Is Bondi or Manly Beach better?

Is Bondi or Manly Beach Better in 2024?

Are you trying to decide whether Bondi or Manly Beach is better to visit? Both are beautiful surf beaches in Sydney, Australia and both are perfect for a day at the beach or a holiday in Sydney. Visit Bondi or Manly and you’ll find a gorgeous beach within easy reach of the city. There are a lot of similarities between the two but there are some differences too.

Having lived in Sydney most of my life, I’ve been to Bondi and Manly many times. I love the ferry ride to Manly and the relaxed lifestyle, but Bondi Beach on a sunny day is breathtaking and there’s a buzzing beach vibe in Bondi too.

In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference which one you choose. To help you decide whether Bondi or Manly Beach is better to visit, I’ve compiled this guide that looks at the pros and cons, location, the best things to do and more.

On a 4 day Sydney itinerary, you’ll have time to see both.

A crescent of golden sand and blue water at Bondi Beach on a sunny day
Bondi Beach in Sydney

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Is Bondi or Manly Beach Better?

Bondi Beach is Sydney’s most famous surf beach and it’s very popular. There’s a thriving backpacker and surf scene that draws a trendy young crowd, but there’s also an outdoor, health and wellness culture.

Manly Beach is also very beautiful and is known internationally as a surfing destination. Manly also attracts a lot of visitors but if you’re looking for a beautiful beach with a relaxed vibe that’s less crowded than Bondi then Manly may be a better choice for you.

The TV shows Bondi Rescue and Bondi Vet were filmed in Bondi and this has increased the popularity of Bondi Beach with visitors. The scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is another drawcard and Bondi has colourful street art and weekend markets that give the suburb a unique feel.

Bondi Beach is stunning but Manly Beach has a gorgeous surf beach and attractive park areas with tall pine trees that provide shade on a hot sunny day. It’s also worth visiting Manly for the picturesque ferry ride from the city. Catching the Manly ferry is the perfect way to enjoy Sydney’s beautiful harbour.

But is Bondi or Manly better? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. If you ask a local, they’ll say that Bondi is full of tourists and Manly is full of yuppies. Tourists prefer Bondi and Sydneysiders like Manly.

Let’s look a bit more closely at what you can expect from Bond or Manly Beach.

Swimmers at Manly Beach
Swimmers at Manly Beach

Bondi Beach vs Manly Beach Pros & Cons

Bondi Beach ProsManly Beach Pros
Wow factor – Stunning BeachScenic Ferry ride from the city
Great surf & & Bondi BathsLess crowded than Bondi
Known internationally as a surfing destinationKnown internationally as a surfing destination
Trendy vibe & surf cultureA relaxed & upmarket with a surf scene
Good for professional & beginner surfersGood for professional & beginner surfers
Close to the CBDShaded parks near the beach
Closer to the airportThe Fairy Bower Sea Pool
Bondi to Coogee Coastal WalkCoastal walk & ocean swims to Shelly Beach
Famous as a TV set for Bondi Rescue & Bondi VetNorth Head & Fairfax Lookout
Bondi Icebergs Club & Ocean Pools Manly Wharf Restaurants & Bars
Trendy cafes, bars, restaurants and clubsTrendy beachside cafes, bars & restaurants
Local Markets: Farmers Market & Bondi Market fresh produce, artisan products & fashionManly Corso shops & weekend markets: Fresh produce & Art & Craft
Good choice of accommodation for all budgetsAccommodation for all budgets
Fitness & wellness sceneFitness & wellness scene
Street ArtNot quite as expensive as Bondi
Bondi Beach ConsManly Beach Cons
Overcrowded with tourists and backpackersFurther away from the city
More famous internationallyFurther away from the airport
More expensive: Australia’s most expensive seaside destination  Weekend crowds
An overflowing car park with metres & traffic jamsLimited parking with metres
Exposed beach area with no trees or shade 
Map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

Manly or Bondi Beach: Location

Manly Beach and Bondi Beach are both located in Sydney and you can stay in either Manly or Bondi for a beachside holiday and have easy access to the city. Bondi Beach is 7 kilometres from the CBD while Manly is 14 kilometres from the city centre and both are easily accessible for a day trip.

