Last updated: July 30, 2022
The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is a beautiful 10 km coastal walk, taking in quiet Harbour beaches, scenic bushland, picturesque bays, and panoramic vantage points.
The walk forms part of the iconic 20 km Manly Scenic Walkway that runs from the Spit Bridge all the way to Manly North Head, and is widely considered one of the best coastal walks in Sydney.
Read on, as we’re going to guide you through the many highlights of the Spit to Manly walk, including pictures, insider tips, and a map.
|Spit to Manly Walk|
|Distance:||10 km (one way)|
|Dogs:||Not allowed on some sections|
How to Get There
Public transport is recommended, but there are a few options if you prefer to go by car. With your Opal Card, you can use unlimited public transport on the weekends for a small capped daily fee.
You can park your car north of the bridge at Battle Boulevard, or south of the bridge at the Spit Bridge Reserve. Use a taxi or public transport to return to your car. If you do the walk in the other direction, there are quite a few reasonably priced car parks in Manly.
You can also cut the walk short and park at Clontarf Reserve or at Tania Park, next to Dobroyd Head, which has a free parking area.
Catch a bus from the city to the Spit Bridge. In Manly, you can either catch a bus or a ferry back to the city, and then the bus back again to the bridge.
Check the bus and ferry services on the NSW Transport Info website.
Highlights and Map
There are so many things to see and do along the coastal walking track between the Spit Bridge and Manly Beach, but in this article, we’re going to focus on the following 10 highlights and landmarks:
- The Spit Bridge
- Clontarf Reserve
- Castle Rock Beach
- Grotto Point Lighthouse
- Washaway Beach
- Dobroyd Head Lookouts
- Reef Beach and Forty Baskets Beach
- North Harbour Reserve
- Fairlight Walk
- Manly Wharf
In the track notes below, we’re diving a little deeper into each of these landmarks, as we navigate the trail from west to east.
Here is a handy map for your reference, with the highlights marked from 1 to 10, starting at the Spit Bridge:
Spit to Manly Track Notes
The official starting point of the Spit to Manly walk is at the northern end of the bridge. You can get there by walking down the hill from Battle Boulevard, towards the water.
You then follow the path under the bridge leading to Ellery’s Punt Reserve. From there, keep following this shore path around Fisher Bay and Sandy Bay.
1. The Spit Bridge
The Spit Bridge is located in The Spit and carries Spit Road to connect the suburbs Mosman and Seaforth. The Spit Bridge, completed in 1958, is a bascule bridge, and its middle section can be raised to allow ships to get through.
The bridge has played a crucial role in the development of the northern suburbs and forms the gateway to the beaches up north.
The Spit Bridge replaced an old wooden bridge that wasn’t suitable anymore to handle the increasing traffic.
Today, more than half a century later, the bridge (including Spit Rd and Military Rd) often gets heavily congested with traffic, and plans exist to build a tunnel.
The Spit is a beautiful place to hang out for a few hours, with lots of water-based action, picnic areas with BBQs, a few restaurants and a playground.
You can find the Spit Bridge opening times on the Roads & Maritime website.
2. Clontarf Reserve
The Clontarf Reserve is a beautiful park area on Sandy Bay Road in Clontarf, with excellent picnic and BBQ facilities, a cafe and restaurant, playgrounds, toilets and showers, and quiet stretches of beach.
The park also has plenty of large trees that offer shade on very sunny days. The large paid parking area quickly fills up on the weekends. The beach right in front of the park has a netted swimming area and is perfect for children.
To continue the Spit Bridge to Manly walk, simply follow the shoreline further north towards Clontarf Point, Lexi Beach and Castle Rock Beach.
3. Castle Rock Beach
Castle Rock Beach is a small (not very well known) secluded beach that you can reach via a short walk down from the Spit to Manly track.
It’s the perfect beach for those looking for a quieter beach experience, away from the large sun-bathing crowds.
There are also no facilities, so it’s best to bring food and drinks with you if you plan to hang around there for a while.
If you’re going to Castle Rock Beach by car, street parking is available at Ogilvy Road. Just don’t tell anyone.
4. Grotto Point Lighthouse
The next major point of interest on the Spit Bridge to Manly walk is Grotto Point and the Grotto Point Lighthouse.
Be careful, as the walking trail to the lighthouse can be very easily missed. You need to go off the main route to go and see the lighthouse, and this is not very well signposted.
About 5-10 minutes after Castle Rock Beach, you’ll see an intersection in four different directions. If you go straight, you’ll continue on the main Spit Bridge to Manly walking trail. To visit the lighthouse, you need to turn right and walk for about 10 minutes.
The 8 metres high white lighthouse was commissioned in 1911 to help navigate ships entering Sydney Harbour. The tower itself is closed, but the grounds are open to the public.
The walk to the lighthouse and the views across Middle Harbour make this an enjoyable visit. This side trip requires an extra 30 minutes, so if you’re short on time, you could also visit the lighthouse on another day.
Back on the main track, just a few minutes later, you will come across some very well preserved aboriginal rock engravings. Watch out for boomerangs, a giant kangaroo, a whale and small fish that are visible along a short side track.
