Firstly, it’s a semi-urban walk which means most people you see out and about are probably not doing what you’re doing. They have simply strolled from their car to grab a coffee while you’ve gone all Forrest Gump running across the United States.
So this is not the walk to go with hard-core hiker wear. What’s appropriate for a big bush walk may feel out-of-place in urban surrounds. I mean, from a fashion perspective, if you care about that sort of thing. (That said, hiking clothes are perfect for the job, functionally).
Semi-urban also means much of the walk is through built-up areas on footpaths, or planned green spaces like esplanades, providing little shelter from the elements.
You may get more shade in areas of leafy national parks and reserves, like in Sydney Harbour National Park and Cremorne Point. Lower-growing shrubs and heathland is common too because this is a salt-laden coastal area.
This all equals ‘exposure’, so you must wear clothes that work hard, not just look good.
What to Wear While Walking
Shorts or long pants or activewear leggings. Avoid jeans; denim gets hot in summer and stays wet and heavy in even a little rain.
Top with sleeves. Short sleeves, long sleeves – it’s up to you. Just cover your shoulders because the walk is exposed and you may get burnt. And your backpack will probably rub on bare skin versus a shirt.
Avoid cotton as it stays wet (sweat is a more predictable problem than rain). Try an activewear t-shirt rather than cotton. Even better would be a UV-protective shirt with collar (to protect your neck) and long sleeves that can be rolled up… good for summer or winter.
In cooler weather, wear layers that can be removed as you walk and put back on when resting. Lightweight merino works best here. A big puffy jacket will be too hot to walk in.
Whether it’s summer, winter or in-between, wear a hat. Remember you’ll be walking up to seven hours per day, depending on your itinerary.
Sneakers or trainers are fine. Specific walking shoes are good too, but only if you have them already.
Much of the Bondi to Manly route is footpath with some uneven bush track. Hiking boots are unnecessary.
Make sure whatever’s on your feet is worn-in before you do the Bondi to Manly. Old and trusted is better than new and unworn.
If you’re walking day after day, invest in a pair of quality socks. Assuming you’re wearing sneakers, look for ones designed for runners: they tend to be seamfree and are (here we go again) not cotton to reduce friction and blisters.
What to Pack for a Day Walk on the Bondi to Manly
1-2 litre water bottle (or water bladder if your daypack has this option). There are places to refill along the walk. If you ever get to a water fountain and think, nah, my bottles not empty yet, take that as a reminder to drink!
Have sunglasses handy as there is extra glare off white footpaths and water.
Sunscreen, or suncream. Apply it before you start walking, including on backs of legs as it catches the sun when you’re walking. Remember to reapply as even the best suncream does not last all day.
Basic first aid kit. Pop in some pain medication, antihistamine, bandaids or sticking plaster, and maybe even an antiseptic cream. I also recommend tape that’s made for blister protection.
Chemists or drugstores usually have a good range of blister tape. The other supplies can be found in supermarkets as well as chemists. Yes, there are shops along the Bondi to Manly walk, but why detour? This type of basic first aid is good to have ready for exactly the moment you need it.
Swimming costume if want to swim. Sydney’s average water temperature ranges from 18C (64F) in September to a maximum of 24C (75F) in February.
Don’t wear a swimming costume while walking because it may rub or be sweaty. Most beaches (with the exception being within Sydney Harbour National Park) have public toilets where you can change.
Carry a small plastic bag for your wet costume to keep the rest of the bag dry.
A big beach towel would take up all the room in your daypack, so find a travel towel, (full-size towels that fold teeny tiny now exist!).
Wallet with cash and credit card. An Opal card for public transport is very useful. Buy these from convenience stores and newsagents. It’s now also possible to travel on Sydney’s public transport with just a Mastercard, Visa or American Express, using your credit card like the Opal card. Sydneysiders probably know all about Opal cards already, so here are tips for visitors.
A smart phone with useful apps:
- Bondi to Manly Walk, for an interactive map (can also be downloaded for use offline). The current colour scheme (black background with yellow route) is quite hard to read. So I prefer viewing the Bondi to Manly walk map on Google Maps.
- Google Maps for an alternative map of the route. Use this link (copy then paste into Maps).
- Opal Travel, to track Opal activity (and contactless payments using a credit card). Also has trip planner and service alerts.
- Uber, to order a ride or get a price estimate for your trip.
Have a plan around food and snacks. Either bring your own, or plan where to rest based on cafes. There are so many places to eat on the Bondi to Manly walk!
I never carried food… until I was in a cafe, full from lunch and spotted some delectable caramel slice. I used a small padded/insulated carry pack to store it (which I’d been using for my camera but that suddenly didn’t seem important) until rewarding myself with mmm caramel a few kilometres down the track.
Also pack a reusable coffee mug to reduce your environmental impact (there’s at least one beachside kiosk – I’m looking at you Neilsen Park – that did not have the option of mugs, only disposable takeaway).
Check the weather forecast. Do you need a rain jacket?
What to Pack to Stay Overnight
There are currently no luggage transfers available which means if you’re walking inn-to-inn style, you’re carrying everything.
Of course, one way to remedy that is to stay in the same accommodation every night, in which case you can go crazy (and here are our recommendations for where to stay to do the Bondi to Manly walk).
But for anyone wanting a multi-day walk carrying only a daypack – or an entire Sydney trip with carry-on luggage only – here’s what I did:
- Carry a daypack with adjustable waist and/or chest belt. It’s surprising what a difference this makes when carrying even a light bag all day.
- Wear and pack the right clothes. Have one outfit that you wear to walk in (as detailed above), and carry one outfit for evenings. Choose something light that folds up small. Throw in a nice accessory to jazz it up, and the lightest pair of dressy shoes you already own.
- If walking for more than two days, pack a small bottle of decanted washing detergent. Hand wash socks and underwear in the sink as soon as you get to your accommodation, ready to re-wear the next morning.
- Toiletries: toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste, personal medication if required. Decant a bit of face cleanser and moisturiser. Stay in accommodation that provides other toiletries, like soap, shampoo and conditioner.
- Phone charger
My laptop was the heaviest thing in my bag and is not something I recommend carrying! I also had a small camera and its charger, rather than just using my phone to take pictures.