Monday, July 19, 2010

Suburb No 42: Manly

Manly? I hadn't been for years and when I scoured my memory for an image of the suburb, this is what
turned up: tacky shops and hordes of tourists ambling mindlessly around. In fact, it was only out
of a sense of obligation that I decided to include it in 52 Suburbs; I was vaguely aware it had 
history and that if I was going to include Collaroy I should really include Manly too. 

So what did I discover? That, der, Manly is so much more than just the beach and the Corso (and even
the Corso is so much better than it once was). Five minutes from tack and tourists is North Head, 
part of Sydney Harbour National Park. But this park isn't just all flora and fauna. It also happens
to house two amazing built environments: the former Quarantine Station and the former School
of Artillery. One, a collection of charming wooden buildings from the early 1800s, the other a grand
art deco creation from the 1930s.

A few facts before we wander. Governor Phillip, inspired by the manly behaviour of the Guringai

people, named the area Manly (when later speared by one of these manly men, he acted quite
manly himself and didn't make a big fuss). Big holiday resort in the early 1900s, as long as you were
prepared to wear neck to knee swimmers.

Let's look.

Part 1: Welcome to Sydney, please wash yourself in carbolic acid

Imagine. You're a convict. Just survived three months on a leaky boat when you spy land - Sydney!

But on board your boat are a number of unwanted passengers - anything from whooping cough,
cholera and typhus to smallpox, Bubonic Plague and influenza. Before you can enjoy the 'delights'
of Sydney 1800's style, you need to spend a further 40 days in confinement - at North Head's
 Quarantine Station. And first up, a hot shower - in carbolic acid.

If you were well, it was a holiday. Fresh food, nice digs, and you could stretch your legs on acres of
sand and soil. If you were sick, you were sent straight to hospital to await your fate. Even if you
were a gonna, at least you went out looking at a nice view.

Today, Quarantine Station is Q Station, a wonderful marriage of authentic old and four star new.
I stayed one night and wished I could have stayed 10. In one word, go. Especially in winter when
you feel like you have the place to yourself. Ghosts and all.

not everyone did

by royal decree, ships carrying disease had to be quarantined

and any life-threatening diseases with carbolic acid

1st Class accommodation, then and now

unpack your bags and then stretch your legs

1st Class Dining Room, then and now

terra firmish at long last

harbour view

quarantined but free

but for the ill, straight to hospital

sick in splendid isolation

many a ship's wings were clipped by disease

at least the light is nice

at least death's doorstep had a nice view

alive or dead, the accommodation was good

ghosts still roam the station, even camera toting ones

Part 2: A national park on the city's doorstep

Last week I admitted to not liking beaches in the summer. At the risk of sounding even more
unAustralian, I don't like bushwalking either. Well, I didn't think I did. Until this week. What was so
amazing was that you feel like you're a zillion miles from anywhere yet you can just see the city
poking its head up in the distance.

luxury in the national park :: 1

luxury in the national park :: 2

bush walking a stone's throw from the city

walk on water :: 1

walk on water :: 2

walk on water :: 3

flame tree :: 1

flame tree :: 2

orange flowers


I didn't actually intend to go bushwalking at all. It was only when I stumbled on the former School
of Artillery and learnt from the visitor centre there that these walks exist. The SOA is now a 'Sanctuary',
available for lease to tenants sympathetic to the natural environment (and TV/film such as The Biggest
Loser who shot their show there).

School of Artillery, former

art deco in a national park

parade ground

Part 3: That building 

While I was on a tour of Quarantine Station I asked the guide about the white building across
the water. "Oh, the Toilet Rolls you mean", he replied. You can see why some of the locals call it 
that but I like the building. Its curves, the fact it's stuck on a point with nothing crowding it. The
first time I visited it, there was a hunky man hanging out one of the windows cleaning. "Oh, I'm not
taking a photo of you" I shouted. Well, he's so small in the shot, you can hardly call that a photo right?

view of the Toilet Rolls from Q Station

Toilet Rolls, super soft

spot the hunk

I left the hunk and the building, wishing I could explore more (the building not the hunk... well,
maybe the hunk too, but back to the story...). When I got back home I found an email sent only a
few hours earlier from a girl I'd taken a photo of when I visited Balmain. A 20 something Scottish
dentist who'd had an accident and was using her time off work to explore Sydney. She loved the blog
and wondered if I was going to include her suburb. Guess where she lived - "the Toilet Rolls in Manly". 

My reply - "Dear Louise (yes, she was another Louise) Sorry to hear about your accident and would it
be okay to take some shots of your building because I'm doing Manly as we speak." 

Her response...

Louise :: 1

eyes the colour of the ocean

looking across to Q Station

Q Station from Louise's place

'you can see the ferry when it's 10 minutes away'

from Edinburgh to Manly

Louise didn't know the hunk but she introduced me to the lovely Roberto, from Chile, the building's
caretaker for the past seven years.

