The Spit Bridge to Manly walk (also known as the Manly to Spit walk) is one of the most popular coastal walks in Sydney. This 10km (6.2 miles) walk is located on Sydney’s north shore very close to the city centre and offers stunning panoramic views across to the harbour and plenty of beaches to relax on. There are also some lovely secluded bays and places to swim and there is lots of native bushland along the walk. Sydney is famed for it’s many beautiful coastal walks but the Spit Bridge to Manly walk always remains a firm favourite both amongst tourists and locals. Here is all the information you need for the walk from Spit Bridge to Manly!
Important things to note about the Spit Bridge to Manly walk:
- the walk is 10km (6.2 miles) ONE WAY. You can do it as a return trip (20km) but most people choose to just walk one way.
- The walk takes roughly 3 hours to complete.
- the Manly-Spit walk is a moderate hike. Bring sufficient walking shoes as there is varied terrain here, although it definitely doesn’t feel too hilly.
- you can start the Manly to Spit Bridge walk from either Manly or Spit, but it is better to start from Spit so you can end in lively Manly.
- try to do the walk during the week when the trail is much quieter.
Why you should do The Spit to Manly walk:
- you’ll come across stunning harbour views, tropical beaches, dramatic cliffs and ancient Aboriginal rock carvings!
- this is one of Sydney’s best known coastal walks – after the Bondi to Coogee walk this is the second most popular Sydney coastal walk.
- it is very close to the city but it feels remote – you feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney as you walk through a lot of bushland.
- the walk ends in the popular beach town of Manly.
- very easy to get to on public transport.
Should you start the walk at The Spit or at Manly?
Most people choose to start the walk from Spit Bridge (by the neighbourhood of Mosman) and finish at Manly Wharf in the town of Manly. You can do the walk from Manly to Spit too but it is a lot more convenient to start the walk at Spit Bridge as opposed to Manly for a couple of reasons:
- public transport (buses and ferry) is more readily available from Manly.
- there are a lot of bars, restaurants and cafes at Manly so you can enjoy a nice lunch/dinner/beer here after the walk.
However if you really want to start the walk at Manly you can. Then if you wish you can always get a bus back to Manly once you finish the walk at The Spit. This way you can explore/relax here in Manly afterwards. It will just mean going back on yourself afterwards.
If you are using public transport you can get to Spit/Manly by:
Starting the walk at Spit Bridge:
– Take the bus to Spit Bridge and start the hike to Manly from here.
– When you finish the walk at Manly you can take the ferry back to Circular Quay to Sydney CBD.
Starting the walk at Manly:
– Get the ferry to Manly Wharf and start the walk to Spit Bridge from here.
– When you finish the walk at Spit Bridge you can either take the 178/180 bus back to the CBD or get the 143/144 bus back to Manly.
– If you get the bus back to Manly you can then take the ferry from Manly Wharf back to Circular Quay.
How to reach Spit Bridge:
Spit Bridge can be easily reached by bus. Spit Bridge is about 12km north of Sydney CBD and it will take about 20 minutes to get there by bus. Note that bus is the only public transport option to conveniently get to Spit Bridge as there are no trains on Sydney’s northern beaches and there is no ferry wharf near to Spit Bridge.
The 178 and 180 bus leaves from Wynyard Station (Carrington Street) in the CBD and stops at Spit Bridge. You will get off the bus on the left hand side of the road so just stay on this side of the road – don’t attempt to cross the road as it is very busy. Make your way across the bridge and then you’ll see some steps on the left that will take you down under the bridge and on to the start of the walking track.
If you visit the Citymapper website it will not only plan the best route for you to get there on public transport, but it will tell you how long the journey will take and how much it will cost. This is especially useful if you are coming from another destination other than the CBD.
Pretty much all buses that are going in the direction of the Northern Beaches will stop at Spit Bridge EXCEPT the express buses such as the yellow double decker B1 bus to Mona Vale. Remember you will need to have a valid Opal card to travel on the buses in Sydney.
If you are coming to Spit Bridge from Manly, take the 143/144 bus – the ride takes about 20 minutes.
If you are coming by car and want to park by Spit Bridge, park your car in the Spit West car park – south of the bridge on the Spit West Reserve. BEWARE that parking spots are limited so get here early, but also it is expensive to park here for the day (around $25). Then in addition to this, when you finish the walk at Manly you will need to get a taxi or the 143/144 bus back to Spit Bridge to your car. For this reason many people choose to get here by public transport for convince and to keep costs down.
