Of the many ways to explore Sydney Harbour, kayaking is one of my favourites. We took an inflatable kayak* from Manly to explore Sydney North Harbour and had a fabulous time. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Manly for nature lovers!

Are you thinking of buying an inflatable kayak? We love how we can now explore more places easily since we got one. Check out my tips on how to choose an inflatable kayak and the most important questions to answer first.

Kayak in front of beautiful cliffs in Manly North Harbour

Why do I love kayaking Sydney North Harbour and Manly so much?

First, Manly is one of my favourite places in Sydney. Check out my post about Manly Beach vs Bondi Beach if you want to know why.

So I naturally love combining it with one of my favourite activities: kayaking. One of the reasons why I love kayaking so much is that we cannot be closer to the sea than on a kayak. And the stunning cliffs of Sydney North Harbour as you go around the heads look as big as ever from a kayak. You can get really close and fully embrace their beauty. I love hiking the Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk and it is fantastic to get a different point of view of this stunning landscape.

View of Dobroyd Head from Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk
View of Dobroyd Head and the entrance of Sydney Harbour from Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk

Also, kayaking makes it easy to access secluded beaches. Forget about the crowd in Manly: empty beaches are just a few paddles away.

Plus, kayaking is also a good opportunity to spot wildlife. I always enjoy watching birds when I’m kayaking, and we saw a pelican and a few beautiful cormorants during our paddle in Sydney North Harbour. If you’re very lucky, you may even spot a penguin or a seal as they sometimes visit the area.

Washaway Beach, our lunch stop

How to hire a kayak in Manly

We were lucky to have access to a kayak in Manly so we didn’t need to hire one. If you want to hire a kayak, you can check if any of these two places have availabilities:

Both are located at walking distance from Manly Wharf, on the right when you exit the wharf.

Manly Wharf

If you hire a kayak, you will be limited to kayaking the east of North Harbour, all the way from the wharf to Quarantine Beach. You won’t be allowed to cross the ferry lane, so you’ll be kayaking opposite to where we went. There are lovely small coves to explore.

Kayaking the west coast of Sydney North Harbour

As we had our own kayak, there were no limits in where we could paddle. So we decided to go where we wouldn’t be able to go if we had hired a kayak in Manly.

We left from Manly North Harbour Reserve and paddle around Dobroyd Head to the stunning Washaway Beach. After about one hour, we stopped for lunch on Washaway Beach before returning to North Harbour. By the time we left Washaway Beach, the tide was getting higher and the sand started to disappear. So if you plan to head this way, make sure you check the tide times and read the tips below.

Manly North Harbour Reserve

Things to know about Washaway Beach

Washaway Beach is a former nudist beach, so don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t wear clothes on this remote beach. Although some would say it is possible to get there on foot by going down the cliff, you’d better not be scared of heights and like rock climbing. I much prefer the kayaking option!

Still, Washaway Beach can be tricky to access with a kayak and is only an option on a calm day. As it faces east towards the entrance of Sydney Harbour, it is the highest energy of the harbour. You may get wet and feel adventurous as you approach and leave the beach with the waves!

Kayaking in Manly: map of where you can go

If you come from Sydney CBD, you can hop on a ferry to reach Manly in about 40 minutes. It’s one of the most scenic public transport options you’ll ever experience in Australia, and even worldwide. Indeed, you will view Sydney’s iconic landmarks from the boat (Opera House, Harbour Bridge) and pass along the beautiful cliffs before reaching Sydney North Harbour and Manly Wharf. Keep your eyes open: it’s a good opportunity to observe the conditions of the sea where you will take your kayak.

The pins on the east indicate where you can hire a kayak and the furthest you can go. You will have to paddle along the east coast of Sydney North Harbour. The pins on the west indicate where we started (Sydney North Harbour Reserve) and where we turned around (Washaway Beach).


Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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