TIP: Visiting Bondi or Manly is a fun day out and one of the best day trips in Sydney.

Getting There

Ferry to Manly Beach

Travelling by ferry to Manly Beach is a pleasure. From Circular Quay Wharf 3, the ferry to Manly Cove passes the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the entrance to Sydney Harbour. The Manly ferry takes around 30 minutes (20 minutes on the fast ferry).

NOTE: There’s no direct Bondi to Manly ferry. But the City Hopper Ferry stops at Watson’s Bay and you can catch a bus from Bondi Beach to Watson’s Bay and then catch the ferry to Manly.

How to get to Bondi Beach

The easiest way to get to Bondi Beach from the city is to catch the Express 333 bus from Circular Quay. The trip takes around 30 – 40 minutes but the bus gets pretty crowded.

Alternatively, you can catch a train from the city to Bondi Junction and a bus to Bondi Beach. The trip takes 30 – 40 minutes.

Or catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay and a bus from Watsons Bay to Bondi Beach. It’s a much more scenic route but it’s a bit more expensive and takes around 45 – 60 minutes.

TIP: The Hop-on-hop-off bus is an easy way to get to Bondi Beach from the city and see the main attractions on a day out in Sydney.

While Bondi is easy to reach by public transport, the spectacular ferry ride to Manly Beach is a winner here.

Winner: Manly

The Manly ferry arriving at the wharf
The Manly ferry arriving at the wharf

Bondi vs Manly Beach for Things to do

There are lots of fun things to do in both Bondi and Manly. Here are some suggestions:

Things to do in Bondi

  • Enjoy Bondi Beach – Swim, surf and sunbathe
  • The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
  • Enjoy the Cafes & restaurants by the beach like the iconic Hard Rock Café
  • Enjoy cozy bars and pubs or party at trendy nightclubs
  • Shop at the local weekend Markets
  • Shop at the trendy Boutiques on Gould Street
  • Enjoy the local Street art at the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall
  • Visit the Bondi Pavilion for exhibitions, live performances
  • Stop for a cocktail at Bucket List, a bright, buzzy bar in the Bondi Pavilion
  • Take a Yoga or fitness class
  • Swim at Mackenzies Bay
  • Visit the Lookout at Ben Buckler Point
  • Explore the South Head at Watson’s Bay
  • Shop at Bondi Junction
Big waves filling up the ocean pools at the Bondi Icebergs Club
Big waves filling up the ocean pools at the Bondi Icebergs Club

Things to do in Manly

  • Enjoy Manly Beach – Swim, surf, sunbathe
  • learn to surf
  • Relax by the beach with an ice cream, a coffee and a good book
  • Swim at the rockpool at Queenscliff at the other end of Manly Beach
  • Kayak, paddleboard or sail in Manly Cove.
  • Walk to Shelly Beach on the coastal path.
  • Snorkel in the Marine Reserve at Shelly Beach
  • Enjoy a sunrise & sunset at the beach.
  • Take a dip in the lovely Fairy Bower Sea Pool on Marine Parade Manly
  • Ocean swim with “The Bold and the Beautiful” around Manly Point to Shelly Beach
  • Relax with a drink and watch the sunset from Manly Wharf Bar.
  • Enjoy harbour and city views from Fairfax Lookout at North Head
  • Relax with a Yoga class by the Beach
  • Browse the stalls at the weekend markets for arts and crafts, fresh produce & artisan food
  • Shop at Manly Corso
  • Enjoy the cafes & restaurants by the beach in Manly! The Bower cafe near the Fair Bower Sea Pool has waterside outdoor seating with a sea view
  • Manly to Spit Bridge Walk

You can choose Bondi or Manly Beach and find a long list of things to do but which beach is better is a matter of opinion. The markets and street art at Bondi offer a unique beachside experience but Manly has an ocean beach, a Bay beach, an Aquatic Reserve, weekend markets and a wider range of water activities for a beach holiday.