How to reach Manly:
If starting the walk from Manly the easiest way to get here from the CBD is by taking the ferry from Circular Quay in Sydney to Manly Wharf. The ferry takes about 30 minutes and costs $9.90 for a single trip. You can either use your Opal card or buy a single ticket at the wharf. If you come on a Sunday, Opal travel is capped at $2.70 all day which will save you a lot of money!
When should you do the Spit to Manly walk?
The weekends will be a lot busier than on weekdays, and the summer months of December to March will again be more crowded. Stick to the cooler months and weekdays if you want to avoid the crowds.
The weather is good year-round in Sydney but always check the forecast beforehand and dress appropriately as the weather can sometime be unpredictable! In the summer you may want to avoid the intense midday sun and start the walk either early in the morning or in the afternoon. Bear in mind not to set off too late though. Obviously you don’t want to be doing any part of the walk after dark as there is no lighting along the route and the path is quite uneven – plus you’ll miss the views!
Even though the estimated time to complete the walk is 3 hours, personally I always allow myself more time as I like to sit and relax along the way on the beaches and take pictures. If you want to do the walk leisurely and stop for a swim/sunbathe, allow 4-5 hours.
Also try and avoid doing the hike when it is high tide as you can get quite wet! On some sections of the walk, particularly around Forty Baskets Beach, the path goes along the beach. If the tide is high you will be walking knee deep through the water or you may even be unable to pass on the beach if the water is so deep! In the case that the path is inaccessible or you don’t want to get wet you will have to do a detour on the road for a few hundred yards (the detour is signposted so you can’t miss it).
What you should bring on the Spit Bridge to Manly walk:
- swimming costume and towel if you want to sunbathe/take a dip in the sea at one of the many beaches along the route.
- sun hat and suncream to protect yourself in the sun. The sun is very strong here.
- reusable water bottle.
- bring some food/snacks as there are not many options once you start the walk.
- comfortable walking shoes/ I also brought a pair of flip flops and a spare set of clothes to change into once I got to Manly.
- the route is easy to navigate and follow with lots of maps and signs, however I always like to make sure I have an offline maps downloaded on my phone, for example from maps.me so that I always have a real-time map available.
Things to do near Spit Bridge
The nearest town to Spit Bridge is Mosman – a very affluent neighbourhood of Sydney full of beautiful historic houses. If you want to explore this area, head down Military Road to browse all the boutique clothing stores and stop off in the cute cafes. I currently live in this area and absolutely love it!
In Mosman you’ll also find an absolutely stunning beach just before the start of the walk known as Chinaman’s Beach (click here to see the Google maps location). This is one of my favourite beaches in Sydney as it is unknown to tourists and so remains one of the best secret spots in Sydney!
Chinaman’s Beach is just a 20 minute walk from Spit Bridge, and in the other direction also a 20 minute walk away is the iconic Balmoral Beach. How stunning does Chinaman’s Beach look in these pictures?!
On the Google map below you will see the walking path marked out, starting at Spit Bridge and ending at Manly Wharf. When you get to Manly Wharf you can always continue the walk along the headland (North Head) if you still have energy!
As mentioned earlier, Spit Bridge is the best place to start the walk from. Note that The Spit Bridge is a drawbridge and opens several times a day to let big boats pass through into Middle Harbour. Click here to view the opening times of the bridge so you know when to avoid arriving here so you aren’t stuck waiting to cross the bridge!
Once you cross onto the north side of Spit Bridge take the path down to your right onto Fisher Bay Walk and follow the path along the harbour shores. Continue along the path until you reach Sandy Bay.
Sandy Bay is a popular dog friendly beach. As you walk past you’ll also pass lots of really nice residential houses on Sandy Bay and leading onto Clontarf Beach. Note in the below left picture you will see Spit Bridge open.
Clontarf Beach is a stunning beach that overlooks Chinaman’s Beach and Middle Harbour. It is one of the busier beaches on the walk but there is plenty space to sunbathe for a little bit before you get on the coastal track, and you can even go for a dip in the calm water if you fancy.
On Clontarf Reserve just behind the beach and next to the playground there is a kiosk where you can get some drinks and snacks if you need. There are also some public toilets here.
