The Spit bridge – Manly walk

The Spit bridge – Manly walk

I’ve had the The Spit – Manly walk pending for so long! Finally we did it yesterday and I love we did because it’s very different from the other famous Sydney coastal walk (Coogee – Bondi). The Spit to Manly is a 10 km grade-3 coastal walk with plenty views of the the city, harbour and its entrance from the Pacific and of course the popular Manly Beach.

The Spit is a low bridge in the north shore near Mosman where you can see sailboats and other small ships passing by. We actually got there at 11.28 am, and at 11.30 am the bridge platform opened for 15 min approximately to let vessels pass through.

We crossed the bridge and started the hiking route under it in an easterly direction. The first track section is very woody and green, you could forget for a moment you are still in Sydney but through the bushes you have peek-a-boos of the harbour and the city skyline that remind you where you are 🙂

The track is within the Sydney Harbour National Park. This National Park is interesting to me because it’s not a continuous mass of land. It looks like bits and pieces here and there surrounding Sydney Harbour. But the great thing about it is that, because it’s protected, it gives opportunities to be in touch with nature without leaving the city. The historical background of the park is that Sydney was growing really fast and all the harbour natural areas were being destroyed by development and construction. In 1975, the state government decided to preserve the lands that were still unharmed and named the conjunction of all of these as a National Park.

Everything in green is part of the National Park

We found a route map at the start of the walk that was very useful. The park is restricted for pets in some sections but there are alternatives routes that walkers with dogs could take.

After 1.5 km approximately you reach Clontarf Beach reserve, this is a park/beach area with lovely views to the Spit bridge and the harbour. This park is completely urban with parking, public transport access, toilet facilities and a kids park. There were plenty of people spending their Sunday there, and it could be a starting point if you want to make the walk shorter.

At Clontarf Beach it gets a bit confusing to follow the route and because it was our first time, we ended up using the dogs friendly route through Mosman streets instead of the hiking trail. Some signs were indicating a “detour” towards those streets and we followed them. After 1.5 km approximately we noticed something was wrong and made our way back to the usual route.

We started gaining altitude towards Dobroyd Head, this section may be the most challenging and beautiful of the whole hike. You have to workout more like with any elevation, but again, with altitude comes great views 🙂 most people rest here for a while and it’s your opportunity to take great photographs.

Something nice of the views is that you can see the entrance of Sydney Harbour. As an historical note (another one, sorry) James Cook (the explorer captain that proclaimed it for the British Empire) was sailing northerly in the Pacific bordering the east coast of Australia when he discovered the country. Captain Cook passed by, noticed and named the harbour as Port Jackson but didn’t explore it further. 18 years after that, Captain Arthur Phillip the commander of the first fleet of settlers (inmates) explored the harbour and settled what is now Sydney there:

“…we had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security…”

— Governor Arthur Phillip, 15 May 1788.


Back to the track, after reaching this point (still 3.5 km from Manly) most of the walk is descending or flat. You make your way through Reef Bay and eventually reaching Manly. This section has a very well developed walking infrastructure. We noticed some signs regarding little Penguins in the area, sadly we saw no penguins but now I have in my to-do list a penguin surveillance in Manly.


In Manly, you could grab a bite at any of the thousands of restaurants available in the area, or go to the beach or continue your walk towards Shelly beach through North Head. I’ll definitely do this extension of the walk next time.
Manly also has a very popular wharf station, you could make your way back to the city that way and appreciate the harbour views further, that ferry ride is a touristic must. In our case, our car was parked nearby The Spit bridge, we took a bus back (Route 144 in Manly Stand G) and we were there in 15 minutes (wonderful). Next time I’ll probably do the whole experience with public transport so I don’t have to worry for parking. From the city you just need to get to the Spit using the buses routes E68, E70 or E71 in Wynyard station.

Good thing about coastal walks inside the Sydney Metropolitan Area are the endless access options, something a bit trickier for parks outside the city. I would recommend the walk for people in medium fitness levels. It’s not very challenging but it’s gorgeous and the perfect touristic attraction. You get a nice balance of the city mixed with nature.

TRACK SUMMARY:

  • Track name: Manly Scenic Walk.
  • Section: The Spit bridge to Manly.
  • Length: 10 km one-way.
  • Time: 3 hours.
  • Australian grade: 3 (Intermediate)
  • Fitness level: Medium fitness level.
  • Kids friendly (Y/N): Y, but the full track may de exhausting, it’s a good idea to take previsions.
  • Pets friendly (Y/N): Y, using variations of the track (Follow pets signs)
  • What to expect: Elevations, harbour views, parks, beaches, rocky sections.
  • Variations: Extend to North Head towards Shelly Beach.
  • Shoes required: A good pair of sport shoes with support will do.
  • Access: The Spit bridge.
    • by car: 20 minutes from the city. Parking in The Spit reserve area. $7 per hour or $25 full-day. (It’s better to pay for the full day) or,
    • Public transport: Buses heading to Manly in Wynyard Station. Routes (E68, E70, E71).
  • Toilets: Plenty, at the start in the Spit Reserve area, in Clontarf reserve, near Reef Bay and at the end in Manly Wharf.
  • Water and food: Water fountains are available in several points of the walk.\
  • NSW National parks link for this track: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/manly-scenic-walkway
  • Photographic opportunities: Endless, see gallery.
  • Recommended: It’s a touristic must, highly recommended!
  • Location:
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