Manly Scenic Walkway, One of Sydney’s Finest Coastal Walks
The Manly Scenic Walkway is a stunning 19.5 km coastal walk that takes you from the Spit Bridge to Manly with a side-trip around Manly North Head.
Pack your gear and be mesmerised by sweeping Sydney Harbour and ocean views, picturesque bays and isolated inner harbour beaches as you conquer one of Sydney’s finest coastal walks.
– Distance: 19.5 km (one way)
– Time: 6-10 hours
– Grade: moderate
– Kid friendly: yes (but very long)
– Good for running: yes
– Dogs: not permitted on some sections
– Spectacular Harbour and ocean views
– Natural bushland
– Inner Harbour beaches
– Picnic and park areas
– Aboriginal rock engravings
– Relaxing in Manly
Manly Scenic Walkway
The Manly Scenic Walkway is rarely done in one go, as hiking 19.5 kilometres is quite a bit of a challenge. Most people do the famous Manly to Spit walk, not knowing that the track actually continues all around North Head and back into Manly.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that the Manly Scenic Walkway was only the Spit to Manly section, which is why lots of websites still use both as being one and the same.
The 10km Spit to Manly walking trail was opened in 1988 and the 9.5km Manly North Head circuit track was added many years later.
This second part of the Manly Scenic Walkway starts and finishes at Manly Wharf, right where the Spit to Manly walk ends. If 19.5 km is just a bit too much, you can also just do the two sections on different days.
The below two maps reflect the first section and the second section of the Manly Scenic Walkway. The first section is the Spit to Manly Walk, the second section is the Manly North Head Walk, and the two combined form a stunning 19.5 km coastal walk.
You can download the complete map from the Northern Beaches Council website.
Section 1: Spit to Manly Walk
Section 2: Manly North Head Walk
1. Spit to Manly Walk
The walking trail between the Spit Bridge and Manly is one of the most famous urban coastal walks in Sydney, rivaling the Bondi to Coogee walk in the eastern suburbs.
– Time: 3 – 5 hours
– Grade: moderate
The starting point of the Spit to Manly walk is at the northern end of the Spit Bridge. Follow the path under the bridge leading to Ellery’s Punt Reserve. From there, keep following the path along the shore that winds its way around Fisher Bay and Sandy Bay.
Highlights of the Spit to Manly walk are Clontarf Reserve, Castle Rock beach, Grotto Point Lighthouse, the Arabanoo Lookout, Forty Baskets Beach, North Harbour Reserve and Manly Cove.
2. Manly North Head Walk
The Manly North Head Circuit Walk will take you past Shelly Beach, Spring Cove and Little Manly Reserve, while enjoying some of the most amazing views from North Head.
Not only will you be going through an area with a very diverse wildlife and flora, you can also experience the rich military history of North Head.
– Time: 3 – 5 hours
– Grade: moderate
Start your walk at the wharf from where you make your way towards Manly Beach through Manly’s main street, The Corso.
Once at the beach, follow the pretty walking trail that takes you to Shelly Beach. If you haven’t had lunch yet in Manly, Shelly Beach also has a couple of cafes where you can relax and refuel.
From Shelly Beach, make your way up to the Shelly Headland lookouts via the steps leading to the car park. There are several lookout from where you can enjoy sweeping ocean views before heading into the bushland of North Head via Parkhill Reserve.
Keep following the walking trail until you get to a big sandstone wall, built in the 1880’s to separate the land owned by the Church from the quarantine land. You will actually need to make your way right through this wall via a small hole to continue.
The walking track then takes you through beautiful bushland with several swamps and old military gun pits and observation posts along the way, before arriving at the famous North Head Sanctuary.
North Head Sanctuary
The North Head Sanctuary holds special significance to indigenous people of the Sydney area. You can still find Aboriginal remnants in the headland such as rock engravings and middens.
From the beginning of the 19th century, North Head was used to quarantine passengers arriving in the colony on ships.
In the mid-1930s, North Head turned into a military site and became one of the most heavily fortified sites in Australian history during the Second World War.
The area consists of several natural and historical attractions and the best way to visit them all is by following the North Head walking trail. The first major attraction is the huge Parade Ground that forms part of the Barracks Precinct.
The walking trail crosses the ground before turning left back into bushland past an old obstacle course and through a large swamp area.
Australia’s Memorial Walk
The track continues past a couple of gun emplacements before arriving at Australia’s Memorial Walk, a paved pathway with five monuments to remember the major military conflict periods in Australia’s history.
From the Memorial Walk, you can follow a side track to the famous Fairfax Lookout offering sensational views of the Sydney Harbour and the city skyline.
From the lookout, walk back towards North Fort where you can visit the North Head Sanctuary Visitor Centre and have a coffee at the Bella Vista Cafe.
Follow the walking track back towards the Barracks Precinct. Head into Manly Head Scenic Drive for a few hundred metres, before turning left into Collins Beach Rd.
This road takes you down to the beautiful and secluded Collins Beach before heading back to Manly Wharf via Stuart Street.
It’s a good idea to make use of public transport when doing (parts of) the Manly Scenic Walkway. With your Opal card you can use unlimited public transport for only $2.50 on Sundays.
It’s easy to catch a bus from the city to the Spit Bridge. In Manly, once you’ve finished the North Head section, you can catch a bus or a ferry back to the city.
The ferry trip between Manly and Circular Quay is an experience in itself with great views all around Sydney Harbour.
The ferries are usually loaded with lots of tourists during weekends though, so make sure you line up on time. Check the bus and ferry timetables on the NSW Transport Info website.
There is (limited) parking available north of the Spit Bridge at Battle Boulevard. Alternatively you can try parking south of the bridge at the Spit Bridge Reserve.
You can also choose to skip the first part of the hike and park your car at Clontarf Reserve (expensive). Otherwise, Tania Park (free) at Dobroyd Head has a large parking area.
From Manly it’s easy to catch a ferry or bus to the city and then another bus back again to the Spit Bridge. You can also grab a taxi or an Uber to get you back to your starting point.
If you start the walk from Manly, there are actually a few reasonably priced car parks in town where you could try and find a parking spot. Although they are reasonably priced, you’d still be paying a good amount of money if you’re doing the complete Manly Scenic Walkway.