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Manly Beach - Beware The Price Of Fame?

Joanna Hall

Last month, for the first time, Manly Beach was voted Australia’s top beach in TripAdvisors’ 2018 Travellers’ Choice Awards, while the gorgeous Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos was rated as the best beach in the world. When it comes to Manly taking the top honours locally, however, not everyone agreed. Some took to social media to claim that Whitehaven, a secluded beach in far North Queensland, was robbed, coming third in this year’s awards. Equally hard done by according to some were Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, which was voted sixth, and Cable Beach, Broome’s famous stretch of sand, which took seventh spot. Having spent 18 years living in Manly, it's easy to see why it appeals to travellers from Australia and overseas. One is its close proximity to the Sydney CBD, which is only a half hour’s ferry ride away through scenic Sydney Harbour. It is also a lovely beach with golden sand, surf, and plenty of safe swimming spots for kids. And when it comes to self contained resort destinations it pretty much has it all; from ocean and harbour beaches, to walks, plenty of places to eat and drink, a wide variety of accommodations, and plenty of attractions for kids. So what’s wrong with being voted Australia’s best beach? Some would look to Byron Bay as the perfect example of what can happen when a destination becomes a victim of its own success.

A working class beach town which was home to a whaling station, a butter factory and an abattoir set on a spectacular coastal landscape, is how some people fondly remember Byron Bay. Today, it attracts over two million visitors a year, and having visited recently it’s clear that locals have mixed views on whether fame is good thing or not. Byron was placed on the popularity map back in 1991, when actor Paul Hogan and director John Cornell bought the Beach Hotel in 1991. After Hollywood came the hipsters and a new lineup of celebrity A-listers including Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky. Today this once laid-back surfing town has terrible traffic problems, and a median house price of $1,185,000; it also has a very different vibe. After living in Manly for 18 years, we moved to Surfers Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast, which took out second place in the TripAdvisor awards this year. If one beach city doesn’t have to worry about the cost of fame, it’s Surfers. Although it has also changed much over the past 20 years since we first visited, it is a world-class beach destination which ticks all the boxes also, from its quality accommodation and restaurants, to its events and attractions. Like the rest of the Gold Coast it will be under the spotlight soon thanks to the upcoming Commonwealth Games, but are locals here worried? 

If you’re trying to buy a home, real estate prices have definitely increased in the past 18 months but are still highly affordable, and most are welcoming the additional investment, and facilities, that the games and popularity is bringing. In terms of Manly, however, as one longtime Northern Beaches friend said after the awards: “There goes the neighbourhood” But if Manly locals are worried about becoming another Byron Bay, however, they shouldn’t be too concerned. When it comes to real estate, like the majority of Sydney, Manly Beach has been unaffordable for many people for a long time, and the legendary traffic issues which surround getting from the ‘insular peninsula’ to the city (or anywhere else) remain as bad as ever. And if there’s beach weather on Boxing Day, New Year’s Day or Australia Day there will be thousands of day trippers queuing for ferries and littering the beaches. So what’s the worst that can happen? Losing that top spot, perhaps to Bondi Beach next year.

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