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A Local’s Guide to the Northern Beaches

Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, ManlyCREDIT: Destination NSW

Views of beachgoers at Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly from the water.

#ilovesydney

A Local’s Guide to
the Northern Beaches

Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly CREDIT: Destination NSW

Views of beachgoers at Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly from the water.

#ilovesydney

Hashtags #ilovesydney

From Manly to Palm Beach, Sydney’s Northern Beaches is famed for its sparkling shorelines, fresh seafood feasts and ocean adventures. We chat to the founder of marine adventure tour company EcoTreasures, Damien McClellan, about what he loves most in this coastal region. 

With more than 20 golden beaches, pristine marine and nature reserves, and a laidback coastal community, Sydney’s Northern Beaches has a lot to offer, and all just an hour’s drive from the city. What do you love most about the region? 

I love the landscape and the variety of places to visit on the Northern Beaches. We have amazing beaches, bushwalks and places to relax.  

There’s a village vibe within each coastal community in the Northern Beaches, with plenty of locally loved places to eat and drink. What is your go-to café in the area for a coffee?   

There are so many places to get a good coffee in the area, it is hard to choose. My go-to would have to be The Boathouse Shelley Beach; they have nice coffee, great food and a beachfront view. It is where I spend most of my time. 

Famous for fresh-from-the-ocean seafood, cool cafés and luxe fine dining, the Northern Beaches offers a range of dining experiences. What’s your favourite restaurant in the area? 

Livoti’s Italian restaurant in Dee Why. They are a family business that offer a great variety of delicious dishes at really good prices. My top pick is the boscaiola tortellini (tortellini in a ham and mushroom cream sauce), and a tiramisu for dessert.  

Tell us what your ultimate weekend on the Northern Beaches looks like. 

My ultimate weekend on the Beaches would be surfing with no crowds; an empty ocean is what surfers dream about. Aside from this, an amazing weekend would be bike riding with my family on the trails near Narrabeen, taking my dog for a walk on one of the beaches along the coast between Manly and Palm Beach, hiking down to The Basin Campground for a swim and picnic and finishing off with a delicious home-cooked meal using produce sourced from Organic Avenues Marketplace in Bilgola Beach. We are very spoiled for choice with the variety of activities we can enjoy on the Northern Beaches.  

Your tour company EcoTreasures takes visitors on expert-led snorkelling tours in Manly. What is the best snorkelling spot in the Northern Beaches? 

That is very easy: Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve at Shelly Beach in Manly is the best place by far. This protected marine reserve is home to rocky reefs, sea grass meadows and a sandy bottom, all habitats for a range of resident and transient marine species. 

This region is threaded with lush national parks that are ideal for bushwalking, swimming, cycling, fishing and more. If you had to recommend a hike or a beach in the area, what would it be? 

There are so many, and I think any of them will make you happy just to get outside and be in nature. I would say a hike to The Basin Campground in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a beautiful place for a swim or a paddle and would have to be one of the best day trips for anyone. With a picnic area, sheltered beach and an inland lagoon, The Basin campground is a very special place. 

What are your three must-dos on the Northern Beaches that you would recommend to visitors? 

  • Eat delicious Italian food at Livoti’s in Dee Why 

  • Be adventurous and go paddle boarding in Pittwater  

Do you have a favourite secret Sydney experience? 

A winter swim at Palm Beach in the morning with no wetsuit; it makes you feel pretty good once you get warm again.  

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