Take ferry from Circular Quay. Leave wharf and walk up the Corso. Admire beach (swim if it's summertime). Walk back down the Corso. Stop for an ice-cream. Board ferry and return to city.
That's the standard template for visiting Manly. It drifts from concierges' mouths as a well-rehearsed script and it's a reliable go-to plan when you find yourself with visitors in tow and a sunny Sunday ahead.
And the ferry ride sure is pretty. And the beach? Well, it's gorgeous. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll find that Manly is morphing into a smart and stylish seaside suburb worthy of more than just the standard tourist itinerary. Here are a few spots putting Manly back on the map. [fold]
Fika Swedish Kitchen
You're a long way from IKEA, folks. This casual eatery draws in locals and expats with its authentic fare and bright interiors. For breakfast, try crispbread with egg and fish roe spread, while for lunch, dig into the meatballs with potato mash, onion gravy and lingon jam.
Meaning 'pretty lady' in Spanish, this rowdy taqueria serves up Baja fish tacos, pulled pork and black bean chimichangas, and carne asada burritos. The atmosphere is boisterous, the décor a little frightening and the drinks cheap and strong.
4/11-27 Wentworth Street, Manly
We know, we know – fish and chips by the beach is hardly original. But you won't care after you grab a spread from Fishmongers – something like barbecue baby octopus marinated in sweet soy and lemongrass, for example – and head over to the beach with the rest of the tourists.
Barefoot Coffee Traders
Starting out as a hole-in-the-wall operation on Whistler Street (where the team still cranks out litres of espresso to Manly caffeine addicts), Barefoot Coffee has since expanded to Wentworth Street with a second outlet. Luckily, they do their delicious waffles at both.
6 Belgrave Street, Manly
Good strong coffee is on the menu at this locals' favourite. So are toasted sandwiches, stuffed croissants and, sometimes, fancier numbers like cinnamon French toast with lemon mascarpone, maple syrup, blueberries and strawberries.
4 Pines Brewing Company
Manly's famed craftbrewers have since expanded to a sparkling new brewery in Brookvale, but their harbourfront bar and brewery was where it all started. They still make a few beers here and patrons can watch the action as they sip on Pale Ale, Kolsch or one of the limited release 'Keller Door' beers. Hearty pub grub is on hand to soak up all the suds.
Harlem On Central
Locals needn't cross the Harbour to find a happening cocktail bar. Not since Harlem On Central started doing its thing. The small room is dark and moody, but cosy and welcoming all the same. And the cocktails aren't bad either. Try a Whiskey Sour, Corpse Reviver or a Manhattan.
Sister venue to Gazebo and The Winery, Manly Wine offers the same brand of whimsy but with much more pleasant views. The wine list goes on and on and on, and has headings like 'Unpronounceable Whites', meaning you can leave the hoity-toity wine talk at home and get into a deep and meaningful with a plastic flamingo.
Manly's boozers have cleaned up their act of late, and leading the charge is the Ivanhoe. We never thought we'd say this, but the Ivanhoe is pretty. The kitchen downstairs turns out burgers and pizzas and the top two levels now sport sunny terraces and elegant interiors courtesy of designer Sibella Court.
4/22 Darley Road, Manly
Murdok has built quite the following amongst Manly's fashionable set. It might be because they stock labels like Sixpack France, PAM, Pigeonhole and Something Else. Their interesting collection of homewares and jewellery are also worth a browse.
Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway
Traversing the forested harbourside between Manly Wharf and the Spit Bridge, this 10-kilometre track offers glorious sea views and access to numerous tranquil harbour beaches. There are six major entry and exit points. Grab a map from the Manly Visitor Information Centre located next to Manly Wharf.
The rugged stretch of bushland that makes up North Head Sanctuary is one of Sydney's best vantage points. The Fairfax Walk connects three lookouts, from which you can take in stupefyingly beautiful views of the Harbour and city. You'll pass interesting historical sites, like North Fort (a World War II-era installation) as well.