Concrete Playground
July 28, 2020

The northern beaches is well-known for its heritage-listed houses, harbourfront views, boutique storefronts and beachfront restaurants. Here, the towns get smaller and closer to the coast — these are the quintessential beach towns you read about in Australian novels.

Meanwhile, the lush expanse of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park reigns mightily behind the coast, perfectly primed for a weekend hiking trip.

Along with American Express, we’ve found the best spots to shop small at along the coastline. These local businesses help the northern beaches area keep its charm — and will make you really love where you live. And you can shop at all of them with your American Express Card.


The easiest way to get to Manly is to cut across Sydney Harbour on the F1 ferry from Circular Quay. The rest of the coastline is best explored by car, or on the L90 bus from the city to Palm Beach, and you can make stops at these scenic and not-so-sleepy towns as you wish.


If you, like many Sydneysiders, have really gotten into natural wine and craft beer recently, then you’ll love Winona Wine. At this boutique bottle-o in Manly, you’ll find minimal intervention drops, quirky craft brews and artisanal spirits — and plenty of stellar recommendations from the staff if you’re not sure where to start.


Originally designed as a boardwalk for tourists, the Manly Corso now boasts surf shops, pubs, cafes, and galleries, and there is always a street entertainer or two to provide the ambience. In Avalon, be sure to check out Old Barrenjoey Road and Avalon Parade on the beachfront, with boutique stores set inside old terraced houses with facades that are worth the visit alone.


There are few better ways to wrap a busy day of shopping than with a cocktail or two — with a stellar view. And there’s no shortage of spots to do just that along this stretch of coast. Make a beeline to Manly Greenhouse for rosé and a cheese board on its rooftop, or nab a table at Sunset Sabi for inventive cocktails and Japanese snacks.


Explore three of the northern beaches' thriving shopping precincts.

Jo from The Artisan Cheese Room
The Localist: Manly
Coming Soon

Your Northern Beaches Hit List

Looking for fresh produce, funky cheese or a one-of-a-kind gift? Find what you're looking for here.
  • Bar

    Chica Bonita

    9 The Corso, Manly

    Chica Bonita offers oodles of atmosphere and bang on Mexican fare. So go on, head north.

  • Bar

    Harbord Hotel

    29 Moore Road, Freshwater

    Located just steps from the beach, this Sydney pub plays into its suburb's claim as the official birthplace of surfing in Australia.

  • Shop

    Manly Cycles

    36 Pittwater Road, Manly

    Join the store's weekly road and mountain bike rides from the shop — or pull in for a service.

  • Shop

    The Freshwater Butcher

    6/1-3 Moore Road, Freshwater

    This free-range meat purveyor services the Freshie community with meat and poultry from farms with sustainable practices.

  • Shop

    Fleet Street Mona Vale

    1755 Pittwater Road, Mona Vale

    Find quality spirits and decent non-alcoholic options at this northern beaches bottle-o.

  • Shop

    Balgowlah North Grocer

    48 Woodbine Street, North Balgowlah

    A cosy local grocer selling fresh produce and flowers.

  • Restaurant

    Paddock & Vine

    5 Bungan Street, Mona Vale

    A Mediterranean-inspired small bar in Mona Vale with a top-notch list of Australian vinos.

  • Restaurant

    Armchair Collective

    9A Darley Street East, Mona Vale

    Part cafe, part homewares boutique — this Northern Beaches favourite has everything.

  • Shop

    Aqua Rosa

    12-14 Waratah Street, Mona Vale

    Brighten up your day with a stunning native bouquet.

  • Shop

    Avalon Village Meats

    30 Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach

    Avalon's local gourmet butcher.

  • Shop

    Winona Wine

    2–14 Pittwater Road, Manly

    This beautiful northern beaches bottle shop is dedicated to natural wine and craft beer.

  • Restaurant

    Pocket Pizza Manly

    46 Pittwater Road, Manly

    Manly's Italo-American pizza parlour has found a new home along Pittwater Road.

  • Bar

    Manly Greenhouse

    38 South Steyne, Manly

    The three-level beachside destination will unveil its greenery-filled all-day diner and chic rooftop bar this weekend.

  • Shop

    Manly Farm Organic Grocer

    17-25 Wentworth Street, Manly

    Manly's haven of fresh organic produce and specialty food.

  • Restaurant

    Peanut Butter Jelly - CLOSED

    7 Whistler Street, Manly

    A Manly burger joint inspired by contemporary street art and culture.

  • Bar

    Manly Wharf Hotel

    East Esplanade, Manly

    Enjoy a pint on the water's edge in this old and faithful Manly pub.

  • Restaurant

    Flower Child Warringah

    Westfield Warringah, 145 Old Pittwater Road, Brookvale

    A second FC venue, again designed by the crew behind Archie Rose, Fred's and Charlie Parker's.

  • Restaurant


    Shop 2, 209-211 Ocean Street, Narrabeen

    North Narrabeen's local produce-focused eatery cooks up some of Sydney's best tacos.

  • Restaurant

    Cruise Espresso

    2 Moore Road, Freshwater

    Unfortunately for locals, the secret is well and truly out.

  • Restaurant

    Belgrave Cartel

    6 Belgrave Street, Manly

    The Cartel is bringing a slice of Melbourne and more than a hint of Italy to Manly's streets.

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