Named by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1778 after he noticed the "confidence and manly behaviour" of the local Guringai men, this seaside suburb sits squarely on a peninsula bounded by Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour National Park and the Pacific Ocean.
Since European settlement, the precinct is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of Australian surfing. In fact, according to the Manly Booking and Information Centre, 25 per cent of the northern suburb's 7 million visitors each year came solely for surfing. But in the past five years or so, this suburb has reimagined itself, giving locals and visitors many more reasons to linger longer by day or night.
Manly was modelled on the city of Brighton in England and that seaside village feel has been restored thanks to a new wave of small bars, restaurants and breweries that will make you see Manly anew. Whether you're after a coffee, a local handcrafted beer, a quick bite to eat or a place to boogaloo, here are just a few of the hot spots and spiffed-up stalwarts worth tracing loops to.
Bars and pubs
Wordsmiths should feel smug slugging on martinis in Hemingway's, a nook full of books hugging the main beachside drag. Here, the menu includes fun options such as green eggs and ham or Jamie-Oliver-friendly chicken nuggets. And there's always something great going down at the Belgrave Cartel, which feels like one big block party. It's worth a jaunt for jaffles and a hit of the house blend coffee, Escobar, named after a Colombian drug lord.
While beer is the reason for being at 4 Pines' boutique brewing company, the venue also offers fabulous schooey-friendly food. Yes, devouring a mega-burger the size of one's head takes commitment, but there are plenty of lighter options such as the “tree hugger” – legumes with quinoa and fresh greens – or fresh-as sashimi. Pencil in Thursdays' parma and pint night.
Another noteworthy watering hole includes the lovingly revived Ivanhoe Hotel, a great spot for a pint and a pizza. Hotel Steyne has also undergone a spiffy new makeover, with the upstairs Moonshine Cider and Rum Bar a comfortable place to enjoy a brew with a view that stretches from Shelly Beach to Queenscliff. Listen for the whistle and hoot of the Manly ferry at the Manly Wharf Hotel or Boilerhouse Restaurant and Bar, both scenic spots for a glass of fizz and fancy fish and chips.
Hemingway's, 48 North Steyne, 9976 3030
The Belgrave Cartel, 6 Belgrave St, 9976 6548
4 Pines Brewing Company, 29/43-45 East Esplanade, 9976 2300
The Ivanhoe Hotel, 27 The Corso, 9976 3955
Moonshine Cider & Rum Bar, Level 2 Hotel Steyne, 75 The Corso, 9977 4977
Manly Wharf Hotel, Manly Wharf, 9977 1266
The Boilerhouse, Q Station, 1 North Head Scenic Drive, 9466 1511
Slice through the writhing crowd of punters on the Corso and join an arcade flowing with locals clamouring to get into Chica Bonita, a kitsch cantina with a tiled bar and twinkling lights. Flag down a fedora-clad waiter to order tacos slathered with chipotle cream and laden with slow-braised brisket and salsa, or the double whammy that is dos chilli chimichangas (chilli and cheese).
Papi Chulo is a top spot for people peeping. And that sense of being on a TV set is certainly underscored when you are seated just an air kiss away from actor Gerard Butler and his entourage. Being around all these beautiful people is reason enough to ditch the diet and turn to the Papi Chulo burger for comfort. Papi Chulo translates to “hot daddy” and this may be a good place to find one.
Any place that welcomes sandy feet, bikinis and board shorts is also a must on Manly's stations of the cross. Order “The Platter” of seafood at Manly Wine, just metres away from where the waves crunch onto the sand. You can also do the group thing at In Situ with small plates and snacks to share such as Szechuan salt and pepper squid or a board of tangy cheeseburger sliders. That old stalwart Hugos Manly is also a good bet for a slice of the action and triangle of pizza.
Chica Bonita, Shop 9A-B, 9 The Corso, 9976 5255
Papi Chulo, Manly Wharf, 9240 3000
Manly Wine, 8-13 South Steyne, 8966 9000
In Situ, 1/18 Sydney Rd, 9977 0669
Hugos Manly, Manly Wharf, 8116 8555
While it's largely locals who have colonised the new Showbox Coffee Brewers, caffeine-craving travellers in the tight-knit neighbourhood have also joined the mosh. Although coffee is king in this industrial-meets-retro space, brewer Bo Hinzack (ex-Penny Royal) is also obsessive about the food, with options such as homemade Nutella, carrot and coconut pikelets, and a doner kebab like no other (with slow-cooked beef, sticky eggplant, pumpkin puree and pearl barley). Those in need of a post-surf pick-me-up should make a beeline to the Market Lane cafe for a double espresso and carb-loading serve of avocado and salsa on sourdough. Suss out the swell direction and then join the mo bro baristas at Foundry FiftyThree for an early breakfast and a double shot of the Barrel One blend. Or take a trip to Scandinavia at Fika Swedish Kitchen, know for its Campos coffee and plates of meatballs served with potato mash, gravy and lingonberry jam.
Showbox Coffee Brewers, 19 Whistler St, 9976 5000
Market Lane, 17/39 The Corso, 0432 266 744
Foundry FiftyThree, 53 Pittwater Road, 9977 7740
Fika Swedish Kitchen, 5B Market Lane, 9976 5099
You can eat very well in Manly, no matter what your wallet dictates, with plenty of great around-the-clock options for coffee and brunch, lunch to grab and go, or good bar grub. Devotees of dive bars will be delighted with Donny's Bar, an artfully scuffed back alley nook gussied up like a New York-style loft bar and serving up good beats and cheap eats (read: $5 steaks). The low-lit bar is marked by warm wood tones, cool concrete and a you-have-to-be-hip-to-be-here crowd.
There's a lot to like at Nahji Chu's Manly Tuckshop, where you can slurp down a bowl of steaming pho or rack of rice paper rolls.
That grungy old stalwart, the Old Manly Boatshed, is backpacker heaven (read: cheap and cheerful).
Donny's Bar, 7 Market Lane, 9977 1887
MissChu Manly Tuckshop, 5/54 West Esplanade, 9976 3682
The Old Manly Boatshed, 40 The Corso, 9977 4443
What's your go-to spot in Manly? Jump on the comments and share your recommendation.