Winner: Manly

A girl swimming in the Fairy Bower Sea Pool at Manly
The Fairy Bower Sea Pool in Manly

Manly or Bondi Beach for Coastal walks

You can visit both Manly and Bondi for coastal walks and stunning ocean views.

Bondi walks

The very popular 6-kilometre Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk takes around 2 hours and follows a gorgeous cliffside path offering stunning ocean views. The path begins on Notts Avenue near the Bondi Iceberg’s Club and passes by beautiful beaches, parks, rock pools and the cliffside Waverley Cemetery along the way.

In March each year, the coastal path is decorated with artworks from the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. It’s a lovely time to walk from Bondi to Coogee but it can be very crowded.

The walk from Bondi Beach to Watson’s Bay takes 2-3 hours and offers stunning cliff views, but the 9-kilometre path travels across parks and residential streets. Along the way, there are superb sunset views from Dudley Page Reserve and the trail follows the clifftops past the historic Macquarie Lighthouse to The Gap in Watsons Bay.   

people enjoying Manly Point on the coastal walk to Shelly Beach
Manly Point on the coastal walk to Shelly Beach

Manly Walks

On the north side of the harbour, the 1.5-kilometre Manly to Shelly Beach path is a very pretty walk around the coast to the Aquatic Reserve in Cabbage Tree Bay. Shelly Beach is a popular spot for swimming and snorkelling and the walking track continues to lookout points and the military barracks on the North Head of Sydney Harbour.  

There’s also a steep 45-minute walk from the Manly Ferry Wharf to North Head and Fairfax Lookout with lovely views of the city across the water.

The Manly to Spit Bridge coastal hike takes around 4 hours and delivers bush ocean and harbour views

While Manly offers some lovely walks and viewpoints, the epic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is the pick of these walking trails.

Winner: Bondi

Beach Sunrise & Sunset

There are lovely sunrise views at either Manly or Bondi Beach, but Manly has easterly views that are perfect for watching the sunrise over the waves. And for sunsets, Manly Cove Beach near the ferry wharf has a perfect west-facing aspect. The Fairfax lookout on Manly’s North Head is also a popular spot for watching the sunset with distant city views over Sydney Harbour.

At Bondi, the sun rises over the headland and sets over the city. Sunrises are best at Bondi and although the Grassy Knoll at Bondi Beach is a popular sunset spot, you won’t see the sunset over the water at Bondi Beach.

The best Bondi sunset viewpoint is at Dudley Page Reserve in Dover Heights a 10-15 minute walk from Bondi Beach. Take a picnic and relax on the grass with the backpackers and tourists watching the sunset over Sydney.

Winner: Manly

Bondi or Manly for Nightlife

If you’re looking for nightlife, you’ll find a good selection of bars, restaurants and cafes at both beaches.

At Bondi Beach, sip cocktails with friends at Bondi Hardware, relax and unwind at the Speakeasy Bar or enjoy a meal and a drink at the Bondi Icebergs Club.

In Manly, head to the Wharf Bar to watch the sunset over the bay, stop for a drink at Donny’s Bar, the Steyne Hotel or enjoy live music and a meal at Tropikana on Manly Beach.

While Manly Beach has a good selection of bars, cafés and restaurants, the atmosphere is more chilled. Bondi is the place to be if you like to party with more clubs, bars and discos to choose from.

Winner: Bondi

A sunrise in Sydney at Bondi Beach
Sunrise in Sydney at Bondi Beach

Bondi vs Manly Beach for Accommodation

There’s a good choice of accommodation for all budgets at either Bondi or Manly Beach.

Bondi has hostels, budget hotels, luxury apartments and resort-style hotels but Bondi is Australia’s most expensive beach destination.

Manly also has a range of accommodation but there’s less choice than at Bondi. The backpacker and budget options are limited, and mid-range accommodation also tends to be expensive in Manly.

