Manly: seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care. More than 80 years have passed since this catchy tagline was used to promote the seaside suburb of Manly as a tourist destination. As I bask in the sunshine beside the sparkling rooftop pool at the new Manly Pacific hotel, it dawns on me that the saying still rings true.
From where I’m perched on my sun lounge, I can see the full length of the iconic beach stretched out before me. It’s a busy weekend in the middle of the summer school holidays, so the entire beachfront is bustling with activity. It’s filled with swimmers, surfers, volleyball players, dog walkers, kids on bikes and scooters, families eating ice creams and toddlers building sandcastles.
Despite the hustle and bustle, there’s an overwhelming sense of calm as beachgoers laugh, chat and shriek with joy as they revel in the laid-back coastal vibes that emanate from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Reluctantly averting my eyes from the rolling blue waves, I momentarily turn around and see a glimpse of the CBD’s skyscrapers on the distant horizon. It’s the only reminder that I’m in a city suburb and not an idyllic coastal town.
A magical check-in
From the moment I step out of my car at Manly Pacific hotel, I feel like I’m on vacation – a thousand miles from care, you might say. The kids are still climbing out of the car when a friendly concierge begins unloading our luggage onto a trolley. We are promptly greeted by another smiling team member, who gives us a warm welcome, hands my car keys to the valet parking attendant and guides us into the hotel.
As we walk through the light-filled lobby and into the lift, I’m struck by a fresh and slightly sweet scent lingering in the air. I later discover it’s Manly Pacific’s signature fragrance, derived from Australian botanicals found on nearby North Head.
That’s my kind of magic – the perfect way to start a vacation.
I’m sure it must be a check-in record, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that it takes only five minutes from the time I park the car outside the hotel entrance to the moment we walk into our sixth-floor Coastal Suite.
To the kids’ amazement, our luggage arrives before we even have a chance to explore the spacious two-bedroom suite. My eight-year-old is convinced that magic is somehow involved as the trolley seems to appear out of nowhere.
To my surprise (and delight) a VIP welcome cocktail and mocktails for the kids also miraculously appear out of nowhere. That’s my kind of magic – the perfect way to start a vacation.
Manly Pacific: An ode to the ocean
This is not my first visit to Manly Pacific – I stayed several years ago when it was the Novotel – but it has since undergone an incredible US$20.7 million makeover. The result is simply breathtaking.
Now part of Accor’s MGallery, Manly Pacific has been thoughtfully redesigned to offer a new sense of luxurious costal living, while also showcasing Manly in all its splendor. The transformation features 213 redesigned rooms, including the ultra-luxe Infinity Residence and nine ocean-view Coastal Suites. Other features include a rooftop pool and bar, an infrared sauna and an expansive beachfront conference and events floor.
When I wake up to the soothing sounds of the ocean the next morning, I feel like I have been transported to a holiday destination much further from home than Manly.
Designed to embrace the ultimate in coastal living, Manly Pacific has been reimagined by leading Australian designers Coco Republic. Bathed in natural light and boasting expansive ocean views, my spacious Coastal Suite has soft, neutral tones to reflect the natural beauty of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, evoking a sense of harmony. Pale bleached woods and travertine stone accents, representing the color of the sand, are complemented by blue-grey hues reminiscent of the sea and the sky – an ode to the nearby ocean.
And when I wake up to the soothing sounds of the ocean the next morning, I feel like I have been transported to a holiday destination much further from home than Manly. In fact, when I open the curtains just after sunrise, I half expect to see tropical palm trees rather than Manly’s towering beachfront Norfolk Pines. At this moment though, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Choose your own adventure
When it comes to finding something to do in Manly, the most challenging part is selecting from an extensive list of activities. Thankfully, Manly Pacific’s concierge service or ‘Beach Club’ is on hand to create personalized wellness experiences for guests.
For those who like to stay active on their holidays, there’s kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, surfing lessons, scuba diving or snorkeling at spectacular Shelly Beach, bike riding, hiking, beach yoga and many more options. You can even have a Peloton bike delivered to your room!
The Beach Club team will book all activities in for you, so all you need to do is show up and have fun, and they think of everything. I only have to mention to them that I’m thinking of taking the kids snorkeling later in the day and snorkels and flippers (in all the correct sizes) are promptly delivered to our suite, on standby in case we need them.
The Beach Club team will book all activities in for you, so all you need to do is show up and have fun, and they think of everything.
Of course, dragging the kids away from the heated rooftop swimming pool is harder than I anticipated. We never actually get a chance to use the snorkels because we are having far too much fun in the sun without even leaving the hotel.
Not that I’m complaining – the pool is my happy place too, with expansive beach views, a plethora of sun lounges and water heated to just the right temperature. The friendly Beach Butlers regularly make their way around the pool deck offering complimentary ice blocks to guests. This is obviously a big hit with the kids, but a welcome treat for adult guests as well.
Mind, body and soul
Those who are looking for relaxation and rejuvenation during their vacation are spoilt for choice. Rather than having an in-house day spa, Manly Pacific partners with the very best local beauty and wellness providers to ensure guests have the opportunity to access a wide variety of treatments – all with the assistance of the Beach Club.
Located just around the corner from Manly Pacific, Bare Beauty House is a sustainable and eco-friendly salon offering beauty, hair and day spa services. Located on two levels of a converted heritage terrace, Bare Beauty House boasts a warm, cozy and inviting atmosphere.
