Sunday 29 October 2023

The Spit Bridge to Manly Walk

Spit to Manly 29-10-2023

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Route: Spit Bridge, Fisher Bay, Bradys Point, Sandy Bay, Clontarf Beach, Clontarf Marina, Clontarf Point, Castle Rock Beach, Lighthouse Track, Grotto Point, Stone art site, Crater Cove Lookout, Dobroyd Head Lookout, Reef Beach, Forty Baskets Beach, North Harbour Walk, North Habour Reserve, Fairlight Walk, Fairlight Beach, Federation Point, Manly Cove

Date: 29/10/2023
From: Spit Bridge

Parking: N/A
Start Point: Spit Bridge
Finish Point: Manly Wharf
Region: Sydney

Route length:  10.0km
Time taken: 02:50
Average speed: 4.3km/h
Ascent: 228m
Descent: 219m

Points of Interest: Fisher Bay, Clontarf. Grotto Point, Crater Cove, Dobroyd Head, North Harbour

The Spit Bridge to Manly Walk is the most well-known section of the Manly Scenic Walkway and is one of the most popular walks in the Sydney area - if not the world. According to TripAdvisor, it ranks among the top 10% of all listings on TripAdvisor globally. It now forms part of the longer Bondi to Manly Walk - the 80km hike that links Bondi Beach to Manly Beach
Bondi to Manly has become a popular challenge for many
The appeal of the hike lies in its beauty as it passes through Sydney Harbour National Park, several bushland reserves, features Aboriginal carvings and has several amazing viewpoints. As the hike is one-way, it can be walked in either direction, although ending the hike in Manly is nicer than finishing at Spit Bridge.

For us, getting to Spit first requires a train to the city and then a bus to the northern side of the harbour, disembarking at Spit Bridge. There are toilet facilities, and you can grab a coffee and/or snack at the nearby cafe before beginning your hike.

The Spit to Manly hike begins by crossing the bridge along a narrow footpath and then descending below the bridge abutments to the shoreline of Middle Harbour. Here begins the Spit-Manly Track - one of the most popular hikes in Sydney. The Spit Bridge to Manly Track was opened in 1988 as the Manly Scenic Walkway - a name it still retains but nobody uses.
Middle Harbour - gloomy for now but the weather was forecast to cheer up
Below Spit Bridge
The first bridge at The Spit was a wooden structure built in 1924. Until the bridge was built, a local farmer by the name of Peter Ellery had a rowing boat to ferry passengers across the water by request. A small park now bears his name - Ellery's Punt Reserve. The modern lifting bridge, built in 1958, is still a vital link across Middle Harbour, opening at timed intervals during the day, causing frequent traffic jams.

