Manly – 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. The second way is to drive to Balgowlah. 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 northern end of this road.
60 to 70 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.
Places to park your car to start your ride
All the way up
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.
Flat and easy trail around Manly and thru Balgowlah to Seaforth
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
See the 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 up the hill. 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.
Q Station – view from end of the pier
Narrabeen – Dee Why
All casual bike riders in Sydney have to ride around the Narrabeen Lakes at least once. Its really nice. But there are a couple of things to know so that you make this a great ride rather than a great short ride.
Firstly you need to get to the trail and the only option is come by car unless you want to hire a bike at the lake. There is a big trick here, if you park at one of the very well setup carparks next to the lake, you are going to pay $7 an hour. Local residents don’t need to pay but they also will know all about this trail anyway. I parked at the Middle Creek Reserve Park on Narrabeen Lagoon, facilities were nice and clean and you are right on the trail.
If you want to park on the trail that I am documenting, head to “St Matthews Farm Reserve” on S Creek Road in Cromer. Look for the brand new skateboard park. Another place is the large car park on the edge of Cromer Park soccer ovals and that is also on S Creek Road. If you park at Cromer Park, the path is on the south-west corner. For both car parks, head North-West to the Narrabeen Lagoon and South-East to Dee Why. Another reason for parking around Cromer is parking near Dee Why will be hopeless in summer as everyone heads to the beach.
Narrabeen Lake is very beautiful and it is very popular, sort of like Iron Cove in the inner west of Sydney. Same tactics apply here, get here early and you will have a smooth journey, arrive after 10 am and there will be lots of people walking and riding and lots of kids. I quite like the pausing and balancing, you may not. If you have kids, they won’t care either way. The track surface is fairly smooth with a lot of board walks on the north, bridges galore in the west, dirt track all along the south and the rest is footpath concrete shared path. I really liked the southern side. Most importantly, bring your camera.
So lets now make this ride a lot longer and lets not go on any roads. Step one is to ride up the side of Wakehurst pathway in the north-eastern corner of Narrabeen Lagoon and go to the beach at Narrabeen Head.
Step two is to head from the South Western Corner of Narrabeen Lagoon and ride to Dee Why. This track is really easy to follow down a number of parks and there is only one main road crossing. Its actually quite fun, not as busy as the Lagoon and the beach at Dee Why is terrific. Take your swimmers and a bike chain (use it on the bike, not in the water) in summer.
All up this ride is 23km long so with coffee shops, photographs and relaxing riding, this will eat up near 3 hours of your day. I bet you will enjoy it as these photos of the Narrabeen Lake show.
This ride features in our top ten Sydneys rides
If you want a little more riding on flat shared paths, you can head into the suburb of Warriewood for 7kms of exploring. Things to look for are the Irrawong waterfall and the Warriewood Valley Rocket Play Park. My map will show you how to ride around the Warriewood Wetlands which is a good bit of fun. If 30 km isn’t enough, drive down to Manly for another 20km of great riding.
Manly – Spit Bridge
We rode around the easy trails from Seaforth to Manly today with a friend and had a long coffee and cake. Then the gals headed back and I took off to try the trip to Dobroyd Head along the edge of the famous Manly to Spit Bridge walk. Sure glad I took my eBike, talk about hilly with great views.
When you ride Manly to Spit Bridge, you will probably end up at Davis Marina which is a good view dead end. Most of the Manly to Spit Bridge bike ride is on back roads. They are probably busy at peak hours and school times. Can be steep. Dobroyd Head would be the primary objective of the ride with views like this.
After you leave Dobroyd Head up and down you go on the backstreets with the bikes painted on then. Then you should arrive at the wonderful Sandybay near the spit bridge. Then it’s up the hills you go. See my north shore map.
This trail appears on the Manly Bike Maps and the roads are easy to follow by a) always going left and b) bike symbols on the roads. You are targeting Dobroyd Head. Its a great ride if you have an eBike as the roads are steep in places. But there in lies the catch, its just about all roads. I would try it once and see what you think but don’t take your teenagers with you.
Note: This sightseeing adventure is probably best walked as per Best Sydney Walks describes the Spit Bridge to Manly walk well >>
Plus this Long Ride