At the end of Clontarf Beach you’ll find some steps to Clontarf Track to continue the Spit to Manly walk. This track goes through bushland but hugs the coastline so you’ll still be able to see the gorgeous views. The thick bushland will make you feel like you are in a remote place a million miles away from Sydney though! The track is well maintained, well sign-posted (often labelled as MSW: Manly to Spit Walk) and the lush vegetation surrounding you provides some much needed protection from the sun.
After walking for about 10 minutes or so on the Clontarf Track you’ll see Castle Rock beach below you on your right. Castle Rock is one of the many secret beaches here on the Spit to Manly walk. The water is unbelievably clear and this beach is never crowded. The views across to Balmoral Beach are also stunning and sometimes you’ll even see a little waterfall here!
If you didn’t have the views of Sydney you would even be excused for thinking you are on a tropical desert island when you are here on Castle Rock Beach! When you are finished relaxing, head back onto the track to continue the walk.
Grotto Point Lighthouse
About 15 minutes along on the path from Castle Rock you’ll come to a crossroads of footpaths. The main path continues straight ahead, the path on the left goes to the houses in Balgowlah, and the path on the right goes down to Grotto Point Lighthouse. This path is unmarked so you could easily miss it. Head down here and a 15 minute (500 metre) walk through dense bush will lead you to the beautiful lighthouse.
Grotto Point Lighthouse is one of the many lighthouses in Sydney Harbour that was built to help navigate boats through the harbour. You can’t go inside the lighthouse – you can only see it from the outside. From here you can get stunning views across to Balmoral Beach. If you don’t have the time to spare, you can skip seeing the lighthouse as it adds an extra 1km onto the hike.
If you walk back up the Lighthouse Track towards the main path, about halfway along the track you’ll see a path on your right (again unmarked and not that obvious) that takes you down to Washaway Beach. Head down here to experience one of Sydney’s most secluded beaches! From here head back onto the main walking track.
Once you are back on the main path you’ll shortly see a sign to turn right for some Aboriginal Engravings. Here you’ll see some interesting engravings (see below left of one of a fish) and some graffiti from the 1940’s etched into the stone. This is about halfway through the hike.
Cutler Road Lookout
Not long after the Aboriginal Engravings you’ll come to Cutler Road Lookout on your left (see the above right picture). The views of the CBD behind Balmoral Beach from here are absolutely stunning and provide you with a different perspective of the harbour.
After Cutler Road Lookout you’ll walk for about 1.5km around Dobroyd Head, which is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. It is quite bushy here and along the way you’ll pass a couple more lookouts, including Crater Cave Lookout and Fairlight Lookout. At Crater Cave Lookout if you look closely you will be able to see the seven historic huts of Crater Cove that sit on the rocky foreshore and cliffs looking out on to the harbour (see below left picture).
Just past the Fairlight Lookout on the Dobroyd Head Track you’ll see a crossroads. If you head right at the crossroads you will come to these historic huts. The huts were built from the 1920’s by fishermen and are precariously perched on the cliff edges. People permanently lived in the huts until the 1980’s, when they were forced to leave by the National Parks & Wildlife Service. Nowadays the huts lie empty but caretakers still look after them.
The huts at Crater Cove are one of Sydney’s secret spots and even most locals are unaware this place exists! The path is unmarked as Crater Cove has never been publicised and the National Park wants to keep it a secret. You cannot go inside the huts as they are locked. They are not in great condition now, but they have been regarded as a heritage site.
If you go back onto the main track and straight on the Dobroyd Head Track you will continue the walk to Dobroyd Head Lookout and Reef Beach Track. Along the Reef Beach Track you’ll have stunning views across to Manly Harbour.
You’ll also probably see the odd water dragon (giant lizards) along the path in the sunny spots.
Carry on walking along the main path and you’ll come to the beautiful Reef beach.
Reef Beach is a lovely quiet beach just 80 metres long. The beach looks out onto Manly Cove and there are some really nice views of the harbour from here. As the beach is eastern facing, if you are here in the afternoon the beach will be mostly in shade.
Forty Baskets Beach
Continue along the track to the beautiful and secluded Forty Baskets Beach.
At high tide the beach and path will be submerged in several inches of water for a few hundred yards. It is therefore recommended to take the short detour along the streets for a couple of minutes to avoid getting wet. However as the beach is really beautiful I definitely advise you to make sure you come at low tide so you can admire this stunningly quaint beach.
North Harbour Walk
Continue along North Harbour Walk and North Harbour Reserve – an off leash dog park that has great views across the marina. You’ll then briefly walk down a residential street before joining back onto the waterfront.
