lunch.
We had the best lunch of our whole trip in Manly. We had asked for lunch recommendations at the tourist information centre. She suggested that we try The Manly Fish Cafe.
We had a simple lunch: panfried fish and a salad (and a nice glass of white wine). It was absolutely delicious. We both had the John Dory.
Above is a photo of a John Dory that I took at the Museum of New Zealand. I would not like to swim with a John Dory!
Below is a description of a John Dory:
John Dory: Unlovely, but Not Unloved
If ever a creature went out of its way to appear as unappetizing as possible, it’s the John Dory. Flat, bony and adorned with lethal spikes, it looks a little bit like a horseshoe that sprouted quills and learned to swim.
But we are not fooled! John Dory is a delicious fish with delicate white flesh and a firm, flaky texture.
A saltwater fish, it has a mild, slightly sweet flavour.
While not found much in the United States, John Dory is popular in the U.K. as well as in Australia and New Zealand because it’s found in the North Atlantic and also in the cooler parts of the South Pacific. It’s comparable to turbot, sole, and bill.
While it’s considered a delicacy, and can command a high price in fine-dining restaurants, John Dory is also often used for making that most prosaic of dishes — fish and chips.
Try John Dory if you are in Australia or New Zealand!
3. The Beach
After our delicious John Dory lunch, we were ready to hit the beach!
Which is better: the beach at Manly or the beach at Bondi? This is a tie. They are both stunning.
There is a surf school at one end of Manly beach. While we were there, a high school gym class was taking a lesson. It looked like the best gym class ever! I wanted to join them. Can you imagine learning to surf as part of your high school curriculum! I hated gym class. All we ever did was laps around the gym, followed by rounds of push-ups and sit-ups. I was terrible at basketball and volleyball. If we had gone to the beach for gym class, it would have been my favourite class!
Anyone can take surf lessons at the Manly Surf School. Their website says that their purpose is to give the stoke of surfing. Here is how they define stoke:
Definition of stoke: Excitement, thrill, pleasure, smiles, skills, challenges, adrenalin.— Matt Grainger
I am ready for a little stoke in my life!
I took lots of photos of Manly Beach
4. Coastal Walk
There is a 1.3 km coastal boardwalk from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach. You can see Shelly Beach in the distance in this photo.
This is a lovely walk, but just can’t compare to our fabulous Coogee to Bondi walk.
Actually, we didn’t finish the walk to Shelly Beach
After our delicious lunch with wine, I needed a little R&R time. This sculpture on the coastal walk to Shelly Beach offers fabulous views.
Hamming it up on the walk to Shelly Beach
Slow Down and See More
Because we stopped to play on the sculpture, I noticed the beautiful Bird of Paradise growing wild behind the sculpture.
Testing the waters on Manly Beach
I wanted to dip my toes in the surf. I got very wet!
The temperature of the water reminded me of swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia: It’s really nice once you get used to it.
Bondi or Manly? I loved them both. If you visit Sydney, try to find time to explore both!
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