Manly’s Iconic Beachfront Hotel’s $30 Million Transformation is an Ode to the Ocean
The new Manly Pacific MGallery Collection has emerged from a two-year extreme makeover, complete with a new facade, 213 redesigned rooms, a rooftop pool and bar, a sundeck with an infrared sauna, and a reimagined look and feel that pays homage to its unique spot in front of Manly Beach. Locals and Sydneysiders would know this iconic location as the previous Novotel Manly building, but it has since undergone a complete refurbishment and upgrade from a mid-level Accor group hotel to a boutique-inspired luxury MGallery Collection which is the brand’s prestige-level offering. Where previously the Novotel Manly was positioned for business travellers, the new offering as part of the brand’s MGallery Collection provides a more bespoke, unique experience tailored for tourists, families, and guests looking for a premium seaside stay.
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Speaking on the difference between MGallery Collection properties and other Accor properties, PR and communication manager Sundip Mace says, “It’s not cookie cutter. Each one is completely different and they focus on completely different things. Where Harbour Rocks is more about the heritage pillar, Manly Pacific is more about our signature design and our own unique story in a unique location.”
For Sydney-siders, it’s a perfect spot for a beachside staycation – especially if you don’t visit the Northern Beaches often or from the other side of the bridge. For someone like me, who trekked all the way from the southwestern corridors of Sydney and traversed over two bridges, it felt like a brand new, far-away holiday spot.
Across eight floors, the rooms have been completely redesigned with the help of Australian designers, Coco Republic. Everything from the coastal-themed colour palette to the well-thought-out textures in the furnishings is a loving nod to the hotel’s natural surroundings and an ode to the ocean. In the rooms, there’s no artwork hanging on the walls, but rather, strategically placed mirrors that aptly frame the stunning sky, sea, sand, and greenery of the beach outside – letting the sea speak for itself.
The 213 rooms include nine bespoke ocean-facing coastal suites that boast breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from your own private balcony. The Sun Lounger rooms on level 2 offer 100sqm of outdoor terrace, for those who love to lounge back and soak up a bit of sun without leaving the room. The spacious outdoor terraces also allow for selected Sun Lounger rooms to be pet-friendly, so no need for your furry companion to miss out on all the fun.
The USD$2,000-a-night Infinity Residence is the hotel’s pinnacle of luxury, sitting on the second floor and boasting unrivalled views of the ocean from the large private terrace. The immaculately designed ensuite bathroom features a freestanding stone bathtub and underfloor heating, while guests will be treated to a personalised Baina beach towel, monogrammed with their initials.
Wine lovers will enjoy the expertly curated mini bar that comes with two Vintec wine fridges, fully stocked with a curated French and Australian wine list from Brut to Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay, to Louis Roederer Cristal. On top of all of this, guests staying at the Infinity Residence will have access to their very own personal beach Butler, who will be on call to assist with any requests, activity planning, or pillow-fluffing throughout the duration of the stay.
As soon as you enter the hotel, you’ll spot the welcoming hotel concierge service dubbed “Beach Club”, which can gladly help you arrange bookings at the in-house infrared sauna, as well as a host of other local wellness activities like massages, facials, surf lessons, and fitness classes. If you make your way down to the Beach Club counter every morning, they’ll also offer you a freshly made “health shot” to help kick-start your day.
During my time at the hotel, the Beach Club helped me tee up a few wellness experiences and activities, the first being a guided history walk with a local expert from Hello Manly, who took me on a leisurely morning stroll around the main beach strip and the Shelley Beach Coastal Walk, pointing out the historical significance of certain hotspots along the way. After this, the Beach Club also arranged a relaxing massage at Bare Beauty House, just around the corner from the hotel and also an early meditation session the following morning.
Definitely, one of the most interesting experiences the Beach Club can arrange for you is a cryotherapy session. The Manly Pacific has partnered up with a local cryotherapy centre, ºCRYO Northern Beaches, which offers a long list of cryogenic therapies. While cryogenic wellness and cold therapies aren’t new, the long list of proven benefits for chronic pain relief, muscle recovery, and mental health definitely captured my interest.
