Ride around Manly and then up the hill to North Head
If visitors come to Sydney, it is likely they will enjoy the Opera House and the Bridge, they will head to Bondi and walk to Coogee and then they are going want to head to Manly on the ferry. And why not! When they get to Manly, they can walk around and its likely they will see most of what is on offer in about 5 hours. Or they could hop on a bike and see everything and a bit more in 2hrs.
So where do we want to ride in Manly and is it safe, fun and easy ? To me, that is dependent on your hill climbing strength and if you understand where you are going. First though there is getting a bike to start with and if you don't have one there are bike hiring opportunities in Manly
You can put your bike on the slower ferries that head to Manly from Circular Quay. I suggest you first try the really good Darling Harbour ride so you understand moving around the city first.
The second way is to drive to Manly. I suggest early and don't bother after 3pm if you are coming through North Sydney. Too busy. Whilst you can drive right through to Manly, I suggest the following spots to drop your car.
Dudley St, Balgowlah. There is a trail at the end of this road. Head down that trail and end up on Balgowlah Rd. Watch for this turnoff to Dudley st, its really close to Manly Rd. If you miss it, you are not getting back to it easily.
60 to 68 Baringa Avenue, Seaforth: On the north side you will see a trail running down the hill to the creek. Head to the east to Balgowlah Rd by passing under the A3 using the tunnel.
If you want to ride no hills and see some cool things and not ride on a road, ride from Marine Parade to Seaforth as shown in the following map. Its pretty easy from Manly Beach, head to the north till you get to Manly Lagoon, ride under the bridge and head west along the park till you get to Balgowlah Rd. The bike path continues on the far side. Ride up Balgolwolah road past the very impressive Des Renford swimming pool complex and Manly golf course. When you get to Pitt St, turn right and at the big A3 freeway you will find a good cycle path to the left. Ride up this to get to the two car parking places I mentioned. On the way you should pass a massive colony of flying foxes (marsupial bats). Pass under the A3 through a tunnel and keep riding a couple more kilometers into Seaforth past some pretty good tree ferns and bushland. You will eventually come to the end.
Biking things on the way: Along Manly beach, stay on the shared bike paths and not the walking paths which are closer to the beach. Its a busy place, soak it up slowly. Manly Lagoon is the place you will take your little kids to learn to cycle, everyone else does. In Seaforth, the turn off to Manly Dam can be found for MTB enthusiasts. Also in Seaforth, just off Koobilya St is a BMX area that kids might want to have a crack at. Its hidden in the trees.
At the southern end of Manly Beach, you need to decide, am I feeling like hill climbing or ice cream. I fully recommend North Head, so out of the saddle and head up the hill using Darley Rd. This is situated halfway between the beach and the bay where the ferries are. There will be a lot of cars around so take your time if you are from a country that rides on the other side of the road. You will come to a shared bike/walking path to ride up the hill. I will leave you to work out North Head using the map, you cannot get lost and the views are fantastic, especially down into the Q Station.
A Map To Explain
Click on map below and you will see paths that will give you up to 2 hours riding and not put you on the road with the traffic for more than 1 km all up.
The colour scheme I have used is as follows. Blue is competent teenager and cruiser rider ready, its flat and you can enjoy your ride and take in the sights.
In North Head, the green track is a fire trail and will be a bit bumpy but is not on the tourist tarmac road so it will be peaceful. You get some great photos from it of the harbour.
The red parts are quite steep and too long a distance to say "you could walk up it". If you are not happy with hills, don't bother. The red roads in the Q Station were designed by billy goats but thankfully only need two major 100m pushes. Its worth it for the sweat.
Please note that you cannot ride to Shelly Beach, it is banned. If you are hiring a bike, do it after you go to Shelly Beach. You may see people on the path with bikes. I am just telling you what the signs say and there is more than one.
A really good idea if you want to ride around North Head (because it is quite big) would be to walk to Shelly Beach and then continue your walk up on the Barracks Precinct Walk to the Q Station. At the Q Station you can rent a bike at reception. Now ride around North Head and take the plunge down the hill to the beautiful Quarantine Beach.
Short Cut: If you want to avoid going back to Manly Lagoon, head past the Manly ferry terminal and at the end of the beach, go up the hill and join Commonwealth Parade. It soon turns into a narrow, two lane shared bike and footpath. Follow this which turns into Lauderdale Ave up to Rosedale Avenue. At this stage the road heads down a steep hill. Complete the loop by going up Rosedale. If you are in a group, one person can go get the car and the rest can ride down to the North Harbour reserve and wait for you.
Best of Manly and North Head photos below. Click to expand
Trail photos from Seaforth to Manly Lagoon to Manly Beach to Ferry Terminal then up to North Head and then across to Balgowlah Rd
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