Bondi vs. Manly beach

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Bondi vs. Manly Beach: it is the age-old debate amongst Sydneysiders and the question to which every traveller longs to know the answer. If you have been asking yourself: is Bondi Beach worth visiting? Is Manly Beach worth it? Well, you are in luck! I’m Free Walking Tours is here to break down what you can expect from each iconic coastal location.

One of the most common questions Sydney I’m Free Tour guides get asked before, during, and after our tours is: can I do Manly and Bondi Beach in one day? If you only have 1-2 days in Sydney altogether, do not fear, you can easily do both beaches in one day. Check out our guide to the ultimate day in Sydney to see how!

 

BondiManly
TransportBus – can get crowdedFerry – cannot be beaten!
Surf, Sun & SandBusy beach, good poolsA lot more options, trees, and parks
Food & DrinkGreat choices of food and barsGood local ‘tucker’, (Aussie slang for ‘food’)
AtmosphereTrendy, hipster, buzzing at nightLaidback, local
StrollIconic bustling coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee – adaptable and easyNorth Head bushwalk for a tranquil and stunning walk; Spit to Manly for a longer, more rewarding hike

 

Transport

Of course, the first thing to consider is how you are getting to your sandy destination. Both Bondi and Manly are roughly 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney

 

Bondi

It is all about the bus! If you decide to head over to Bondi, you have a few options. The easiest way to get there is to catch the 333 express bus from Circular Quay directly to Bondi Beach. This journey takes about half an hour, but the length can vary quite a lot depending on traffic. The buses are also known to get crowded. The other option is to catch a train from Martin Place to Bondi Junction. From there, to get to the beach, you will either have to walk a lot (2.7km) or catch a bus.

 

Manly

You cannot beat the view of a ferry ride through Sydney Harbour. Getting to Manly is a simple ride across the water, usually from Circular Quay. This ferry trip is actually a must-do experience for travelers in Sydney! For more harbour cruise and ferry ideas, read our article here! Ferries for Manly leave roughly every 20 minutes from Wharf 2 in Circular Quay and the trip takes about half an hour each way. The perfect amount of time to sit back, relax, enjoy the sea breeze, and take in that gorgeous view!

Two ferries docked at Circular Quay

Sun, Sand, and Surf

Okay, so you have arrived at the beach. What now? If you are anything like me, as soon as you see the sparkle of that ocean you are keen to set your towel down in the perfect spot and just race straight for the waves.

 

Bondi

At Bondi, the beach is one long stretch of gorgeous sand bracketed on one end by a children’s pool and Ben Buckler headland, and by the Icebergs Pool and Bondi Baths on the other. Staking your claim on the sand can be a struggle sometimes at Bondi as it is known to get pretty crowded, but once you have found a spot, it is well worth it! For those of you who like the concept of swimming in the ocean but kinda-sorta fear the big blue, Bondi’s ocean pools are the perfect alternative. There are a few to choose from, but the Bondi Baths at the South end are lovely. From there, you will also notice the dreamy clear water of the famous Icebergs Pool, but you will be charged $9 for the privilege of dipping your toes in. If you are up for a little more action, Bondi is also the beach for surfing – it was home to Australia’s first surf club after all! There are always good waves here, and if you are new to the sport, you can hire a board or book a lesson.

 

Manly

The main beach strip at Manly is longer than Bondi, but the best part is that there are a number of beaches and coves in and around the Manly area to explore. Since there is so much space, you are likely to find a spot somewhere without too much effort. At the North end of the ocean side of Manly beach sits Queenscliff Head and Rock Pools. As you continue past the Head, you will stumble upon the smaller, calmer Freshwater Beach which is perfect for families. Towards the South is the much-beloved Shelly Beach and Shelly Head Lookout as well the gorgeous Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve. Though, these places do not have waves. Across on the harbourside, you can take your pick from a whole swathe of little beaches, including Delwood Beach and Little Manly Beach. When it comes to aquatic activities, Manly offers a whole range of options! From surfing to kayaking, paddle-boarding, snorkelling, and much more. It is pretty difficult to get bored here!

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Going for a Stroll (i.e. walk)

Of course, no Bondi vs. Manly beach discussion could omit the iconic coastal walks! If you are wondering whether to do the Spit to Manly or Bondi to Coogee walk, this will give you an idea of what to expect.

