A few years ago, I worked in a backpacker travel agency with a girl who was on an overseas working holiday/gap year from Ireland. Chiara (pronounced ‘Kee-ra’ – I always got it wrong) had a slightly warped sense of humour… we got on well 🙂 Whenever students, backpackers or visitors to Sydney would come in and ask about day tours and cost effective ways to see the Sydney sights, Chiara was professional and proficient, that is until someone said two words… MANLY FERRY. Whenever those words were mentioned, Chiara’s pink dotted, alabaster like face, would turn as fire engine red as her hair and she’d burst into a fit of laughter and, although not knowing the joke, so would everybody else. Finally, over staff drinks one night, she let me in on what was so funny, apparently those wonderous words conjured up an image of a rather obese hirsute man in a pink tutu with a magical wand – a MANLY FAIRY!
It had been a few years since I made the journey the harbour to Manly, so on New Years Day I did just that and, although being one of the busiest days for visitors on the harbour, it was well worth it.
The Manly ferry, well four of them in fact, operate between Circular Quay and Manly wharf leaving every half hour for a journey taking 30 minutes. Each of the four ‘Freshwater class’ ferries, Freshwater, Queenscliff, Narrabeen and Collaroy, were built between 1982 and 1988 and have a capacity to hold between 1100 and 1150 passengers. On this busy day, I am certain all four are at maximum capacity. Boarding and disembarking is rather quick as it takes place over two levels of the wharf right both passenger decks.
There is non-reserved seating for all passengers on both inside and outside although limited on deck. There are a couple of televisions screens and on this day, they were broadcasting New Years Eve celebrations from around the world as they happen, yet the sound was turned down (?), and a small cafe selling snack and drinks. I quickly grabbed an outside front seat for the best views of the Opera House on the left and the Harbour Bridge on the right as the ferry departed Circular Quay.
I could never tire of looking at either of Sydney’s most famous icons, in fact when I worked in Cammeray and traversed the bridge by train twice a day, I would gaze through the steel structure I was crossing over to the Opera House in absolute amazement. Today, from the ferry I could see people doing The Harbour Bridge Climb, what a great start to their new year (I hoped they had an earlier night than most the previous evening!) It became a little crowded at the bow of the ferry, so not long after passing Sydney’s the bridge and Opera House, I left and walked around happily snapping away at other famous sights on the harbour.
Garden Island was the next interesting location the ferry cruised past with the many ships of the Australian Navy in port and the Australian Naval Museum in sight amongst the picnic tables and manicured parklands.
The ferry cruised past Fort Denison, or Pinchgut Island as it is sometimes known. Originally just a sandstone rock protruding from the harbour. When Europeans first settled in1788 a convict was sentanced to a week there, in irons, on bread and water, hence the name ‘pinchgut’. Later it was established as a fort to fend off attack on the harbour from the Russians during the Crimean War and even the Americans at one stage. Now days it is a popular location for visitors with its museum and ability to hold receptions.
The roughest part of the 30 minute trip was when passing Sydney Heads and the swell roiled the ferry from side to side although those few nauseous minutes are replace by the beauty of the low flat and rocky South Head facing the sheer cliffs of North Head dotted with pleasure cruisers and yachts enjoying the summers day.
There are so many things to see on the harbour that it seems in no time at all the ferry is docking at Manly wharf and I am disembarking to another interesting part of Sydney. Come back soon for part II where I’ll discover what there is to do in Manly – hopefully with no obese hirsute men in pink tutu’s (wands in hand) to be found! 😉