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 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.
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
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.
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.
Continuing 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.
Emerging 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.
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.
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.
This is a lovely beach to take a rest at and maybe a swim. It’s popular with paddleboarders and fishermen too.
From 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.
Back 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.
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.
Stone 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.
Further 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.
Steps 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.
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.
How 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Quiet Sustainable Cottage
- Harbour Hideaway One Bedroom Apartment
- Manly Beach Panorama Deluxe Studio
- Shelly Beach Boathouse Retreat
- Manly Seaside Bliss One Bedroom Apartment
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.
If you liked this post, check out my other Sydney content:
- Ultimate Itinerary for 5 Days in Sydney
- Ultimate Offbeat Summer in Sydney Bucketlist
- The Best Sydney Walks
- A Beach Bum’s Guide To the Eastern Suburbs Beaches in Sydney
- 30 Reasons Why I Love Sydney
- The Best Long Weekend Blue Mountains Itinerary
- What It’s Like to be a Penguin Warden in Sydney
- Experiencing Real Autumn in the Blue Mountains of Australia
- Hiking the Other Grand Canyon in the Blue Mountains of Australia