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Sydney Day Trip Ideas: Manly and the Manly Ferry

It is not often that a commuter service is listed as a must-do sight in a guidebook—it is, after all, just a water bus, departing every 30 minutes on a 40-minute one-way trip. Yet the Manly ferry (departs from Wharf 3 at Circular Quay, $14.40 round-trip, free with a MyMulti daily or weekly pass) is so much more.

Yes, in the morning and afternoon it carries workers between the northern beaches and the city, people who don’t necessarily appreciate the views from the ferry, but in between rush hours and on the weekend, this ferry is a perfect way to get out on the water, see the islands, appreciate the view across the opera house and the bridge from the water, take in the mind-blowingly beautiful real estate along the coast, and sit back and enjoy being out on the harbor for a fraction of the price of a harbor cruise.

The Manly ferry passes the Sydney Opera House on a bright, sunny day.
Manly Ferry: This commuter ferry goes past the opera house, all along the harbor, and past the islands to the entrance to the ocean at Manly. For a handful of dollars you get hundreds of dollars worth of views. Photo © Hannah Jessup/123rf.

And as a bonus, you get to go to Manly, with its bustling Corso, the partly pedestrianized shopping street connecting the ferry terminal with the beach, full of restaurants and shops, and its beach, which many say is a better surfing beach than the famous Bondi Beach. The jury is still out on that, but the beach is stunning and certainly should be on your list of day trips.

The ferry service runs roughly 6am-midnight. On weekdays, the first ferry leaves Circular Quay at 5:30am, leaves Manly at 6:10am; the last one leaves Circular Quay at 11:45pm, Manly at 12:20am. On weekends, the first ferry leaves Manly at 6:35am, Circular Quay at 6:20am; the last one leaves Manly at 11:40pm, Circular Quay at 11pm.

An alternative fast ferry ($9 each way, Wharf 6 at Circular Quay, Manly East Terminal, every 30 minutes) takes only half the time of the regular one but also has half as much character and enjoyment. It is, however, a great option if you need to rush back or the weather has turned.

For more information, check out the NSW Transport Info website, or call tel. 13/15-00.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.