13th March 2012
While browsing through my lonely planet one morning it appeared that no excursion to Sydney would be complete until I had taken a trip to the beach at Manly. The suburb of Manly constitutes a peninsula of land with the Pacific ocean on one side while the Harbour occupies the other. The beaches which lie on either side of it's isthmus also signify the beginning of a chain of beaches, known as the 'northern beaches', that spread all the way up the coast to Broken Bay about 50km away. As an interesting, if quintessentially English aside, the name Manly was given to the area when the English admiral Arthur Phillip first came across it's people on his voyage to Australia in the late 18th century. After his encounter with the Aboriginal people who lived on the peninsula, his judgement of them was that they were a confident and, wait for it, 'manly' brand of people and it seems the absurd name stuck. Anyway, these days the suburb is now a large tourist destination that draws thousands upon thousands of beach bums to it's golden sands every year to partake in the endless amount of swimming, sailing, surfing and shopping that can all be done here. So one sunny morning I set off with Oli from his house in Surry Hills and headed for Circular Quay where it was possible to catch 'Sydney's Famous Manly Ferry' over to that sparkling stretch of golden land. Getting down to the ferry for 10am we bought our tickets and hopped on board the vessel that would transport us over to the iconic beach. Apparently more than 14 million people cross Sydney Harbour by ferry every year and after taking the spectacular cruise over to Manly I fully understand why. Taking a seat at the front of the boat we were faced by the glare of a sun that was developing at a nice rate in the azure sky overhead and as we powered through the sparkling sapphire waters of the Sydney Harbour, we passed the Harbour bridge to our left and the Sydney Opera House to our right whose iconic white shells glistened under the sun's savage stroke. Pulling into the Manly wharf half an hour later, after witnessing some staggeringly beautiful views from the wooden decks of the famous green-and-yellow ferry, we stepped back onto dry land ready to explore all that the area had to offer. Just as we had set off up the hill towards the beach, Oli got a call from his boss reminding him that he wasn't due in at 3pm like he thought, but about fifteen minutes ago which resulted in The Guy having to dash back to town leaving me alone to my own devices; a position I frequently find myself in and actually really enjoy. I always find that when I'm walking with others, there is always a feeling that we need to be someplace by sometime, whereas when I'm by myself I feel free to take things at my own pace and to stop when I please which usually results in something interesting happening and that's exactly what happened today.
After leaving Oli, I had a brief wander along the Corso; the shopping strip that connects the main Manly ocean beach with the Harbour beaches. The long stretch of sand on the eastern side of the peninsula runs through three different sections, notably: Queenscliff, North Steyne and South Steyne and ambling along it's promenade I found that the sand was heavily populated by bronze 'Sydeneysiders' and pasty white (most probably British) tourists; both groups basking in the golden rays that came crashing down on the beach from a youthful sun above. After taking a quick dip in the refreshing waters, I retraced my steps back down the Corso to the pier as I had read about two scenic walkways that were possible in Manly: one which followed the West Esplanade inland and one that snaked all the way to the tip of the peninsula, apparently proffering some fairly spectacular views of the Sydney skyline from a panoramic platform at it's end. Hiking my way along the East Esplanade, I followed it round to the Manly yacht club until it joined Stuart Street which I proceeded to walk along all the way to a hidden cove known as Collins Beach; a charming little strip of white sand that was sheltered either side by dense bush and was only accessible by the muddy and slippery footpath I slid myself down. Intrepid sun worshippers had ambled along to this peaceful setting that had clear waters at it's feet while the Sydney skyline in the distance provided a gentle reminder that a heaving metropolis lay a mere 11km away. Carrying on with my mini adventure, I climbed up a pathway on the other side and walked for about 2km up to the area known as North Head which is home to the Sydney Harbour National Park. The protected park covers an area of approximately 156 hectares and shelters a variety of native animals and plants as well as containing historic buildings and structures that date back to the last century. Getting briefly lost, I was soon put on the right path by a helpful local jogger who told me that at the tip of the peninsula there is a small walking track that leads to Fairfax point, which I assumed was the viewing platform I had read about that gives incredible vistas of the South Pacific Ocean and the skyline of Sydney. Entering the national reserve I walked along narrow metal pathways that cut through the bush and dense foliage, observing the withering tree trunks which had become scorched due to a searing sun that on certain days, like today, turned the headland into a sea-facing frying pan. Drenched with sweat, I passed under large spider webs whose landlords guarded the paths, no doubt gazing down with amusement upon numerous lost-looking walkers like myself. After navigating through this labyrinthine maze having to occasionally trackback after reaching a few dead ends, I finally came across a small sign indicating the small pathway that would ultimately lead to Fairfax point. A brief stroll followed until I came across a most spectacular viewing platform which, as promised, offered up some truly breathtaking views. To the east lay the vast expanse of the South Pacific Ocean and in the distance to the south, the staggered skyline of the city of Sydney cut through the horizon. From a distance, the skyscrapers soared towards a vast kingdom of white marshmallow clouds that hung in strips across a bright blue canvas in the sky. After about half an hour resting my weary legs and taking it all in, I began the long walk back to the ferry catching a ride into town late in the arvo (Aussie afternoon).
|Boarding the Manly Ferry.|
|The view of the SOP (Sydney Opera House) from the ferry.|
|Arriving at Manly.|
|The main Manly beach.|
|What the deuce is a Wobbegong. Well, that is apparently.|
|The Manly yachts.|
|Walking along Stuart Street to North Head.|
|Better watch out for ol' crash bandicoot. He's a dying breed.|
|The metal walkways cut through the bush of North Head. Sydney Harbour National Park.|
|Finding the Fairfax trail.|
|The Sydney skyline.|