5. Washaway Beach
Just east of Grotto Point is another “secret” beach, Washaway Beach. Perhaps even more secretive than Castle Rock Beach, the beach is called Washaway because it can literally vanish with high waves.
This beach is not signposted and is very easy to miss. From the track to Grotto Point, you need to turn left into a side track.
From there, it’s another 5 minutes before you see the beach appearing. But even when you’re there, getting onto the beach is still challenging because the cliffs are pretty high.
To enter the beach, you need to climb down a cliff. Many years ago, beachgoers made an attempt to engrave a makeshift ladder in the rocks to make it easier to get onto the beach.
It is still very tricky to climb down, so be careful and bring someone with you, just in case something happens and you need help.
Washaway Beach used to be a nude beach, and you may still bump into scarcely dressed sunbathers, so just be warned if that’s not your thing.
6. Dobroyd Head Lookouts
Walking away from Grotto Point, towards the north, the track leads to Dobroyd Head. You will soon see a sign for the Crater Cove Lookout, located at the big car park at Tania Park.
This fenced lookout offers panoramic views across Sydney Harbour, facing North Head, South Head and the ocean further ahead.
This is a popular vantage point for the Sydney to Hobart race that starts in Sydney every year on Boxing Day.
If you look all the way down, you’ll see (remains of) old houses, shacks, and huts that were built during the great depression.
A short walk further north is the Arabanoo Lookout with even more incredible views across the Harbour and Manly. The lookout was named after Arabanoo, the first Aboriginal man that lived among European settlers.
From the Arabanoo lookout, continue the Spit to Manly walking path through scenic bushland, slowly winding its way down back to the shoreline.
The most scenic lookouts in Sydney.
7. Reef Beach and Forty Baskets Beach
Reef Beach is a small strip of sand with large rocks facing Manly Cove and the Ferry terminal further north.
This is another quiet beach that was once a nudist beach. The views are great, especially from the boardwalk right behind the beach.
Forty Baskets Beach is a family-friendly beach located about 0.5 km further up the Spit to Manly walking trail.
The beach is protected from large waves, which makes swimming very pleasant. Behind the beach, you’ll find picnic areas, a small playground, toilets and showers.
8. North Harbour Reserve
Not too much further north from Forty Baskets, you will find the scenic North Harbour Reserve.
This quiet reserve is a large open parkland with electric BBQs, a playground, a basketball court, and picnic tables.
With a fantastic photogenic backdrop, North Harbour Reserve is also a popular spot for wedding ceremonies and other formal events.
9. Fairlight Walk
The scenic Fairlight Walk is the last stretch of the Spit to Manly walk, along the shoreline between North Harbour Reserve and the Manly ferry wharf.
Popular with tourists and locals, the bicycle and pram-friendly Fairlight Walk is mostly a paved track with beautiful views of North Harbour and Manly Cove.
One of the highlights along this path is Fairlight Beach, an 80m long stretch of sand with a small rock pool.
It’s one of the many secluded beaches you will find along the coastal trail between the Spit Bridge and Manly Beach.
10. Manly Wharf
With Manly now in sight, keep following the shoreline until you end up at Manly Wharf, with two quiet beaches on either side that are perfect for swimming.
If you have time left, make sure you go out and enjoy yourself in Manly, with so many things to see and do. There are beaches on both sides of The Manly Corso, with the beaches on the ferry wharf side much quieter and family-friendly.
There is also lots of shopping to be enjoyed at The Corso, and many cafes and restaurants to choose from for a well-deserved bite and coffee.
Or how about a well-deserved cold beer?
Manly Scenic Walkway
The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is part of the longer Manly Scenic Walkway, which is almost 20 km long. This epic hiking trail also includes a 9.5 km circuit track around Manly’s North Head.
It will take around 3 to 5 hours to complete, so if you’re keen to do the complete walk, you’ll be hiking for at least 6 hours. Are you up for the challenge?
The Spit to Manly walk is one of Sydney’s finest and most diverse walking trails. Because this walk is relatively long, it’s recommended to come prepared, especially on warm days.
Make sure you bring enough water and snacks and familiarise yourself with the route. You can do the entire walk (either as one-way or return) or split up the walk and do sections on different days.
Including travel time to and from the starting point, this walk is pretty much a full-day adventure. The walk is stunning, and Manly is a fantastic place to hang out and have lunch.
If you’re up for a real challenge, check out our guide to the Bondi to Manly walking track, an 80 km long coastal adventure.
Guide to the top things to do in Sydney.
Thanks for the great post. Just completed this walk today! Didn’t realize that the Spit Bridge to Manly Hike didn’t have to include North Head. I’m so glad to have done the full 20k in 5hr 30min but still would have liked to have found your blog post first! I’m taking a little rest from hiking the next few days 🙂
Wow Sophie, that’s very impressive, especially with the warm weather we had yesterday! Glad to hear you enjoyed the hike 🙂
Is their any steps on the walk as I’m in a chair.
Kind regards, Anthony.
Hey Anthony, unfortunately yes, there are steps and other obstacles on this walk.
This is a great walk, albeit a popular and busy one! The history of the old shacks around Crater Cove is very interesting, and worthy of a future trip!
Thanks for the great tip, Oliver!
Just so you know Washaway Beach is definitely still a nudist beach. Now that the sand is back the nudists have also returned.