I am sitting on the steps overlooking Manly Beach eating a picnic of juicy berries and watching beautiful people soak up the sunshine. Surfers and wannabe surfers take to the water riding small, consistent waves on a sparkling, turquoise ocean whist scavenging seagulls with shrill calls and narrowed eyes swoop whenever an opportunity presents itself, attacking tourists eating $12 fish and chips.
A long strip of golden sand at the top of Steyne Street, Manly Beach is lined by trees and a paved promenade along which families stroll with pushchairs, people lazily peddle along on push bikes and sun kissed kids skateboard, weaving in and out of a steady trickle of visitors.
The main street of Manly is wide, pedestrianised and full of brands from Oakley to Hurley, in amidst delis and ice-cream parlours galore. On the beach and in the town itself, young gym-toned, smooth chested men strut topless whilst slender, tanned girls wander around in bikini tops and summer dresses. The air smells of money with that Laguna Beach look, the one that says: I’ve just thrown this together but it took time and cost a small fortune to look so casual. But they did look pretty and cool, albeit a very constructed cool.
Although plenty of families make use of the beach, Manly feels like a place for young singles: groups of guys and girls eyeing each other up with a quick, superficial scan of the ample flesh on display before making a move or moving on.
One trio of guys kick a ball about by the water’s edge. Just as two girls come out of the sea the ball lands by them, and one of the girls skilfully belts it back to the boys. The dating dance has begun. The girls giggle and walk on, whilst the boys snatch regular glances and eventually make an approach. The groups merge and maybe, who knows, a lovely summer romance begins.
So after spending some time in the town and walking the full stretch of the beach, I’m sitting here, eating my fruit picnic. A man and woman close to me start to argue and I quickly realise that I am witnessing a break-up. Come on guys, kiss and make up. It all sounds like a load of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Once the tears start, I make my exit.
And then just as I am about to leave the beach, I see him: a bit of a belly and hairy from top to toe. Finally, a man to put the man into Manly.
Ferries for Manly leave every half an hour from Wharf 3 Circular Quay in Sydney city centre and the journey takes 30minutes. A return costs $14, but a day ticket for trains and ferries within central Sydney costs $22, so work out what makes sense.