Snorkeling and Exploring Sydney with EcoTreasures
If you're looking for an amazing day trip from Sydney, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful destination than Manly Beach. We're talking gorgeous blue waters, endless white beaches, and amazing views - plus a great food scene! But I must confess, my first glimpse of Manly Beach was not an encouraging sight.
On the day of my visit, the high winds and rough waters were pretty intimidating. I bet they were heaven for the crowd of seasoned surfers but as someone who was there for a snorkeling experience, I have to say I was feeling pretty nervous. I was concerned about getting in over my head (literally and otherwise) but I put on a brave face and continued on down the path. For I wasn't in the Manly area for an ordinary visit. I was scheduled to meet up with Damien from EcoTreasures for a guided nature walk and snorkel session at nearby Shelly Beach.
The waters at nearby Shelly Beach were much calmer, owing to their position in a protected inlet, but I was still happy and relieved when Damien said that the waters weren't clear enough for snorkeling. While I was disappointed were weren't able to take to the water, I was pleased he made the safest call. Beginner snorkelers take heart- EcoTreasures will make sure you stay inside your comfort zone!
While the day wasn't ideal for swimming, the weather was perfect for a nature walk and the breeze kept us comfortable in the bright Australian sun. As we climbed the hills above Shelly Beach, Damien kept us entertained and informed and we learned so much about the local ecosystem and the efforts being made to protect the area.
At times it felt like we were getting a tour of all of Australia as we gained more and more knowledge about local plants, flowers, rocks, soil, fish, marine life, animals, and ecology. An unremarkable looking plant was revealed to have medicinal and nutritional properties, while a tangle of trees came to life as the habitat for many a shy animal. Damien explained how much of the plant life around us was traditionally used by the Aboriginal people and he gave us a brief lesson in the history and culture of the area.
The views along the way were breathtaking and we were able to take in a wide panorama of Shelly Beach, Manly Beach, and the ocean. In the 1940s, the Manly Steamship Company's motto was "Seven Miles from Sydney and 1,000 Miles from Care" and that describes this area perfectly. Just a short trip from the city, we were in a different world and I was at times reminded of the American desert as well as my own childhood memories of growing up by the Atlantic Ocean. It would be easy to just sit and watch the waves roll by (maybe glimpsing a whale if you're in season) - easy, that is, if there wasn't so much to see and do.
While our walk lasted more than an hour and we climbed up high enough to get a great view, the hike was not physically challenging. We stopped over half a dozen times for Damien to talk to us and share his knowledge after walking at a gentle pace. Children and seniors would be able to walk this with ease but it should be noted that some areas of the path are uneven and a bit steep. We wore regular running shoes and we had no problem with the terrain.
When our walk came to an end, Damien led us to an information board and pointed out the different routes we could follow if we wanted to continue our hike. There are several easy to follow paths around the Shelly Beach area for those who want to spend the entire day exploring or who want to take a short walk after a day of swimming.
I would highly recommend EcoTreasures' Manly snorkeling and guided nature walk to anyone visiting the Sydney area. Even if you have a short visit of 2 or 3 days you should take some time away from the city and spend it in Manly. You will see a side to Australia that you could never experience in the heart of downtown. And if you're on a budget like we were you'll feel like you got a tour of the country without ever having to catch a flight to a different territory.
Practical information for visiting Manly and Shelly Beach
The ferry from Syndey Harbour to Manly is included in the cost of a Zone 3 Multi-Pass or you can purchase a round trip ticket for approximately $15.
Shelly Beach is a 15-20 minute walk from Manly Beach. The oceanside path is pretty but beware of the large waves crashing beside it! Keep you eyes open for piece of sculpture embedded in the rock, as well as the handsome water dragon lizards sunning themselves.
Shelly Beach has public washrooms, a restaurant, and a water bottle filling station.
We ate lunch at 4 Pines Brewing Company (overlooking Manly harbor) and had tasty burgers and fish and chips. Our meals were good and the service was competent but, like all food in the Sydney area, it caused us considerable "sticker shock". Daily specials that combine a main dish with a locally brewed pint will be sure to please beer drinkers.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What is your favourite thing to do outside Sydney's city centre?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
The Shamed Seahorse and Other Tales from SEA LIFE Sydney
The Best Hostel in the World? A Review of Sydney Harbour YHA
Our Five Favourite Freebies in Sydney
Our tour was sponsored by EcoTreasures. This did not affect my review and all opinions remain my own.
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