The Wizard of Oz
If you have read any of the previous posts on here, you’ll know we do love a trip here at Procrastination Project towers. Our posts for Tokyo got some love, so I thought I’d pop this up, should it help anyone in the throws of planning a similar trip themselves, or just to satisfy some wanderlust. This stop, Sydney.
To give some context and background, my sister has lived in Manly, NSW for many years. A stone’s throw (well, ferry ride) from Sydney, Manly is a buzzing, dynamic destination. We have been a handful of times before, and travelled further out, a road trip up the East Coast, culminating in Fraser Island and then the Hamilton Islands. LA on the way there and Fiji on the way back. Our last visit 3 years ago was the first with our smaller kids. Then 6 and 8, we threw everything we had at it – visited the big landmarks in and around Sydney, and had some fantastic experiences and memories to always remember. I’ll pop some of that up in the archives for those who are interested.
This time, instead, we chose to live like locals, hanging out with my sister, her friends and her pooch, with no time pressures, whilst living on a budget. I’m not going to lie; you simply can’t get to the other side of the world with an additional two other mouths to fly, feed and water on a shoe-string (especially with our super-weak GB Pound) but neither do you have to spend thousands of bucks to still have a really fantastic time.
So this round-up is all about places in and around Manly to eat, for things to do with kids, my personal recommendations about all the things I love, what to pack and what to buy when you get there. We didn’t stray too far at all from Manly this trip, it was a much lower key family visit. It was hot and sticky humid when we were there, so we stuck pretty close to the sea, and avoided lengthy car journeys where possible.
I’m going to split all of this up by theme, in to several bite size posts otherwise it’s going to become too long for a quick read. So if you’re headed to that part of the world, here goes. Let me know what you think.
First Up – Places To Eat
Let’s start with the top of the day: best breakfasts and brunches
Hands down our favourite brunch this time around. The smallest (our girl) said the pancakes were the best she’d ever had. She’s dairy intolerant so skipped the cream but said the berry compote was delicious and her coconut berry smoothie was an all out winner. Fin also had to pancakes but with the lot, and he did go a bit sugary. I had a very competent eggs benedict on sourdough, which ticked all the boxes (though having the calorific content next to each menu item was slightly off putting!) and the husband had the Avocado Dukkah with feta, lemon, seeds and house-made Dukkah. Great family friendly place with super-friendly staff.
– The smallest, matching her outfit to her breakfast at the 3 Beans Café
We stuffed our faces here late one morning. My sister and I both ordered the Morning Bruchetta (bacon, grilled halloumi, smashed avocado, poached eggs and tomato corn salsa drizzled with balsamic glaze served with sourdough toast) which defeated us both, about half way in. It was delicious though, and set us up for the rest of the day, without too much guilt. My husband ordered the Ocean Breakfast, which was huge. Smoked salmon, poached eggs, hash browns and avocado, with tomato salsa and balsamic glaze, and again served with sourdough toast. To this day, he still questions the need for double carbs with the hash browns on toast, but otherwise it was a hit. The kids stuck to pancakes, which they gave the thumbs up. My only watch point here was the service was pretty slow and pretty haphazard. It was super busy and I know when we’ve been before it’s been much more slick, but if you’re in a hurry I might give it a swerve. Right on the strip opposite Manly’s seafront, it a buzzy and popular place to eat.
Located in the surf lifesaving club at South Curl Curl, we fell upon Gusto’s on one of the hottest days of our trip, after a fairly decent walk both down to the rock pool at the north end, as well as up and over the sand dunes. Dishevelled, starving hungry and thirsty, we probably looked a motley crew as we plonked ourselves on the outdoor seating – but frankly I could have stayed there all day. Totally chilled vibe, a fridge fully stocked with Pure Pops to keep the kids happy, the husband and I supped on decent coffees and refuelled with sourdough and Vegemite. Not the most exciting breakfast you might argue but it really hit the spot. The kids had a munch on some banana bread too. Their menu is actually vast, hence I could have stayed there all day. Sandy toes and a delicious view, what’s not to love.
– Curl Curl and coffee at Gusto
Others worth a special mention are Jelly Fish Café, down on the North Steyne right opposite the beach. They also do a great take away chai latte or coffee, as well as a nice range of freshly made smoothies. Perfect pick up for a long dog walk and popular with locals, always a good sign. Pantry up on the beach itself is high-end but a lovely location. Over on Shelly Beach there’s The Boat House – but we didn’t visit this time as it was just too much of an indulgence when we were watching our dollars. Another great breakfast and take out coffee restaurant is The Bower, right opposite the gorgeous Fairy Bower bathing rock pool. Great banana bread for the kids, with even the takeaway version beautifully put together.
Lunches & Dinners
To keep our bank balances in relative health, we alternated lunches and dinners out with eating in, or grilled cheese sarnies & salads on the beach (or on one especially piggy day, we grabbed some take away burritos from Mex & Co down on Manly seafront. Those were definite winners and kept the hungry surfers topped up all day) ..So these are a mixture of old favourites we’ve visited before on previous trips, and new places that we fell in love with. All are still in or around Manly, with one or two further out.
