Beaches, check; ferry ride, check; coffee, check; wildflowers, check; wildlife (sorry – mostly big lizards), check and magnificent ocean and harbour views at nearly every turn – massive check.
But Manly to The Spit is more than a checklist of Sydney icons: it has soul. For a start, it’s not necessarily an easy walk. It’s 10km one way and includes some uphill. It also has water dragons, which are as magnificent as the name suggests. Although smallish (around 40cm), in spring and autumn when they are gathering heat, they can block the path, unable to move and can look surreal and a little scary. The walk has Aboriginal and colonial history and in spring the bush track is swelling with dainty hits of cream, yellow and red when the wildflowers are in bloom.
The walk, which is invariably listed as one of Sydney’s finest, takes around 3-4 hours to do and although you could fit it into a half day activity, it’s better to set aside the whole day and savour it instead of devouring it.
It can be done in either direction but it seems somehow more appropriate to start at Manly by catching the magnificent Manly ferry. Starting at Manly also gives you the opportunity to stock up on lunch, have a caffeine hit and a toilet stop (although the walk is very well set up with toilets along the way especially at either end of the walk.)
Today the walk appears in every listicle about Sydney’s best walks. Given its popularity, the signage could be a little better and there were several forks in the track but the walk is popular enough that another hiker is never too far away to ask.
When I did it with a friend recently it was the start of spring. If you live in Sydney and have the pick of the weather and time of year, my recommendation is to aim for spring, when the weather is warm but the air still crisp and the wildflowers are out. I know a few people who have tried this bushwalk in summer and apparently it was unbearable, even in the early morning. The track is popular so, if you can manage it, midweek is best. But there are lots of water and bush access little beaches and bays along the way, so it’s never hard to get away from it all.
And, as usual, in Sydney, a sunny day is best. That way you get to appreciate Sydney at its dazzling blue best. That wonderful moment when you say “Would you rather be anywhere else at the moment?”