Last weekend I had one of the best days of my six months in Australia, and the adventure started 5 minutes away from my front door in Manly.
A friend of mine had found a 2-4-1 voucher in a booklet so, fully laden with cameras and a picnic, we headed down to the Manly Kayak Centre at 9 am on a Sunday. For $70 we hired two single kayaks for the entire day, enabling us to enjoy the beaches and paddle at our own pace.
Manly Beach itself is already a gorgeous place to spend a sunny weekend, but I wasn’t prepared for the beauty and excitement of the coastline around North Head.
Our route took in five beaches and allowed us to see Manly from a different perspective:
Starting at the Wharf, we made our way around the coast first to Little Manly Beach, and then Collins Beach, Store Beach and Quarantine Beach, before paddling across the harbour and back to visit Reef Beach on the other side. Here are some of the reasons why our day was so incredible:
Ok, so this involves some luck, but this is Australia. Even a bad day in Manly in summer is likely to be a lot better than where I’m from in the UK. We were especially lucky. The sun shone all day, the skies were a uniform blue and a gentle breeze cooled us as we paddled.
The Exclusive Beach Space
I discovered my favourite Sydney beach while on this trip. Store Beach is only accessible by boat, which means that very few people make the effort to visit. As well as the relative solitude, this place looks more like a Thai paradise getaway than the kind of small cove you’d imagine finding 30 minutes out of the centre of one of the largest and most popular cities in the world.
For as long as I’ve lived in Manly, I’ve seen signs all over the place telling me to watch out for the little penguins and to not disturb their nests. I was beginning to think it was a practical joke, until we came across this gorgeous ball of fluff under a rock behind Store Beach.
The Ice Cream
The first time I heard a bell ring on Little Manly Beach I thought it was to alert passengers that their boat tour was leaving. When it persisted, I glanced up and realised there was a man selling ice creams. For the entire day, it seemed to stalk us from beach to beach, until finally we relented and enjoyed one of Australia’s best frozen treats – the Golden Gaytime.
The Underwater Fun
Thankfully, the Manly Kayak Centre staff give you a large waterproof bag in which to carry all your stuff, because these days, a digital camera, smart phone and GoPro are the bare essentials for a day on the water… Having beached your kayak safely at each of the coves, it’s time to explore the crystal clear sea. Next time, I’ll remember to pack some snorkel gear so I can check out the underwater sea life, but for now you’ll have to make do with a picture of me and my friend fooling around.
Paddling across the wharf is not only exciting because of the depth of the water, increased wave heights and winds, and potential sharks. The major threat to vulnerable little kayaks is the half-hourly Manly Ferries. To reach Reef Beach (which is well worth a look) you have to directly cross the path of some very large and fast vessels. The Kayak staff give you information on where to cross to ensure that you’re visible to bigger boats at all times, but it doesn’t stop your heart racing as you battle the currents, glancing over your shoulder every other second to see if the ferry has set off yet. I’m not too proud to admit that I squealed on more than one occasion when a monster boat passed by too close for comfort, but it’s all part of the adventure!
And if that’s not enough excitement for you, why not throw yourself from the rocks near Little Manly Beach? You should be aware that you do this at your own risk. Railings have been placed there to discourage people from jumping. Having said that, hundreds of people do it every day and live to tell the tale.
The Manly Kayak Centre is situated right on the wharf next to Wharf Bar. It rents out single, double and triple kayaks. The staff teach you the basics and give you life jackets and waterproof bags in which to carry your gear. They also hand you a waterproof map with safety guidelines and their phone number and make sure you realise that they will come and pick you up if you get into trouble with strong winds or currents.
Their rates are as follows:
|Duration||Single Kayak||Double Kayak||Triple Kayak|
If you love your first trip and want to go out paddling more regularly (and trust me, you will), for $150 you can bag yourself a frequent paddler card valid for ten sessions.
So, if Manly is on your itinerary, don’t miss this!