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Manly: Visitor’s Guide

Manly: Visitor’s Guide

Many years ago, I wandered into the small harbour-side village of Manly near Brisbane and fell in love. It has just about everything a boatie could desire: numerous boating clubs and marinas, a bustling but laid-back café and shopping precinct, and protected sailing with plenty of places to explore on Moreton Bay.

Today, I call the area home and my early impressions of Manly have been cemented. In fact, one year on from settling here, I realise I have only just scratched the surface.

Manly is only 19km from Brisbane, so it is only a short train or bus ride into the city, if you want to go exploring.

The Village

Manly Village is the hub of the action, with a plethora of cafes, restaurants, a hotel, bakery, chemist, and IGA supermarket. There is even a heated public swimming pool.

The farmer’s markets every second Saturday, and weekly craft markets every Sunday on the esplanade are a major drawcard. But there is a busy list of other kinds of attractions, including outdoor movies.

The Aboriginal Mipirimm people were the original inhabitants of Manly. The European settlement started in the 1860s. The area became a popular seaside location by the early 1900s.

For the boaties, Manly is the place to find a number of boating businesses that can address various needs.

Boaties are well catered for by long-time institution Muir Marine, which carries 10,000 product lines, and anything from a boat hook to a new anchor.

Yacht brokers Mike Davidson and Geoff Marsh, from Oceana Yacht Brokers and The Yacht Brokerage, respectively, are always happy to have a chat about all-things boating. Their window displays are truly the stuff of dreams.

The friendly staff at the Wynnum Manly tourist information centre on the William Gun Jetty near the pool can also answer questions and supply you with an armful of brochures.

manly shopping boat gold coast

Where to stay

Adjacent to the village fronting the Royal Esplanade, you will find more than 1,500 marina berths in four marinas.

Most visitors opt to berth in a marina. There is no close-at-hand all-weather anchorage the locals recommend, apart from Waterloo Bay off Wellington Point just outside the harbour, which is only comfortable in winds under 25 knots.

The Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club (MBTBC) is right across from Manly Village, and next to the Wynnum Manly Yacht Club (WMYC), the East Coast Marina, and the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron (RQYS). Just around the corner to the north up the Brisbane River is the Rivergate Marina and Shipyard.

The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron (RQYS) welcomes all varieties of boat owners. It is a mecca for competitive sailing, with the social Wednesday Afternoon Go Sailing (WAGS) race on Wednesdays, and the more serious point-score-type racing on Saturdays and Sundays. The Squadron has a very active sail-training program, which has proven successful at the international level. Five of the eleven sailors who represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics hailed from this club.

The Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club (MBTBC) and Wynnum Manly Yacht Club (WMYC) also welcome boaties of every variety, and both have restaurants and bars (although the yacht club’s clubhouse is only open part-time, so check before visiting).

Despite their multi-million-dollar water views, the food and drink prices at the clubs are competitive, with some enticing specials. My favourites include the two-for-one meal option at the Squadron Harbour View Restaurant at RQYS on Thursday nights, and the $12.90 steak lunch at MBTBC, Mondays to Saturdays.

The East Coast Marina is a commercial marina and does not have a clubhouse. It has a café and excellent liveaboard facilities, plus a multi-million-dollar dry-stack development.

The clubs have their own boat ramps, but use of these is normally restricted to members. However, there is an excellent multi-lane public boat ramp on the north side of the MBTBC. If you want to leave your trailerable on the hardstand overnight, you can leave it in the car park here. But if you prefer a secure hardstand, the RQYS has limited hardstand trailerable spaces available for short-term visitors, as does the East Coast Marina.

All marinas have travel-lifts and hardstand areas where you can slip your boat to have work done, with mechanics and shipwrights and other essential trades on tap. The clubs also have visitor’s wharves where you can stop for a quick meal or drink – but make sure to call first. If you need a marina berth, you have to book well in advance because demand for casual berths is high.

manly sailing boat gold coast

Exploring on water

Deciding where to go will be difficult because you are truly spoiled for choice.

On the eastern side of Moreton Bay protecting the bay from the open ocean, you have Moreton Island to the north and North Stradbroke Island to the south. Moreton Island has the famous Tangalooma wrecks, while North Stradbroke has the popular anchorage of Deanbilla Bay, and the Dunwich Little Ship Club.

Offshore from Manly, you will find the islands that locals love for a quick getaway – Green, St Helena and Peel Islands.

Green Island is the closest, so it is the most popular. It has a sandy beach and reasonable anchorage on the western side, so it is protected from easterlies and north-easterlies. It is a great spot to escape the madding crowds, and enjoy a sundowner looking back on the city lights.

St Helena, to the north of Green Island, boasts the ruins of a historic convict settlement. A commercial company conducts guided tours on Wednesdays and Sundays, and you can join for just $30 if you are visiting in your own boat. You will feel like you have met the convicts who were incarcerated here by the end of the tour because all the guides dress in character and play their parts with glee. The main anchorage at St Helena Island is next to the jetty at the southwestern corner of the island, so it is protected from easterlies. The toilet block is only open when tours are on.

Peel Island is a short motor to the south of Green Island, towards Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island. Peel was a leper colony and some ruins remain today (although long-time locals tell me there is no public access because they contain asbestos). The main anchorage is Horseshoe Bay on the southern side, so it is protected from north-westerlies. Peel Island boasts a lovely sandy beach and has a national parks pit toilet. If the wind turns, Lazarette Gutter on the north side of the island is comfortable in southeasterly through southwesterly winds. Take care navigating around the island because of numerous coral outcrops, and a wreck off the south side.

While you are at Peel Island, nip across to the Little Ship Club, located on the waterfront of the One Mile anchorage in Dunwich on North Stradbroke. You can pull up to the sandy beach or the back of their jetty. This Club really pumps on the weekend, but with a laid-back kind of island vibe you will find hard to tear yourself away from.

Both the RQYS and MBTBC have moorings at some of the islands in the bay, but these are normally restricted to members.

And last, but by no means least, the Brisbane River just north of Manly makes a great day trip when it is windy out in the bay. You can find limited anchoring room upriver, or leave your boat at the Rivergate Marina and Shipyard not far from the river’s mouth, and catch a ferry to get around. Mud Island just outside (north of St Helena Island) has a reasonable anchorage on the northwest side, protected from south-easterlies.

Safety-wise, there are a few things to be aware of. While Moreton Bay is protected, it is quite shallow. A sharp chop up to two metres can develop when the wind picks up, so it is wise to avoid strong winds against the tide. Also note that the Port of Brisbane to the north of Manly is a major port, with very busy shipping traffic. It is advised to stay out of the shipping channels as much as you can and keep a keen eye out. Needless to say, you should always remember to log on with the Coast Guard before heading out.

Exploring Manly is a great adventure for any boatie (and non-boatie too!). A visit here will leave you with many exciting stories and experiences – from the cityscape views to the laid-back island adventures.

Meal with a view - lunch at the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club. Cr MBTBC

By Caroline Strainig



Manly Boat Harbour: 27°27’12.7″S, 153°11’29.9″E (approx.)

Distance from the Gold Coast Seaway: 40nm (approx.)

(Editor’s Note: For tips on how to navigate to Brisbane from the Gold Coast, visit



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