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Shortly before 7am and the "Bold and Beautiful" gather for the 1.5km swim from Manly to Shelly Beach, and back again. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
It's a ritual that happens most days of the year for the enthusiastic group of swimmers that gather outside the Manly Surf Club at 7am every morning.
Members of the Bold and the Beautiful Swim Squad mill around the club exchanging pleasantries before heading to the water, and donning their distinctive pink caps, for a 750-metre swim to Shelly Beach where, after a five or 10-minute breather and a bit more social banter, they dive back into the Tasman Sea and return to Manly.
The swim takes about 15-20 minutes each way and the men and women who make the journey each morning are young and old and of varying physiques. It seems that having a pot belly doesn't mean you can't swim the 1.5-kilometre distance each morning. There are no St John Ambulance members in attendance so you quickly realise these are all superbly fit individuals.
The sea swallows up what appears to be a group of 100-200 swimmers in what looks like the thrashings of a school of large fish. The "school" quickly disappears around the point.
Once around the point the swim is on ... and for some the social chatter that began outside the surf club is continuing in the water as they stroke their way to Shelly Beach. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
But you don't need to be bold or beautiful, or be able to swim, to make your way to Shelly Beach because there is the option to follow the swim at a leisurely walking pace along a marvdllous walking path that hugs the coast. It's a short walk, but a memorable one. The path leads to the Cabbage Tree Aquatic Reserve and Shelly Beach and the walk allows you to feast your eyes on a strand of blue-chip homes that sit perched on rocky cliffs rising up from the foreshore.
The walk is an easy one, mostly on level gradings, and you are able to follow the swimmers the whole of gthe way while taking in the mesmerising sea vistas.
Following the path you soon walk past a rock swimming pool where, looking back, the warm-coloured morning light gives rise to the reflections of buildings in the still water,
The morning light captures the reflections of buildings in a rock pool along the walk. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
It's not long before the swimmers reach tiny Shelly Beach. One rises out of the water, followed by another, and the numbers standing in the shallows continue to grow until soon even the stragglers have emerged from the water. A fierce social chat is quickly underway and you can't help wondering if the talk is about the strength of the current, the water temperature or what each person has planned for later that day.
Swimmers arrive at Shelly Beach, having just swum 750m. A 5-10-minute social chat and then back to Manly. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
For a short time courtesies are extended - courtesies that involve standing and engaging in idle talk so as to allow lesser swimmers a chance to get their breath back - but soon the serious mermans and mermaids are anxious to to return to the water and power their way back to Manly. The others follow suit and soon the beach is again devoid of human presence. Cabbage Tree Bay is quiet, apart from the sounds of breakfast being served at The Boat Shed, a delightful cafe-restaurant a stone's throw from Shelly Beach.
Swimmers take off on the return leg. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
The Boat Shed is surprisingly busy at this time of the morning. It's barely 7.30am and seats are being snapped up by morning strollers and clifftop inhabitants who don't have to rush offf to work. A schoolgirl lounges on a seat in front of a stylish gas-log open fire while her mother sips on a caffè latte. Businessmen discuss deals over breakfast while young women meet up for a for morning coffee before rushing off to the Circular Quay ferry.
The Boat Shed, a popular meeting place for breakfast and lunch at Shelly Beach and Cabbage Tree Aquatic Reserve. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
Rachel gets a kiss from Lola as she enjoys her 7.30am capucchino at The Boat Shed. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
Views of Shelly Beach and further afield make a delightful backfrop for breakfast. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
South of The Boat Shed a set of stairs leads up to a car park. Here there are walking paths with vantage points that look out over the ocean and south to inspiring cliff formations. At one of the lookouts two women are taking instruction from a male personal trainer with a spectacular rocky cliff as a backdrop.
A short walk from Shelly Beach are some breathtaking views of the rockly Manly coastline. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
On the return journey to Manly you get to see Shelly Beach, the walking path and clifftop homes from an entirely new perspective. You're walking north with the sun in a different position, the light has changed and because you're no longer concenbtrating on swimmers in the water you see things you hadn't seen on the way over. A small cafe pops up on the walking path - blowed if I'd noticed that before! What's more, its sidewalk tables are buzzing with people.
A small cafe half way between Shelly Beach and Manly is packed with morning walkers. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
The walk back to Manly is delightful and you begin to notice how many people are now on the walking path. If you were lucky enough to live in Manly, it's hard to imagine not doing this walk each morning. You may not get the exhilaration the Bold and Beautiful get from their Herculean swims, but you couldn't help but return home with a big smile on your face.
It's barely 8am yet the walking path from Manly to Shelly Beach is lined with people. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
One of the expensive homes perched atop the rocks that tower above the Shelly Beach walk. Picture: © Sydney.com.au