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Manly to Spit Walk - The Best Hike in Sydney

Want to experience Sydney’s beautiful harbor on foot? Then hike the Manly to Spit walk – read on to find out everything you need to know about hiking this iconic trail…

Sydney may not be mountainous but there are still some really great walking trails there, and the coastal trails in Sydney are the most scenic.

And what better way to really experience Sydney’s world-famous coastline than by walking it. It’s an essential part of any Sydney Itinerary in my opinion.

Probably the most famous of Sydney’s coastal walks is the iconic Bondi to Coogee walk on Sydney’s eastern beaches, but because of its popularity, it is heinously busy most of the time.

Once I moved to Manly, I found out about another beautiful Sydney coastal walk, the Manly to Spit Bridge walk.

The Manly to Spit Walk is one of the best walks in Sydney

The walk follows a 10km section of Sydney’s gorgeous harbor from the seaside suburb of Manly, through to the Spit Bridge, which connects North Sydney and the Northern beaches.

This beauty of a walk takes you to secluded beaches, through stretches of peaceful National Park bushland, and along the top of windswept headlands with stunning coastal views.

It is one of the best harbor walks in Sydney and it will let you see another side to polished and glitzy Sydney – the natural side.

Hike from Manly to Spit in Sydney for harbor views the whole way

Here’s what it’s like to hike the Manly to Spit Bridge walk, you can also do it in reverse and if you do the Spit to Manly walk then you can finish with a beer at 4 Pines Brewing Company which is always a good idea!

Manly to Spit Map

Manly to Spit map for hiking

Hiking the Spit to Manly Walk

The walk begins (or ends) at the Manly ferry terminal. I always hiked it from Manly so the instructions are from Manly to Spit.

Manly Harbor - the start of the hike from Manly to Spit

Walking west along the path above a small beach and around the Manly Sealife Aquarium, you will reach Federation Point.

There used to be a small colony of Little Penguins living here until a dog wiped them out a few years ago. Very sad. This is why the Penguin Wardens are so important here, a position I was lucky enough to hold for a season.

The Manly to Spit walk in Sydney hugs the coastline of Sydney harbourPassing Fairlight beach pool on the Manly to Spit walk in SydneyContinuing along the coastal path, spectacular views unfold of the harbor entrance and its magnificent cliffs.

Past the small rocky Delwood Beach and the Fairlight Tidal pool, the path meanders for about another 500 meters above the ocean before entering a cool section of the path shaded by large trees and ferns.

There are glimpses of the harbor through the dense vegetation. Boats bob in the sheltered waters and look for Kookaburras in the trees above – I have seen them along this stretch often.

Beautiful harbour views on the Spit to Manly walk in Sydney's northern beachesEmerging from the shade of the trees, you will reach the grassy expanse of the North Harbour Reserve, a large park that is popular with locals.

Rounding this small harbor, you will cross over the sluggish grey sands of the estuary at low tide, and past a waterfall flowing into the harbor basin.

Passing a waterfall on the Manly to Spit walk in SydneyGorgeous water views on the Spit to Manly walk Walking along the rocks, pass the Davis Marina before continuing on the path through the native bush of the Wellings Reserve, before emerging at the ocean pool and rocky sands of Forty Baskets beach.

Forty Baskets Beach on the Spit to Manly walk

After walking along the beach and around the rocks, re-join the path and enter the grounds of Sydney Harbour National Park. Another beautiful beach, Reef Beach, will come into view after a couple of minutes.

Inviting beaches on the hike from Manly to Spit in Sydney Discovering incredible beaches along the Manly to Spit walkThis is a lovely beach to take a rest at and maybe a swim. It’s popular with paddleboarders and fishermen too.

Sail boats on the Manly to Spit walk in Sydney People fishing along the Spit to Manly walkFrom Reef Beach, the trail starts winding its way to the top of the rugged headland, affording incredible views over the harbor entrance and the sparkling sea.

Stop at the lookout to admire the commanding harbor views.

Great views of the city from the Manly to Spit walkBack on the path, it continues its slow ascent up the headland, twisting and turning. Finally, you’ll reach the top at the Crater Cove lookout.

If you look carefully at the coastline in Crater Cove, you will notice some old wooden buildings sitting on the edge of the cliffs, far below.

There is a secret path that leads to this abandoned village of cobbled together fishing huts. There was a small community living there up until the 1980s when they were evicted by the National Parks Service. 

Ramshackle shacks in Crater Cove, as seen from the Spit to Manly hikeIncredible views from the Manly to Spit Bridge walk in Northern Sydney

I have visited a couple of times, and if you want to learn more about the huts, this article is a good resource. 

