Star Rating For Difficulty (out of 5):
3 star because of the climb up North Head.
If you were to skip North Head, it becomes a 1 star ride in terms of difficulty.
Notable Sites, Cafés, and Playgrounds Along the Way:
We start at North Harbour Reserve in Balgowlah. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Manly and a good point to begin the ride from. While you unpack the bikes from the car the kids can play in the playground which is good and visible from the car, and if you’re desperate for a coffee or a snack, Forty Beans café is just across the road.
Apart from North Head, the only real hill of note is the stairs that we choose to take out of North Harbour Reserve to begin the ride proper. We could ride up the footpath of Condamine St, but it’s steep and I think involves more elevation than carrying a handful of bikes up some stairs. From there it’s a beautiful ride along the North Harbour Walk (remembering that in New South Wales it’s legal for kids under the age of 16 and their supervising adults to ride on footpaths. It’s a beautiful path, but of course we take it slowly to give way to pedestrians and ding our bells on approaching walkers, and say plenty of “thank you’s” to keep the pedestrian-cyclist camaraderie in a good space 😊.
East Manly Cove Beach, is a great place to sit for a while, pull out a snack and watch the ferries roll in and out of Manly Wharf.
We take a detour via Manly Peace Park to enjoy some more views of the Harbour, and then it’s back towards Darley Rd. For those who want to avoid North Head, it’s a cruisy roll down towards Shelly Beach or Manly Beach. For those who want the adventure, dig in and saddle up. Up the hill we go!
After getting past the old Manly Hospital, not done with the adventure up the hill, we like to take the detour via The Barracks Precinct and then the dirt tracks to Memorial walk and then on to Fairfax track and stop at each of North Head Artillery Lookout and Fairfax Lookout with their stunning views down the Harbour, out the heads and down the coast.
It’s mostly flat-to-downhill for the next 2-3km. Like all children, we love to explore “castles”, and St Patrick’s Estate is a stunning building, which can be seen from much of the Northern Beaches and on many of our other Northern Beaches rides. We ride through there, down through the streets with the modern houses below, via Bower St Reserve where there are some great trees to climb in and towards the North Eastern end of Bower St where we take a break, have some snacks and watch the swell roll in and admire the expert surfers. The day we last rode there was apparently one of Sydney’s biggest swell days ever and the surfers were heroic (for lack of a better term – others may call it crazy, nuts, or suicidal…).
We then roll down to Shelly Beach. The ride from Shelly Beach to Queenscliff is flat and has all kinds of sights of the ocean and coast to enjoy. Our chosen playgrounds on this route are North Steyne Playground and Manly Lagoon Reserve Playground at the turn around point on this particular ride. We then loop back to the Corso (where there is our final playground of the day)
On the return trip, we have two spots that we passed on the outward journey that we like to stop at:
- We love to find a spot for an ice cream or gelato and Manly is spoilt for choice with New Zealand Natural and Movenpick all along the Corso, and Gelatissimo on Manly Wharf.
- If you packed some swimmers in your backpack, Fairlight Beach and pool is a great place to cool down when the ride is nearly done.
Parking & Toilets
We usually park adjacent to North Harbour Reserve, Balgowlah
- North Harbour Reserve, Balgowlah
- East Manly Cove
- Shelly Beach
- Manly Beach
- Queenscliff Beach
- Manly Lagoon Reserve Playground