Manly-Warringah, NSW: Beachfront Opulence

Situated in Sydney’s upmarket Northern Beaches, Manly’s public transport options include the bus and the ferry. If you want a more scenic journey, opt for the harbour transport. It’s been ages since I’ve last been to Manly. I remember going there with my chums and we explored SeaWorld, which is adjacent to the wharf. We didn’t go any farther, which is a shame since Manly has a lot to offer. Recently, we were hanging around the pier when I suggested we go to Manly. We travelled by barge from Circular Quay, a trip that took half an hour. Unlike our jaunt years ago, the ferry wasn’t as packed. There was a breeze, a welcome respite on a humid day. Landmarks turned to buildings, which turned to sails and coastline. I even saw a floating lighthouse. While looking around the hull, I saw a couple with a furry canine. My friend admitted that they didn’t realise that dogs were allowed on board, as they are prohibited on buses and trains. Manly was the first and only stop, before the ferry turned back to the city.

Wrong Turn

The ritzy suburb was developed mostly independent of accessibility. Once we landed on the wharf, we realised that we had to take a bus to get to Warringah Mall. After being directed by a food deliverer, we hopped onto the first bus we saw, as it had ‘Warringah Mall’ as its destination. Turns out we took the wrong bus, and we were on a joyride around the area, with spectacular views of scenic Many Beach. I noted that the coastline here wasn’t as epic as Bondi. One of the beachgoers brought a tent with them as there were no cottages around. Indeed, there was hardly anyone braving the rips even on a gorgeous spring day. We also passed by a shop renting out surf boards. Humans ambled sporting shorts and flip-flops.

After the long bus ride, we finally set foot on the fringes of the mall. The centre was out of the way, far from Manly’s hub. Though it is called Warringah Mall, the centre is actually located in Brookvale. Warringah has 388 stores, including ten anchor tenants. There was a huge carpark across several levels that underlie the mall’s ungodly location. Upon strolling through, the part-outdoor setting was the first thing I noticed. Some of the shops were arranged in a piazza ambience, where you could see the sky. The use of plants and greenery was a deft touch. Target was one of the first shops we passed by, followed by David Jones (DJ). The latter was one of the last stores we inspected. While competitors were offering forty percent off, DJ was giving 25% off the second item.

Food court

We checked on the mall’s directory about the food court, before taking the escalator to get to McDo. The food court was striking as there was actual sunlight welcoming the diners. There were a few options: KFC, Subway, Mad Mex, Sushi. I was tossing between Mexican and McDo, but I ultimately ended up getting the latter. While we were sitting, my companion told me that they considered getting a sandwich but got a value meal instead. While dining, we noticed that two adjacent eateries have closed for good. At least it wasn’t like The Forum in Leichhardt. At least the big names were still operating.

Different design

After lunch, we walked round the mall. The centre wasn’t a straight line; construction took time and there were sections added later on. We saw a couple of fountains, something you wouldn’t see in malls around Sydney. I came to know that the central fountain was crafted by a local sculptor. We had a look at Myer, where business was quite bad. We thought that there would be more shoppers given their midseason sale. I tried on a few tees but settled on one by Mitch Dowd, an Australian designer. The striped Harry Potter tee had short sleeves and a badge on the chest. It was on clearance at nineteen bucks, down from about forty. This was a huge price drop. Upon paying for the tee, my companion noted that the tee wouldn’t even be enough to pay for an hour’s wage of the Myer sales assistant. They reckoned that this Myer would be next on the chopping block.

We had a look at this shoe store which had some good prices. However, I couldn’t find the shoe I was after. We then visited The Reject Shop, where we bought some chips and nuts. It was a smaller outlet and stock was low. We then visited neighbouring Big W. We purchased a killer book by a Holocaust victim. From what I’ve heard, this would be an easy read. We bought even more chips. After this, we dropped by H & M. By the lack of people browsing, you could tell that there wasn’t much there. We looked for ten minutes. I liked this plain black shirt, a steal at eighteen bucks. However, I already have a black button-up and I’ve used it only once or twice. There was one store next to Myer that had a big space. It was an iconic Australian retailer, but no one was browsing. The store clearly doesn’t know how to adapt to the times, almost like an anachronism. The shop was sadly emblematic of the stupor plaguing the centre, one hit hard by inaccessibility and the pandemic.

Some background

I noted that they didn’t have a Kmart. My companion observed that Kmart’s aren’t ubiquitous in Westfields. Warringah Mall opened to the public in April of 1963. At its inception, the centre was second only to Chadstone in size. The mall housed about fifty shops, including Woolworths, Franklins, and David Jones. In 1973, a new Grace Bros. store was added. In the 80s, a double Hoyts cinema was annexed. Also, in the 80s, a Target store was unveiled along with twenty other independents. Ownership transferred to AMP Capital in 1994. The mall has a total floor space of 131,605 square metres. The anchor tenants include Coles, Woolworths, Myer, David Jones, Target, Hoyts, and Big W. As a side note, my friend – a big rugby league fan – told me that he has visited Brookvale Oval. The stadium is home to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, one of league’s glamorous clubs. He knows all the players, having worked in the Northern Beaches.

 Stage 2 redevelopment took place in ’98, with a new food court and entertainment district. New stores sprouted along the food court. Aldi intended on joining the centre but was rebuffed. Westfield took a 25 percent stake in 2003, which increased to 50/50 in October of 2012. In light of the deal, the complex was rebranded to Westfield Warringah Mall. A $310 million redevelopment took place in 2015, with the aforementioned 5-storey carpark and a novel fresh food court. The completion of stage 2 saw a new and improved Myer, a refurbished food court, and 70 more stores, including H & M. Like Westfield Eastgardens and Macarthur Square, the mall is clearly a one-stop shop for all your dining, beauty, fashion, grocery, banking, and electrical needs. The centre’s breadth makes it the ultimate shopping destination in Sydney’s northern beaches.

North Head, Sydney

Return

For the trip back, we had the option of taking a direct bus to the city. We noticed that there was a long queue for the double-decker. We decided to take a bus to the wharf. This time I asked the driver if he could get us quickly to our destination. He said he’ll go around Curl Curl. No wonder all the people took the 199 bus behind, so we went with the flow. Sure enough, the journey was a whole lot quicker. Upon alighting near the wharf, we did our weekly shop nearby. Again, we checked the ferry schedule before having supper. We saw that we had two minutes to get on the boat. Upon rushing to the gates, the staffer told us that we had ‘plenty of time’, before flashing a smile. We arrived at Circular Quay and took the train.

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