Every guidebook has a “secret” hint on how to see some of the more famous sites without paying the usual price. In Venice, you’re advised to take the number one vaporetto rather than an expensive gondola ride; in Chicago, go to the 96th floor of the Hancock for a cocktail rather than the concrete dud of an observation deck. And in Sydney, instead of paying for a harbor cruise, you’re told to take a ferry boat out to Manly.
Sydney, I was pleasantly surprised to discover, isn’t on a semicircle harbor, but on a harbor with an uneven coastline, so there are many more houses with water views than in a lot of other cities. Manly is one of the suburbs with those views.
I actually tried to go to Manly twice. The first time, it was an ok day when I started out, but by the time the boat docked, it was drizzling rain and cold. Since I had a weekly transit pass, I just turned right around and went back to Sydney. Take two was much more successful. It was a beautiful day, and the decks of the ferry were full of teenagers carrying surfboards and families lugging beach equipment.
I met up with Heather, a friend of a friend, and we had a nachos and beer lunch, which is the perfect start to a lazy Sunday afternoon. We walked through town, and she popped into a few restaurants so she could say hi to her friends. She manages a restaurant, and she shared funny stories about the food service life in Manly.
Manly Beach was much narrower and much more crowded than Bondi had been, and I didn’t really want to squeeze in on the sand between sunbathing beauties and shrieking children, so we went on the short coastal walk instead. The path was full of people enjoying their weekend, and it was also narrower than the Bondi walk, so I was more crowded in general. But it was a great walk, past a pool right on the ocean that lets the saltwater spill over the edge to fill it, past a long lizard sunning himself, past a small group of suited-up divers taking rescue lessons, and right on up the small hill to a view of the coastline curving in and out all the way to the horizon.
I said farewell to Heather and got back on the ferry for the return trip. I’d timed it just right for sunset, so as the boat rounded the point and came in to the main harbor, I saw the opera house and bridge lit up in reds and golds. A lovely end to a relaxing day.