My favorite day in Sydney was spent hiking the Manly Scenic Walk on the northeast side of the harbor. Most people do the walk from Manly Cove to the Spit Bridge, which makes for a 10-kilometer, one-way trip. I tacked on a few extra kilometers to start at Shelly Beach, a picturesque cove on the southwest end of Manly Surf Beach. The walk took all day— including lunch and a swim break—but it was one of the most interesting day hikes I've ever experienced.
From Shelly Beach, the path climbs a flight of stairs surrounded by jungle foliage before alternating between idyllic neighborhoods, clifftop bushland, secluded beaches, and more rainforest. Along the way, you’ll see tropical flowers and eucalyptus trees as well as many colorful birds and the area’s ubiquitous “water dragon” lizards. As soon as you feel hungry, you’ll likely encounter a beach cafe such as the cabana at Little Manly Cove that serves great paninis. White sand beaches with turquois waters are the norm, and the path spits you out onto many that you would have otherwise never found. When you finally reach the Spit Bridge, you’ll be filled with accomplishment and the feeling that you covered a lot more than just a dozen kilometers.
Manly is accessible by ferry, bus, or car. The trail is pretty well marked, but maps are available at the visitor’s information center at the Manly Wharf. If you plan to do the whole walk, be sure to pack sunblock, snacks, layers, a hat, and plenty of water.