The trail flattens out as it heads back into the cover of the bush. In spring, you’ll see colorful wildflowers along the path. 

The path then begins its long, slow descent. There is a short side path to a small beach. There is a small waterfall that trickles over flat rocks and into the sea.

Spring flowers along the Manly to Spit Bridge walkQuiet coves on the hike from Manly to Spit BridgeStone stairs lead up from the beach beside a sheer cliff face. Thin streams of water trickled down the rock wall. Thick vegetation makes the air cool and damp.

Rock staircase on the Manly to Spit Bridge walk in Sydney Coastal views abound on the hike from Manly to Spit BridgeFurther along, there is another beautiful beach, this one larger and with a gushing waterfall falling to the sands below. 

Stop at the clifftop Grotto Point Aborigine engravings. Outlines of animals and humans are carved into the sandstone, some are too worn to really make out what they were but I did see a couple of shapes that I think were fish.

Aboriginal rock carvings on the Many to Spit Bridge walkSteps lead down the last descent to sea level, where you will exit the shade of the forest and onto the shimmering sands of Clontarf beach, a long narrow strip of sand with houses lining it.

At the end of Clontarf beach, it opens up into Sandy Bay where there is a large park and a playground. Continue along the grassy fringe of the beach.

Another beautiful beach on the Manly to Spit walk

The path leaves the park and loops around the bay then back into the bush and along a sheltered pathway.

You will cross over a wooden bridge and pass a small waterfall and then, not long after, you will reach the end of the Manly to Spit trail at the Spit Bridge.

Rocky path on the Manly to Spit Bridge walkHow Would I Rate the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk?

The Manly to Spit Bridge walk is a spectacular hike and although not as crowded as the Bondi to Coogee walk, it is still popular – especially on weekends.

For almost the entire hike there are spectacular water views and I love the hidden beaches of the National Park. The Spit to Manly walk is definitely one of the best walks in Sydney.

It may not be my beloved alpine hiking, but the walk from Manly to Spit sure is beautiful.

There are a couple of marinas along the Manly to Spit Bridge walk

How to Hike the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk

Length of the Manly to Spit Walk

10km/6 miles one-way

Getting to the Spit to Manly Walk

You can start at either end of the Spit to Manly walk. The best way to get to the Spit Bridge if you don’t have a car is by bus, you can use the Transport NSW Trip Planner to find out which bus to take.

To get to Manly, I highly recommend taking the ferry. It is the fastest way to get back to the city and it is definitely the most scenic. 

Difficulty of the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk

Easy/Intermediate. The hike does have a couple of uphill slogs but they aren’t bad – especially if you walk and hike regularly.

Last views of the walk from Manly to Spit Bridge

What To Take for the Spit to Manly Walk

For day hikes, the Cotopaxi Luzon is an awesome backpack choice and is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.

Pack a CamelBak to make it easier to hydrate while you are hiking, and some trekking poles to help with the downhill.

Pack a raincoat in case it rains, and if you are hiking in spring or autumn and are starting early or finishing late, wear a lightweight but cozy thermal underlayer top.

View from the Manly to Spit Bridge walk - one of Sydney's best walks Forty Baskets beach on Manly to Spit Bridge walk - one of Sydney's best walks

Where To Stay in Manly

There are lots of great options for places to stay in Manly – from basic hostels through to luxury vacation rentals.

For the most budget-friendly accommodation, stay at Manly Bunkhouse which is located five minutes walk to the beach and has dorms, double, and twin rooms.

If vacation rentals are more your style, there are tons of options in Manly. Here are my top picks that are highly rated, conveniently located, and affordable:

The best hotels in Manly are The Sebel, a stylish boutique hotel across the road from the beach, Quest Manly Condo Hotel by Manly Wharf, and Manly Paradise Motel & Apartments right by the beach and with a rooftop pool.

Pool in Manly near Shelly Beach

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10 Comments on Manly to Spit Walk: How To See the Best of Sydney Harbor

  1. Ooh there certainly plenty of hikes around Sydney! And we have never done this one! We did a weekend walks segment on our blog in the lead up to the Camino and found so many walks we had no idea about after living in Sydney for 30+ years 😉
    Think we will have to keep ’em coming when we get back and maybe start with this one 🙂

  2. It sounds and looks (judging by your photos) like a lovely hike indeed, I prefer when it’s not crowded and there are only few people, it almost feels like you have the places for yourself 🙂

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