Enjoy Manly like a local

Caroline Berdon
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Manly is one of Sydney’s most famous tourist attractions but may also be one of its least penetrated and understood.

“Every concierge in Sydney will tell their guests to come here,” says Manly Centre Manager Meegan Clancy. “But when they get off the ferry, they don’t have a clue what to do.

“Some remark how tiny Manly beach is, presuming it’s the one by the wharf on the harbour. Others ask how else they can get on and off the island.

“Most never see more than the Corso between the wharf and the beach.”

Manly was named after Captain Arthur Phillip for the “confidence and manly behaviour” of the indigenous people living here when he led the First Fleet into Sydney in 1788. It could be that many of Manly’s modern day visitors are just as lost by their surroundings.

Clancy suggests visitors who come to Sydney base themselves in Manly. “It’s a surf village on the edge of the city,” she says.

But Manly is no Bondi, the locals will tell you. “No one will judge your handbag or sunnies here. It’s less transient than Bondi too,” says Clancy, who is originally from Adelaide but has lived in the northern beaches hub for 15 years.

“The vibe here is different. More relaxed,” she says. “There’s a warm blanket over Manly, which allows friendships to grow, and people to grow.”

And the best way to grow like a local? “Follow the people with dogs and prams,” says Clancy. “Get away from the main drag.”

Armed with tips and recommendations from those who know and love Manly, I aim to spend a weekend like a local. Here are some of the gems I discovered.

GRAB A BITE

Manly’s food and bar scene has exploded in recent years. Hugos, on Manly Wharf, remains a favourite. The gourmet thin-crust pizzas, classic Italian dishes and cocktails are a delight and there’s no better place to watch the iconic ferries come and go. (hugos.com.au)

But some of Manly’s best bars and restaurants are off the beaten track. Belgrave Street and Pittwater Road could well be the suburb’s coolest corner. Try Jamtown (www.jamtownmanlybeach.com), a small, vibrant spot serving Jamaican classics such as BBQ jerk and curried goat alongside 20 Jamaican rums, and Sunset Sabi, which serves up imaginative and modern Japanese fare (www.sunsetsabi.com).

A few doors down, the Belgrave Cartel (6 Belgrave St) is your perfect shadowy wine bar complete with dripping candles, tiled walls and more than a few eccentric knick-knacks. It also serves decent food.

At no. 10 Belgrave St is Good Hope, one of Manly’s newest restaurant and wine bars. Serving seasonal share plates and fine Australian wine, it’s the perfect place for a tasty catch-up with friends. (www.goodhopemanly.com.au/)

Some of Manly’s restaurants have stood the test of time – the Boathouse, a rust