The foreshore path leads through Ellery's Punt Reserve and around the lush fringes of Fisher Bay, passing some old water pipes that used to feed the steam trams which ran around the area. The path leads to Bradley's Point and the idyllic Sandy Bay, heading into Clontarf Reserve which gets its name from the coastal suburb in Dublin. On 12th March 1868, Clontarf became infamous as the site of Australia’s first assassination attempt.
Manly Scenic Walkway
Fisher Bay
Fisher Bay
On that day Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, was guest of honour at a sailor’s picnic at Clontarf. Henry James O’Farrell jumped out of the crowd of picnickers, shooting at the duke, however, the duke’s rubber suspenders deflected the bullet, sparing him a major injury. 
Fisher Bay
Sandy Bay
Guilty, O’Farrell was hanged a month later, despite the duke seeking clemency on his behalf. After the assassination attempt, citizens donated money for a “substantial monument in testimony of the heartfelt gratitude of the community at the recovery of HRH”. Hence the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney’s inner west was built in 1882.
Clontarf Beach
Clontarf Point
Clontarf Beach
The hike really gets going after reaching Clontarf Point and entering the Sydney Harbour National Park. The undulating track along the coastline leads to Castle Beach and Dobroyd Head and has some magnificent views.
 There is an optional detour to Grotto Point Lighthouse, but it involves a 1km tramp through some rugged bush to the end of the Grotto Point peninsula and is not for everyone.
The rugged shoreline of the Harbour National Park
On the Clontarf Track
Castle Rock Beach
There are plenty of filtered views across the harbour
The path begins to climb Dobroyd Head
Sydney Harbour National Park
Sydney Harbour National Park
As the path climbs towards Dobroyd Head you will find an open area just off the path, which is home to some of Sydney's most accessible Aboriginal engravings - Grotto Point. Large timber frames are built around each engraving to discourage people from walking on them, but none are fenced off. This site is in a typical rock engraving location: an elevated flat sandstone outcrop.
South Head
Middle Head
The Grotto Point engravings include boomerangs, fish, sharks, a large kangaroo, and a fairy penguin. Aboriginal people follow an oral tradition where knowledge is passed down through storytelling. The engravings on this rock ledge link the Gai-mariagal people to their Creation – timeless Aboriginal mythology and spirituality. The engravings are thought to be about 1,000 years old and were originally made by connecting a series of holes made by the sharp corner of quartz tools or similar hard rocks.
Grotto Point engravings
Leaving the engravings behind, we continued towards the high point of Dobroyd Head where the landscape changes once again. The tall trees subside, replaced with an expanse of Banksia plants, a common feature of the coastal landscape in New South Wales. The wide path leads to a rock ledge and the lookout overlooking the dramatic Crater Cove.
Crater Cove
From here is a superb view of the Sydney headlands; North Head, South Head (with the distinctive red and white stripes of Hornby Lighthouse), and Middle Head jutting in front of the distant city skyline. During the last ice age, sea levels were 100 metres lower than today, making the coastline several kilometres east of where they are now. Sydney Harbour was once a tree-lined gorge, much like those found in the Blue Mountains.
South Head
Crater Cove
Middle Harbour
Tucked into the cliffs to the left of the cove are a curious set of small cabins. The first cabin was built in 1923 by fishermen using driftwood washed into the cove. From there, more sturdy dwellings were constructed of stone cut from the site and corrugated iron carried through the bush. Numerous shack settlements were built around Sydney at this time, most popular during the Depression when people left the city for a rent-free life of fishing and hunting. These, and the cabin communities in Royal National Park, are the only remaining examples.
Crater Cove huts
The path continues to the lookout at Dobroyd Head which has another majestic view of the entrance to Sydney Harbour before the path descends towards the cliffs and the shore, reaching Reef Beach as it approaches North Harbour.
Fairlight Lookout
Dobroyd Head
North Harbour
Sydney Heads
South Head
Dobroyd Head
Reef Beach is a declared Aboriginal Place of the Gai-mariagal people, protected by NSW law in recognition that Aboriginal sites and places are culturally significant. An overgrown midden can be found if you know what you are looking for. The Spit to Manly Track passes the beach on its way to North Harbour.
Reef Beach
With the arrival of the first fleet, Governor Phillip had orders from the British King to “endeavour by every possible means to open an Intercourse with the Natives and to conciliate their affections”. The Indigenous people, however, stayed away from the new Sydney Town. So, Phillip decided to kidnap someone to act as a cultural go-between, Arabanoo.
Reef Bay
Reef Bay
It was here, in present-day North Harbour, that Captain Phillip had encountered the “manly behaviour” of local Aboriginal men, so it was here that Phillip decided to target (the name Manly stuck). Arabanoo’s capture was distressing, however, when his manacles were removed months later, he stayed to share his people’s language and customs.
Forty Baskets Beach
Forty Baskets Beach
Reef Bay
Sadly, a few months later, Arabanoo was dead; killed by smallpox. He was one of an estimated two thousand Aboriginal people killed by the 1879 epidemic. With no immunity against European disease, half of Sydney’s Aboriginal population was wiped out within 15 months of the First Fleet’s arrival.

The path around North Harbour is dependent on the tides or your willingness to get your feet wet. Being a warm day, we opted for the latter, wading through the shallows to reach the North Harbour Reserve. After the shortest of diversions along the streets, the track returns to the shore, reaching Fairlight Beach and Fairlight Pool.
North Harbour Sailing Club
North Harbour
Fairlight Pool is one of the remnants of Manly's early history as a resort. A retired English merchant, Henry Gilbert Smith, is responsible for Manly’s emergence as we know it today. In the 1850s, Smith envisioned his considerable land holdings being developed as an English-style seaside resort town.
North Harbour
Fairlight beach
To attract Sydneysiders, he began the first ferry service from town and built the Pier Hotel opposite the wharf. Residential blocks sold slowly while Smith developed infrastructure. He donated land for parks, schools, churches, a school of arts and a police station. The sandstone fence is all that remains of a beautiful two-storey 1850s Georgian mansion built by Smith as his family’s residence. The huge Norfolk Island Pines which line the path were planted by the succeeding owner.
One of the contemporary ferries that ply the waters of Sydney Harbour
We followed the path a short distance to the ferry wharf at Manly Cove to conclude the penultimate leg of the Bondi to Manly Track. Manly has a long-standing reputation as a tourist destination, owing to its attractive setting on the Pacific Ocean and easy accessibility by ferry. The relaxed lifestyle, beaches and proximity to Sydney have led to Manly's real estate prices being amongst the highest in Australia.
Manly Wharf
We stopped for a drink at one of the many Manly bars before venturing along the Corso to sit by the sea and indulge in a bit of people-watching while we waited for the next ferry back to Sydney. The Sydney-Manly ferry is one of the best ways to see Sydney Harbour and it is especially good during the warm light of a late afternoon.
Many Wharf
Dobroyd Head
A perfect day for a sail in the harbour
The Gunners Barracks on Middle Head
Sydney Opera House
Sydney CBD
Approaching Circular Quay
Sydney Opera House
The Aboriginal and Australian flags fly over the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
The Manly ferry at Circular Quay

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