Roberto, from Chile

the eyes and ears of the building

'it's a United Nations here'

Roberto hadn't heard of the 'toilet roll' nickname and clearly enjoys his job - "It's like a United Nations
here", he said in his strong South American accent, "everyone from everywhere."

Sounds fun.

round and round

watch the ships go by

the rocks below

Part 4: The beach

The days I visited the skies were so beautiful. Perfect light to shoot seagulls devouring fish and chips
mid-air, courtesy of Lydia from Beijing and her Sydneysider friend Chris.

a seagull's dream come true

bird lady :: 1


bird lady :: 2

food fight

bird lady :: 3

x 3

bird lady :: 4

'leave them to it Bert, the chips look soggy'

bird lady :: 5

After Lydia and her seagull flurry I met Justin from Canada, taking a long walk along and into the
ocean. Just so you know, he doesn't usually smoulder like that - I asked.

'hey, is that kid okay? he's walking straight into the sea'

the smoulder

A few other bods I met while taking in the watercolour sky...

swimmers :: 1

swimmers :: 2


Chandra from Nepal

Monmaya, Chandra and Radha - 3 ladies from Nepal

beach ballerina

Part 5: Harbour side, Manly Wharf

There's something magical about a merry go round. Especially when the sky's putting on a show of
its own too.

merry Manly :: 1

merry Manly :: 2

on their own rides

merry Manly :: 3

merry Manly :: 4

merry Manly :: 5

heaven on water :: 1

wharf :: 1

wharf :: 2

meet me at Hugo's

watching the sun set

heaven on water :: 2 

Part 6: The built environment

An assortment, from large to small. 

St Patrick's Seminary, now management college

from all over the globe

flag flying


bright whites

pleasing patterns :: 1

pleasing patterns :: 2

pleasing patterns :: 3

better take a shot of Elmo for the grandkids


Part 7: Tattoos and piercings

I met a tattoo walking along one day, attached to a man called Mark. And then I met the woman
in the tattoo, in the flesh. Mark and Sepideh (Persian) have just started a cafe with their neighbours
which doubles as an art gallery called Salt Motion. Part of a new wave that seems to be livening
up things on the Corso.

Sepideh x 2

Later I met a group of piercings wandering along the Corso. What are you doing, I asked. "Just hanging." 

just hanging :: 1

just hanging :: 2

just hanging :: 3

And finally I met a woman who had neither tattoos or piercings - it was her open face that caught
my eye. She was visiting Manly and lives in Collaroy. So we end where we started.

open face

Manly has a vivid, other worldly, steeped in history sort of beauty. Much to my surprise.

See you next week.


  1. Oh, hurray! I've been wondering if you'd get to Manly, and you've done a wonderful job with all these photos.

    I used to live in the toilet roll building (we always called it that), and Roberto is indeed lovely. How fab to see him pop up in your pictures!

  2. Love the Manly posting - feel as if I've slipped back to my childhood holidays. Also spent a weekend at the Quarantine Station - fab accom, and the restaurant is great down near the beach (The Boiler room). A night tour is excellent and just ghostly enough to make you cuddle under the blankets back in your room.

  3. Louise - great images of Manly - you have captured its crassness, beauty, heritage and persoanality. Well done. The only persona missing was the Mad Monk.

    In particularly like the pix of Sepidah, heaven on water and that ghost at the station.

    Even better, I like your tongue-in-cheek writing. Terrific.

  4. Just beautiful Louise. Discovered your blog last week and - as a photographer just starting out - its been a total inspiration. Thanks so much and look forward to number 43 next week!!

  5. Thanks Louise , it was so refreshing to see that Manly is more than the beach and the ferries.You are always opening my vista of Sydney through your lens - Annandale?

  6. another great suburb did you by any chance visit the chocolate shop near the ferry i cant really eat chocs that much but that place sure is yummy

  7. Wonderful entry. I live down the road in Balgowlah and have many photos of the same things but your skill for photography and the written word has surpassed anything I've seen for a long time.

    Superb work! :D

  8. Lizabelle - So glad you like it.

    Bev - Q Station is fantastic isn't it? I didn't do the ghost thing - maybe next time.

    John - The Mad Monk rings a bell - more information please.

    Dayna - A pleasure and happy to inspire!

    Sevapuri - Glad you enjoyed it Annandale girl!

    Ellen - I didn't visit the chocolate shop - like you, I can't eat it either (the gluten and the dairy are problems - double drat!) but I still like to look. Will check it out next time.

    D - Thanks so much, and good to hear from an almost-local that I did it justice.