– Little Manly
Aside for the fact that I would never knowingly normally eat anywhere with the word kiosk in it, this little gem is a firm family favourite. The friendliest owners and staff, who never lose their cool, nor their warmth, even when the queue is snaking right back down to the beach, this place deserves all the love it receives.
Great for kids, they have all the stalwart fare for tweens and teens alike, with giant cones of sweet potato chips, the most delicious banana bread (according to the kids) toasted with butter for that all important refuel after endless bouts of jumping off the nets into the sea, and our personal saviours, Pure Pops to keep them cool. But, alongside that they also serve delicious halloumi burgers, beautifully fresh fish and calamari salads, shellfish and impressively stacked turkish flat breads and sandwiches. In addition, Friday nights are for the sausage sizzle, a great community event with kids grabbing sausages and corn between swims, whilst the grown ups enjoy sundowners on the grassy banks.
A buzzy, vast space that is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike, you could be misled into thinking the food might be a let down for such a large venue – but – don’t be, its menu is as big as the place is, but the quality is right up there. Panko-crumbed snapper burgers are served up alongside buckets of Tiger Prawns with their own wharfy sauce; chilled Moreton Bay Bugs with alioli, Queensland Barramundi – they’re all there. If you’re after something simpler, then their pizzas are big hits, and after a 10k hike – I can personally guarantee that both the veggie and the meat nachos were huge crowd pleasers for kids and adults alike (and kept us in budget). The cocktail bar knocks up a lovely Mohito, and if you’re feeling really cheeky, their Rosé slushies are amazing on a backing hot and humid day.
A behemoth of an old pub, we first visited the Newport with my sister back in 2000. My how it’s changed. Cleverly divided up in to smaller sections which have been landscaped to give a cosier sense of togetherness, there are several different kitchens from which to order, therefore offering a huge choice. The kids area is genius, I guess they’re hoping that by laying on such a well stocked playroom, the adults won’t get nagged to leave any time soon. Certainly worked for us 😉 About an hours drive from Sydney CBD.
– The Newport
I should probably have put Hugo’s at the top of this list in hindsight. Easily our meal out of the trip, and a huge favourite of my sister who’s a regular. Think polenta chips, delicious rocket, pear and parmesan salads, huge tasty pizzas of the thinnest crust, and tasty croquettes and the freshest prawns, and that’s Hugo’s right there. Washed down with some chilled rosé and then some decedent espresso Martinis and it was an amazing pre-Christmas treat. We could even let the kids stretch their legs and have a wander into the Wharf to buy themselves an ice-cream. They watched the Manly ferries come and go, whilst we could keep an eye on them without having to even leave our seats. A perfect afternoon and I can’t recommend highly enough. If you only go to Manly once, go to Hugo’s.
Sitting on the decking of the Manly Skiff Club is probably one of my most favourite activities. Get there nice and early, or try to book a table, as inside is really noisy and the acoustics don’t lend themselves to easy conversation.
Pretty standard stuff food wise, but the pizzas are pretty awesome, and the onion bhaji burger is also delicious. Great kids options if you have a fussier eater.
– Manly Skiff Club
Describing itself as a “neon-drenched, Okinawa inspired, Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll bar” Daniel San has a fun, laid back straight-from-the-beach family welcoming kinda vibe. Outside along the pavement, there’s a length of refectory tables which means dogs are welcome there too. We got fairly busy with our chops sticks the minute each small dish of sharing plates arrived. Delicious salt and pepper squid, edamames, mixed tempura, and Katsu chicken curry, with mixed sashimi for the non-meat eater. The hot chipsus were a welcome snack for the kids there post-surf one afternoon on another occasion, when we stopped there for a beer or two. Fun for all the family for sure.
– Daniel San
Vietnamese street food served in a friendly, stylish and informally pretty little restaurant, just off the main strip, a stones throw from Manly Wharf. As one of our gang doesn’t eat meat and we all wanted to share and taste different flavours, we predominantly stuck to fish and the veggie options, but some of the meat dishes sounded amazing. We went here for dinner on Christmas Eve, for something completely different to tradition Christmas food.
We ate Temple Tofu and Coconut Roasted Squash curry, prawn curry, some satay chicken and chilli salt and pepper squid (which was the crowd pleaser for sure) some classic spring rolls at the kids request, plus some rice and Bahn Xeo. I really, really wish we’d had the caramelised pork belly. We didn’t push the boat out, mostly mindful of expanding waistlines but it was more than plenty between the 5 of us. Washed down with some Vietnamese beers and celebratory Rosé. Their lunchtime Big Buddha Bowls also look enticing…
– Little Viet
Reasonably priced Asian street food, this is a little hidden gem up on the Pittwater Road in Manly that always makes everyone happy. The kids lunch boxes are good value for money. A little family in-joke is that we get the same fortune in the cookies, and have done even since our last visit. And the kids will always be happy with the frog on the pond dessert…
This is only a drop in the ocean of some fantastic places to eat and drink around Manly and the surrounding area.