Winner: Bondi

Where to Stay at Bondi Beach

Budget: Wake Up! Bondi Beach Is a small hostel with a stunning rooftop view. The location is perfect, right on Bondi Beach.

Mid Range: Hotel Bondi  Across the road from famous Bondi Beach, this 3-star hotel is a great choice for a beach holiday in Sydney with comfortable rooms and excellent service.

Luxury: QT Bondi is a 5-star hotel with spacious and beautifully decorated rooms just 200 metres from the beach.

Where to Stay in Manly

Budget: Manly Lodge Boutique Hotel has a good location just a stone’s throw from the ferry and the beach with nice people and a cafe downstairs.

Board Rider Backpackers and Budget Motel offers cheap, basic accommodation overlooking Manly Corso a short walk from shops, the beach and the ferry. The location can be noisy on weekends.

Mid Range: Manly Paradise Motel and Apartments is located across the road from Manly Beach. Guests choose this hotel for a beach escape and love the rooftop pool and the views.

Upper Mid Range: Quest Manly is an exceptional choice located near the ferry wharf for handy access to the city. It’s a short walk to beaches, shops, pubs and restaurants.

TIP: Find the best places to stay in Sydney in the CBD, inner city suburbs or at the beach.

Pine trees and parklands at Manly Beach
Manly vs Bondi: Pine trees and parklands at Manly Beach


Is it worth going to Manly Beach?

Yes, it’s worth going to Manly Beach for the ferry ride on the spectacular Sydney Harbour. The ferry passes between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and sails past the heads to Manly Cove. Once you’re in Manly there’s a beautiful surf beach that’s perfect for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, scenic coastal walks and a selection of cafes, restaurants and bars to enjoy.

Is Bondi bigger than Manly?

Bondi Beach is around 1 kilometre long and 50 – 100 metres wide. It’s a huge beach and forms a perfect crescent shape but still gets very crowded. Manly Beach is twice as long at around 2 kilometres from end to end. It’s a narrower beach than Bondi but it feels less crowded.

Is Bondi Beach worth going to?

Yes, Bondi Beach is worth going to for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. The beach is gorgeous with golden sand and deep blue water and there’s a cosmopolitan feel but it’s very popular and often crowded. Bondi Beach has been made famous by the TV shows Bondi Rescue and Bondi Vet. Backpackers and tourists flock to Bondi so if you don’t like crowds, perhaps choose another of Sydney’s many beautiful beaches such as Bronte, Coogee or Cur Curl instead.  

Is Manly a good swimming beach?

Manly has an excellent swimming beach with patrolled areas for swimming in the surf. Manly is also the home of the Bold and the Beautiful Ocean Swimming Club with a large community of ocean swimmers who gather early in the morning to swim around the point. Swimming is also popular in the calm waters of Manly Cove and Shelly Beach.

TIP: If you prefer to avoid crowded beaches, Sydney has lots of other options. Bronte, Coogee, Cronulla, Curl Curl, Dee Why and Palm Beach are just a few stunning Sydney beaches that are less hip and less crowded than either Manly or Bondi. 

Final Thoughts – Is Bondi or Manly Beach better?

Both Bondi and Manly offer the relaxed beach lifestyle that Sydney is so famous for. But which is better? In this comparison, it’s very close but Manly has the edge.

Iconic Bondi Beach is the top beach destination in Sydney and has the WOW factor with a stunning seaside location. Bondi is more lively and draws a younger crowd who like to party. But Bondi Beach gets very crowded and is the most expensive beach holiday destination in Australia.

Manly is also incredibly beautiful and has a more relaxed beach vibe than Bondi. Although Manly can be very busy, there are fewer tourists and backpackers and more locals. It’s a bit further away from the city but getting there by ferry is one of the best things to do in Sydney. Manly is a great choice for a beach holiday and wins this Bondi vs Manly Beach comparison.

People relaxing on the green lawn on the hill behind the white sands of Bondi Beach
Manly vs Bondi: The grassy area behind Bondi Beach in Sydney

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