    Louise x

  9. Louise,

    Tony Abbot is the Member for Waringah, and his office is in Manly. In 1983, he began studying for the Catholic priesthood, and entered St Patrick's Seminary, Manly, which is why he is known as "The Mad Monk".

    Ha !

  10. John - I realised the moment after posting that comment who you meant by the Mad Monk. But I didn't know the reason behind his nickname - so thank you. Not sure if I can imagine Abbot as a priest!


  11. Hi Louise - thanks for another Northern-ish Beach! What a gift! I was so intrigued by your comments and the story running through them I forgot to look at the photos. However, loved the view from North Head over the Harbour. Loved the Toilet Rolls. And was Sepideh really that short?

  12. Love the shots of the seagulls mid-action and the little girl jumping around on the sand - really captures the spirit of being at the beach!

  13. Just beautiful. I've never really liked Manly, but your photos have inspired me to go visit.

  14. As usual Louise, I am loving the light. I always look for the light. Around home too, and I am not a photographer!!
    My faves this week:
    Sick in isolation
    Death's doorstep
    Luxury in Nat Park - 2 - Banksia
    Flame tree 1
    Orange flowers - it's casuarina
    Eyes the colour of the ocean
    Pleasing patterns 3

    Thanks for the NB visit. Cant wait to see where's next!!

  15. Louise,
    as always you have revealed a side to Manly I have never known. Thanks for your efforts once again and feast of images.

    You know your on the right path when things happen like Louise being in the 'Toilet Rolls' building and the email arriving when it did. I call those events little confirmation flags.

    kind regards

  16. I love how we got just the slightest glimpse of you in one of the photos on this entry, even if it was just a shadow. You've captured so many wonderful faces in your travels that I really think your final photo on suburb no 52 should be of you. Thanks for another fantastic blog.

  17. Great work as usual in capturing the essence of a suburb. I visit Manly often but you showed me bits I'd never seen before.

  18. Nat - No Sepideh isn't that short! It's the wide angle lens. But when you're that beautiful, you can handle a little distortion I think.

    Anita - Thanks, I love the little girl (Rose) jumping too. And yes, seagulls can be annoying but they make good subjects.

    Kate - Enjoy it!

    Di - The light, it's all about the light!

    Tony - Serendipity has played a big role in this project, I'm constantly amazed at something turning up just at the right moment.

    Jenni - Ha! Although I don't relish the idea of having my pic taken (!) I do like your idea. Thank you.

    Robyn - Happy to help reveal the hidden bits.

    Louise x

  19. Having not thought of Manly for years, I was only talking about Manly the other day to someone on the bus to Marrickville, about catching double-decker 144 buses to Manly from St Leonards to go swimming there in the late 1960s as a teenager, and up you pop with Modern Manly. Excellent work and very fine timing, Louise.

  20. One of my first jobs as a teenager was selling icecream at the 99 flavours place in the Ocean Beach Tea Rooms building. I did discover that sickness set in after about 20 samples in one shift.

  21. Jamie - There you go, strange. Glad you enjoyed it Jamie.

    Bruce - 99 flavours, the mind boggles. Probably turned you off ice cream for a while I imagine!


  22. How do you do it Louise ? You find the beauty in the can make a daggy besser block fence look funky, you make rust look desirable! Manly is beautiful, for so many reasons...even the faded glory of it is beautiful, a bit like the faded glory of Venice.
    Keep up the good work.

  23. Absolutely stunning photos - I grew up in Balgowlah and lived most of my life in the area before moving to London 11 years ago. Can't wait to return and you've made me desperately home sick! But I will indulge in viewing your photos and narrative again to keep it close until I can be there in person. Beautifully done, thanks!

  24. I absolutely adore your blog. One of my fellow co workers said she appreciates the fact that you are able to find beauty & intrigue even in the most mundane suburbs.

  25. Does any one know the address of Pleasing patterns :: 1?

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  27. Hi Louise,
    I went to your exhibition at MoS today and loved it! As a beginner photographer starting out, you have truly inspired me to find beauty and wonderment in everyday things and places. Also, as a Manly born and bred girl and lifelong resident (and still living here and loving it - it's my little piece of paradise!) I LOVED your pics and post on Manly, so thanks for visiting us :) Believe it or not, after 36 years, I haven't ever seen some of the things in your pics! My favourite are the photos of Marc and Sep x 2 from saltmotion (they're friends of mine), the tiny ballerina on the beach and of course the iconic Wharf.
    Thanks for sharing your amazing work and I can't wait for your next adventure: 52 Suburbs Around the World! Good luck and I'll happily give what I can.
    Miss Manly x

  28. I really love this! I've grown up in Sydney my whole life and I've never seen Manly quite portrayed like this. Reminds me of why it's my favourite beach even after all my years of travelling around.

  29. Where is this Cafe Salt motion ?

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