Bayside Moments: How to Spend a Day in Brisbane's Coastal Playground

Explore Brisbane's seaside splendour with this first-timer's guide to the local hotspots.
Joe Rivers
Published on June 07, 2024

in partnership with

Beach culture is such an integral part of Australian life, but so many of our nation's most iconic and celebrated coastal areas aren't really at their best during the cooler months. Luckily, Brisbane doesn't suffer such issues, particularly the suburb of Manly, located just half an hour from the CBD.

Here, there are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained, from The Manly Hotel (fresh off a multimillion renovation) to the group of performers making a song and dance on a tiny island. Intrigued? Keep reading to find out the best Manly has to offer.


Where To Eat: The Manly Hotel, Frankie's Coffee Bar, The Arsonist

Just a stone's throw from the Royal Esplanade and Manly Boat Harbour, The Manly Hotel has everything you could want from a modern pub, dishing out elevated classics and local produce by the plate. The Brisbane institution has been serving schooners and schnitties since 1960 and has three areas that each offer a slightly different vibe, all recently refreshed with a $7 million renovation to elevate the offering to any diner. The restaurant has all the trappings of a sit-down meal — think chilled Moreton Bay bugs, Coffin Bay oysters and prawn spring rolls to start and pub classics for mains.

The courtyard is filled with light and atmosphere to soak up as you sip local brews (like a glass of Green Beacon) and specialty cocktails — take the Lavender Collins; made with Bombay Sapphire gin, Husk Ink gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and lavender syrup garnished with lavender sticks. For a third option, the inner terrace has three giant screens playing a live sport, ideal for cheering on the Maroons during State of Origin season.

You'll probably want to start your day with a coffee, though, and a short hop north of Manly is the suburb of Wynnum, where you'll find Frankie's Coffee Bar. This cosy oasis offers single-origin pours, cold brew on tap, and beetroot, turmeric or matcha lattes alongside the more traditional offerings you'd expect. There's also a range of pastries, toasties and muffins if you're feeling peckish. Who is Frankie, you might wonder? Well, Frankie is the cafe dog — an American staffy cross rescued from the pound by cafe owners Ross and Sarah. Unsurprisingly, your own four-legged friend is also more than welcome.

Caffeine in the morning and casual beers in the late arvo are pretty much the cornerstones of Aussie culture, but if you want to take it up a notch, then Manly has you covered. Slightly intimidatingly named, The Arsonist is a fine-dining experience unlike anything you've experienced before. All food is cooked over a custom-made fire pit (hence the restaurant name), meaning you're hit with the comforting aroma of smoky flames as soon as you walk into the restaurant.

There's a smoke-themed cocktail menu where you can sample delights such as a short rib old fashioned with smoked honey, and the food options are just as inventive. Even the most cursory glance at the menu reveals mouth-watering treats like rye sourdough with smoked brisket butter, coal-roasted lamb rump with smoked eggplant, and suckling pig with fig relish and celeriac rémoulade. As you'd expect, bookings are essential.


SaintM Photos via iStock

What To Do: Markets by the Sea

Aside from the formidable sand and surf, where Manly really excels is its markets and there are two must-sees on the beachfront: the Jan Powers Farmers Markets and the Manly Creative Markets.

Queensland food icon Jan Powers founded Brisbane's first farmers markets at the tail-end of the 20th century, and they can now be found in three separate locations across Brisbane. The Manly iteration takes place year-round on the first and third Saturday morning of the month and fulfils Powers' passion for connecting local people to local produce.

Manly Creative Markets has called Manly's Esplanade home since it first opened in the 90s. Running every Sunday morning, the markets offer you the chance to browse art, fashion, and artisanal products locally made by talented creators. There's also live music and kids' attractions to add to the feel-good ambience, as well as a range of pop-up food stalls to ensure you're well-fed.


Saint Helena Island — Kgbo via Wikimedia Commons

What To See: Wynnum Manly Yacht Club, St Helena Island

At Wynnum Manly Yacht Club, there's far more on offer than just sailing. Yes, as the name suggests, you can certainly engage in yacht racing on the big blue if that's your bag, and there's arguably nowhere better to do it in Brisbane. But for the more casual day-tripper who might not know their starboard from their port, there are activities with a slightly lower barrier to entry. Fishing, kayaking and dragon boats are all possible from the marina and that's before you even mention the purest and best form of recreation there is: a good, old-fashioned dip in the ocean.

If you're feeling ambitious on your visit and want to venture slightly further afield, then St Helena Island is the place for you. Just a 30-minute ferry ride from Manly, St Helena Island has a museum on the site of the former 19th-century penal colony and Queensland's first passenger tramcar service. There are also beautiful areas to relax, picnic and enjoy the sea views.

There are guided tours to give you the full and fascinating history of the island, but what's not quite so expected is the theatre troupe that provides a dramatic retelling of island history for a truly unique and immersive experience.


The Manly Hotel is open for dining every day from 11.30am. Accommodation is currently undergoing renovations but will reopen for bookings in late 2024. For more information, visit the website

Top image: The Manly Hotel

Published on June 07, 2024 by Joe Rivers
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