Continue along the path to Fairlight. When you get to Fairlight you know you’re on the last leg of the walk – Manly is just a 15 minute walk away!
Along with it’s coastal walks, Sydney is also known for it’s ocean pools and Fairlight Tidal Swimming Pool is one of the best in Sydney! This ocean pool has really calm waters as it is protected from the waves by Manly and Dobroyd Head, making it the perfect place to go for a swim! You’ll also find showers and toilets here if you need!
Next to Fairlight Beach is Delwood Beach: another lovely little beach. You can even sometimes see blue penguins here after dusk!
Manly Cove Beach
After Delwood Beach you’ll come to Manly Pavilion and Manly Cove Beach where you can also see penguins some evenings. Manly Cove Beach isn’t the famous Manly Beach – that’s located a 5 minute walk away on the other side of the peninsula along The Corso.
Manly Wharf is next to Manly Cove Beach and this is where the Spit to Manly walk ends. From here you can get the ferry back to Circular Quay or a bus. However, spend some time exploring Manly before you leave as it is a very lovely beachside town! There is free wifi here at Manly Wharf too if you need.
In Manly you’ll find lots of shops, cafes and restaurants – perfect for treating yourself after the walk! If you walk along The Corso you’ll come to the iconic Manly Beach where you’ll see lots of sunbathers and surfers enjoying the beach.
Manly is a really nice place to base yourself for a couple of days whilst in Sydney. There are several hotel and airbnb accommodation options here.
Manly Scenic Walkway
The Spit to Manly walk forms half of the Manly Scenic Walkway – a 20km walk that goes from The Spit to Manly and then all the way around North Head. Many people choose to do the two walks separately (both are around 10km long) to break up the hike.
The North Head walk includes the Fairy Bower sea pool, Shelly Beach, some military lookouts, as well as a few secluded beaches and coves with stunning harbour views. Click here to read about the Manly North Head walk!
Where can you get food on the Spit to Manly walk:
- just after the Spit Bridge before you start the walk head up to the Locals Corner cafe in nearby Seaforth for breakfast.
- kiosk at Clontarf Beach.
- lots of choices for food in Manly.
Public toilets on the Spit to Manly walk:
- South end of Spit Bridge (Spit West Reserve)
- Clontarf Reserve
- Reef Beach
- Tania Park
- North Harbour Reserve
- Fairlight Beach
- Manly Cove Beach
Can you take your dog on the Spit to Manly walk?
If you walk the official route of the Spit Bridge to Manly walk you won’t be able to bring your dog as the walk goes through some National Park (and dogs are not allowed in National Parks in Australia). You can walk your dog on sections of the walk, but you will have to take your furry friend on a little detour as dogs are prohibited on Dobroyd Head, which is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. Dogs are prohibited in National Parks to protect the native wildlife, but also because there is often fox poison scattered in National Parks, which is lethal for dogs if they accidentally consume it.
Off leash dog friendly areas along the Spit to Manly walk:
- Sandy Bay/Clontarf Beach dog beach
- dog area at Tania Park
- dog beach at North Harbour Reserve just past Forty Baskets Beach.
Instead of going on the Clontarf Track along the coast line and through the National Park, after Clontarf Beach make your way along the back streets in Balgowlah Heights towards Tania Park, which has some amazing harbour views. From Tania Park make your way down to back streets to Forty Baskets Beach where you will join back on to the official path. Continue walking all the way to Manly from here, with the water on your right hand side. See the map below where the alternative dog route is marked out.
Other coastal walks in Sydney:
Whilst The Spit to Manly is one of the most popular walks in Sydney, there are many secret or hidden walks that are even closer to the city and much shorter in length. My favourites ones being Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk and Cremorne Point walk. Whilst the Cremorne Point walk is not one of the most well known, I would definitely recommend this short and very easy 3km walk if you are short of time and can only fit in one coastal walk during your trip to Sydney as the views are incredibly stunning.
The Bondi to Coogee walk is the most famous of all Sydney’s walks and is only about half the length of the Spit to Manly walk. However I much prefer the Spit to Manly walk as the views are a lot more varied. On the Bondi to Coogee walk it is completely ocean views and the beaches are all very busy. On the contrary, on the Spit Bridge to Manly walk you will pass lots of secluded beaches and despite there being no ocean coastline you will get many more varied and beautiful views of the harbour.
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