 

Bondi

First things first, the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is very popular for a reason. Not only do you get amazing ocean views, but it is also an easy walk that is incredibly straightforward to navigate. The best part is that you do not need to go all the way to Coogee if you do not have the time or energy or both! You can adjust the length of your walk by stopping at one of the many beaches along the coastline (Bronte is a good option as it is just under halfway) and jumping on a bus back to Bondi Junction or turning around and wandering back to Bondi. If you decide to do the full walk, it will take 2-3 hours each way. The first section of the walk (Bondi to Tamarama) is also the site of the Sculpture by the Sea free public exhibition in October each year.

 

Manly

Over at Manly, you have the option of heading in two different directions. Manly to North Head is a shorter walk that takes roughly an hour each way. From North Head you can then head over to Shelly Beach for a well-earned rest. The other (and best, in my opinion) coastal walk is the Manly to Spit Bridge. This walk is longer (roughly 4 hours each way) and a bit harder than other coastal walks around Sydney, but it graces you with the most beautiful bush, ocean, and harbour views. What a combination! There are some nice swimming spots along the way, too. This walk is actually even better in the other direction (Spit Bridge to Manly) because when you finish that 4-hour walk, there is truly nothing better than falling into the warm sand or running straight into that refreshing water. Getting to the Spit Bridge is as simple as catching a bus from Wynyard Station, Carrington Street, Stand A.

Woman overlooking the water on the Manly to Spit walk

Food and Drink

When it comes to drinking and dining, it is hard to be disappointed at either Bondi or Manly.

 

Bondi

Bondi has a reputation for fine-dining and clean cuisine. The Italian food at Icebergs Dining, the seafood at North Bondi Fish, and the brunch at Porch & Parlour, are popular dining options. There are some cheaper eats, such as Sefa Kitchen and The Char. Panama House is also a bargain (although, if you are willing to spend a little more, the bottomless brunch is incredible). Of course, Bondi is also home to the iconic Gelato Messina!

 

Manly

At Manly, you are absolutely spoilt for choices. The food here is tasty and ranges from fine-dining to dirt cheap. If you are a fan of pastries and baked goods, Rollers Bakehouse is an absolute dream. For avid brunch-goers, Barefoot Coffee Traders does mouth-watering homemade waffles. From The Glasshouse to The Pantry, most dining options in Manly will offer you beautiful water views. If you are looking for a place to relax with a drink, 4 Pines, Hotel Steyne, and Manly Greenhouse are great options.

Atmosphere

All this information is well and good but the real question is – which beach will you vibe with?

 

Bondi

Bondi is indisputably lively. There is a thriving nightlife here as well as a focus on clean eating, exercise, and healthy living. Drawing a mostly younger crowd, Bondi is one of Sydney’s trendy, ‘hipster’ areas with youthful energy and an air of activity. For this reason, a lot of people choose to stay in Bondi while visiting Sydney. If you are not sure which neighbourhood to stay in, check out our article about where to stay in Sydney! Every weekend, there are Bondi markets where locals sell an eclectic mix of everything from produce (Saturdays) to clothing, jewellery, and vintage pieces (Sundays). Particularly during the warmer months, Bondi is also busy. It is an internationally famous beach and because of this, it is known to draw crowds. Bondi is certainly popular with visitors and tends to be the preferred coastal destination for tourists. Also, if you are interested in celebrity spotting or a fan of the show Bondi Rescue, this beach is the place to be!

 

Manly

Manly, while also popular, has a more relaxed and laid-back feel. The pace is slower, more languid, and the people walking their dogs, hanging out on the beach, and eating ice cream are mostly locals. Manly tends to draw a slightly older crowd than Bondi, too, and it is the perfect place to unwind and bask in the glow of the sun. Manly’s weekly markets are a joy to explore. Every Saturday and Sunday they hold a craft market selling art, handcrafted jewellery, eco-friendly items, and various artisan products. Their fresh produce market is also open on Saturdays. With its variety of beaches and coves, water-front restaurants and shops, Manly is definitely a favourite amongst Sydneysiders.

So, should you go to Bondi or Manly? Most fellow travelers would probably tell you that you cannot skip Bondi. On the other hand, most locals would say Manly is the superior beach. We say: it really depends what you’re looking for! If you prefer high energy, exciting environments, and really love the rush of activity, you will definitely enjoy Bondi. For those of you that prefer to live at a slower pace or delve into the beauty of the natural world around you, we recommend Manly. Ultimately, I’m Free says: why not both?

WRITTEN BY YOUR LOCAL GUIDE:

Adrian

Adrian

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NOTE: To ensure guide availability we close bookings 3 hours before the start of each tour. For same day availability please give us a call on 0436 018 633.