I have fond memories of going to Manly Aquarium as a child. It has been too long since I visited to remember what it was like. I had heard that it was great for kids and a lot less busy when compared with Sydney Aquarium but that it isn’t pram friendly. This, and the fact that the drive (along Military Road) takes about an hour, has put me off going until now. I am glad that we waited to go as the morning worked out wonderfully – there was a lot less traffic during school holidays, the 4hr round trip suited us perfectly and we all really enjoyed ourselves. We will definitely be going back.
Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, as it is now called, is split over three levels. And the levels are only connected by stairs, two sets to the bottom level and one to the top. This means that it is best to take kids that can easily manage stairs or who are happy to be carried, or who you are happy to carry. Right near the entry is a pram parking bay so you can still use it to get to the aquarium.
On the entry level, there are a number of large fish tanks in a circle around a centre, feature tank. Mr 3 could easily see into the outer tanks and I lifted both my boys onto the centre tank ledge. Among what you will see are octopus, turtles, jelly fish, coral, clown fish and lobsters.
Also on this main level is a rock pool, where the kids can explore a number of objects from the sea, as well as a pretty awesome little play area. The play area is right near the exit, with lovely view out onto the beach. It is gated and divided into two sections – one with tunnels and a climbing structure and the other with water play. My boys easily spent 30mins in the play area and only left to see the penguins feeding.
Down two flights of stairs from the ground level, there is the underwater corridor. Here you will find some enormous sting rays as well as sharks, turtles and plenty of fish.
This level is all about penguins. Well that and the raised deck seating around the penguin enclosure that is a perfect spot for a picnic style lunch. We hung out here for a while having a food pit stop and enjoying watching the ferries coming and going at the wharf.
The aquarium is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day from 9:30am to 5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm). There are different schedules for talks, tours and feeds depending on the day you go so it is best to check out their website.
We have an Merlin annual pass that gives us access to Sydney Aquarium and Manly Aquarium, plus a number of other attractions. The best bit for me is that you get to jump the queues, though at Manly Aquarium there were only four people lined up when we arrived just after 10am. Plus of course we can go as often as we like.
Single ticket prices are 10-30% cheaper online and start from $17.50 for adults and $11.90 for kids 4yrs+.
Finding Manly Sea Life Sanctuary
Manly Aquarium is a 5min walk from Manly wharf and about 35kms east of Parramatta. We drove there during school holidays when the traffic is a lot less and it took just over 45mins. You can also get there by ferry but it will take about 1.5hrs.
We were fortunate to get a free 2hr spot right near the aquarium at Federation Point. And that is exactly the amount of time we had to spend there so there was no need to move the car. If you aren’t able to find one of these car parks, or want to stay longer, there are a number of Council car parks nearby.