From Circular Quay you can catch a bevy of ferries, including fast and regular ferries to Manly Beach on the northern side of Sydney. I found myself on an early Saturday morning ferry with my friend and tour guide, Chris (from Aussie on the Road), heading up to check out this well-recommended spot.
The ferry to Manly takes 30 minutes each way and costs 6.60 for a one-way ticket. As it leaves Circular Quay and heads out into deeper water, it offers riders a great chance to take unobstructed photos of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. The top deck offers free WiFi to anyone who wants to upload that perfect photo to Instagram, update their Facebook status, or get that elusive boat badge on Foursquare.
Upon arriving at Manly Wharf, you can dine at one of their cafes, head right for more secluded private beaches, or walk straight to explore the local shops. This whole area has a very small-town feel, which made me think of walking around the older parts of downtown Sanford at home. Past the shops and restaurants is Manly Beach, teeming with sunbathers, surfers, swimmers, and people out enjoying the nice weather. You can take a walking path all around this beach area, stopping at several destinations and totaling anywhere from a quick 30 minute trip to longer treks lasting 4 hours. It was suggested that I walk down to Shelly Beach to check it out, so onward I went. About 20 minutes of walking down the beach path along the breaks got me to Shelly Beach. In the aquamarine waters, children waded with their parents, and a small group of three were learning how to dive with an instructor. The atmosphere here was not hurried; instead, it was very calm, laid-back, and relaxed, a far cry from what I've been doing in Korea. It was a welcome relief.
As the sun started setting, I headed back to the shopping area to grab a milkshake, enjoy some live music, and watch impatient seagulls try to steal fish and chips from people's baskets. Any piece of food thrown to them was fought over in an almost-death match.
I waited long enough to catch the 4:45 ferry back to Circular Quay, perfectly timed to get sunset pictures over the Harbor. People jostled for position at the front of the boat, all aiming to get the best shot of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge framed by golden sun. I was lucky to get off several good shots before relinquishing my spot to another. I followed that up with dinner and some night shots of the sparkling bridge and harbor before heading home.