I walk out of the day spa feeling on top of the world, with my hair bouncing and my complexion glowing.
After a morning of swimming and relaxing by the pool, I opt for the ‘Bare Essentials’ day spa package, including a luxurious personalized facial, followed by a blow dry to freshen me up. Normally, I’d just book a facial or massage and leave the treatment feeling incredibly relaxed, albeit a bit disheveled with slightly greasy hair.
So when the Beach Club suggests a package with a blow dry included, I realize it makes perfect sense – especially when I’m heading out to dinner shortly afterwards. I walk out of the day spa feeling on top of the world, with my hair bouncing and my complexion glowing.
The day spa experience extends to Manly Pacific’s stunning natural stone bathrooms. There are two bathrooms in my Coastal Suite, both with large walk-in showers complete with monsoon shower heads, for that extra-decadent feeling. The luxe factor is amplified by the inclusion of locally made Leif amenities made from Australian native botanical extracts and essential oils, plus soft cotton robes and LaGaia face masks.
Seaside dining delights
On my first night at Manly Pacific, I dine at the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Bistro Manly. Executive Chef Ryan Dawson has created a modern French menu featuring a combination of local seafood and bistro classics, all made using quality Australian produce.
Situated on the ground floor and with large windows overlooking Manly Beach, the restaurant – designed to make you feel like you’re sitting in a European-style brasserie – offers impressive views to savor while you enjoy your feast. And when I say feast, I’m not exaggerating. Unable to choose from all the mouthwatering options on offer, I opt to do a seafood menu tasting with matching French and Australian wines.
This allows me to sample two different options for each course, including Sydney rock oysters, Abrolhos scallops, chargrilled Sydney rock lobster, smoked ocean trout salad, raspberry balsamic souffle and chocolate parfait. Every dish is the perfect blend of coastal flavors and a delightful feast for the senses.
Every dish is the perfect blend of coastal flavors and a delightful feast for the senses.
After eating so well at dinner, I’m surprised I have an appetite for breakfast the next day, but I’m glad I do. When we return to Bistro Manly in the morning, it has been transformed into a sumptuous breakfast buffet.
With barista-made coffee from local roasters Seven Miles, a wide array of fresh tropical fruits, gourmet muesli, mini French pastries (so you can have more than one), waffles, muffins and fresh sourdough bread, I could have been very content with just the continental breakfast. However, my package includes a hot breakfast, so I have to peek at that too. With a customized omelet station, crispy bacon, creamy scrambled eggs and fluffy pancakes, I can’t resist tasting almost everything on offer. The perfect way to start the day.
Other dining options within Manly Pacific include Tokyo Joe, which promises to bring the soul of Tokyo into the heart of Manly. Helmed by former Nobu Sydney Chef Marcelino Elamparo Papio Jr, Tokyo Joe offers alfresco and indoor dining and a menu featuring contemporary Japanese dishes made from the finest ingredients with traditional umami flavors.
Manly Pacific’s newest dining destination is 55 NORTH, a vibrant and eclectic bar adjoining the lobby. Named in honor of its prime position on Manly’s famed beachside strip North Steyne, 55 NORTH has an extensive cocktail menu featuring classics with a local Northern Beaches twist. With cozy booth seating, it’s the ideal place to relax and enjoy late afternoon cocktails as the sun goes down.
Manly’s other dining options
Of course, you’re not limited to the dining options contained within the hotel. Manly is one of Sydney’s best dining destinations, with a large range of options from casual beachfront eateries to fine dining restaurants. On the casual end of that scale, you’ll find Gelato Messina just a short walk down the Corso pedestrian mall. The renowned chain of gelato bars has just opened its first store on the Northern Beaches.
Promising to set the benchmark for gelato in Australia, Gelato Messina has more than 40 unique flavors. The menu includes a decadent chocolate fondant, fruity tropical delights such as passionfruit and a dessert-like panna cotta with fig jam and amaretti biscuit. The hardest part is choosing which one to order. (Tip: ask for samples before you make your final decision and order two scoops, so you only have to narrow it down to two flavors, rather than one).
For fine dining, you can’t go past Hugos Manly, which is perfectly positioned on iconic Manly Wharf and serves fresh contemporary Italian cuisine and cutting-edge cocktails. The pizzas are a big draw card here, but I order the crispy skin barramundi. It’s an excellent choice, according to the waiter. He informs me that it was recently removed from the menu, yet had to be swiftly put back on due to popular demand from regular clientele.
With the best of the beach life on your doorstep and the city within arm’s reach, Manly really is the ultimate getaway destination.
While the food and cocktails here are incredible, there’s no doubt that Hugos’ star attraction is its spectacular waterfront dining location. From my waterside table on the deck, I can hear the water lapping underneath my feet. A constant stream of ferries come and go across the harbor. Sun-kissed day-trippers head home after a fun-filled day at the beach. Glammed-up evening visitors arrive for dinner and drinks.
A brilliant golden orange glow is cast across the sky as the sun slowly dips behind the horizon. Seagulls squawk above my head. I take a sip of my Manly Mai Tai cocktail, embracing that relaxed vacation vibe that’s creeping in all over again.
And as my eyes fall on the ferries, gliding effortlessly across the harbor, rising and falling over the gentle swell, I’m reminded yet again that this glorious seaside suburb is indeed only a 30-minute ferry ride – or seven miles – from the city. With the best of the beach life on your doorstep and the city within arm’s reach, Manly really is the ultimate getaway destination.