The all-immersive cryotherapy chamber experience was a first for me. Franchise owners, Ash and Dimple were the perfect hosts, making me feel comfortable, informed, and safe every step of the way. After stripping down to a pair of tiny shorts, knee-high socks, and a sweatband to cover my ears, I stepped into a literal freezer set to minus 120ºC temperate for three minutes. You get to choose a song of your choice to play in the icy chamber, while you shiver away your bodily ailments. Admittedly, the last minute was a challenge, but as soon as I stepped out of the freeze-box and my body began to regulate temperatures, I could feel the rush of energy almost immediately.
Food and Dining
The new Manly Pacific is host to three food and beverage venues. By day, Bistro Manly offers an all-encompassing breakfast buffet, stocked with every possible breakfast option including made-to-order coffee from local roasters Seven Miles, an egg station, and a wide selection of fresh pastries and fruit. By night, Bistro Manly turns into an upscale, dimly-lit, French-style bistro, serving delicious seafood dishes, share plates by executive chef Ryan Dawson, and an extensive wine and cocktail list.
55 North is a vibrant new bar that sits adjoining the lobby and is quintessentially named in honour of its stellar address and shoreside locale. The eclectic space is beautifully designed by Luchetti Krelle with arched reliefs highlighted by timber veneers and paved autumnal marble and tiles throughout, all framing a striking ocean-side backdrop.
Beside 55 North is the Japanese-fusion restaurant, Tokyo Joe, where the menu is designed with “kaiseki” in mind, consisting of a series of small sharing dishes to enjoy with friends in an eclectic beach-facing space. The menu by former Nobu Sydney Chef Marcelino Elamparo Papio Jr, offers a selection of sushi, delicately cut sashimi, and steamed buns, all offering an explosion of flavour.
What sets apart MGallery Collection hotels from other boutique venues is that each hotel has a distinctive local story to tell. From the moment you step into the lobby, you can tell that a strong local spirit inspires almost every touchpoint – everything from the deco, design, scent, and staff. Each MGallery Collection hotel also features a unique item that helps tell the story of the location, with Manly Pacific’s iconic object being a custom surfboard cultivated by Denny Keogh of Keyo International, one of the pioneering Brookvale Six surfboard shapers. Manly Pacific truly champions the local community and wants all visitors, local and abroad, to discover what Manly and the Northern Beaches have to offer, from its rich surfing history to its thriving local arts scene and boutique shopping.
“We’re showcasing Manly’s creative community throughout the hotel, from displaying the works of local photographers to heroising local produce on our plates and featuring artisan craft pieces throughout the property,” says General Manager Dylan Cole.
“At every touch point, we’ve considered the extra level of detail guests now expect from a great hotel experience, with a key focus on sustainability initiatives, such as smarter energy-saving room controls to electric car charging stations. We’ve brought a new level of sophistication to Manly without losing the quintessential way of life of the Northern Beaches, from its laid-back lifestyle and strong connection to the sea and wellbeing,” continues Cole.
The current Manly Pacific building itself has had many custodians over the years, having many iterations and transformations over its 111 years as a hotel building. The Hotel Pacific was built on the site of the old Clarendon Hotel on North Steyne and opened in 1912. The Sydney Morning Herald 8 November 1910 stated: “The Manly Hotels, Limited will proceed with the erection of the very large residential hotel, costing about £30,000.
That year it advertised in the NSSLSC Carnival programme as “The only First-Class Residential Hotel in Australia”. There were 100 rooms, with electric light and lifts, and hot and cold water. Since its first opening, it was taken over by several different owners and in April 1958, it was listed as the first prize in a controversial public lottery.
The building was demolished in 1976/77 before the site was acquired by brothers Andrew and Tony Kalajzich, who built the present hotel at a cost of AUD$17 million. The new 300-room Manly Pacific International Hotel was completed on the site in 1982, and opened its doors on 1st November 1982. Since the ’80s, it’s made further evolutions into The Manly Pacific Parkroyal Hote, Novotel Manly, and now, The Manly Pacific MGallery Collection.
What to Do Around Town
- Manly to Shelly Beach Coastal Walk – Along the main path from Manly’s main beach is the sheltered and delightful Shelly Beach, almost like a hidden gem that’s a small cove beloved by locals. Walking past the Manly Life Saving Club and along the Cabbage Tree Eco Foreshore Walk is a leisurely 1.3km stroll, where you’ll pass lively scenes of snorkelers trying to catch a glimpse of resident blue groper, Harry (or George, depending on who you ask). The walk will also take you past the historic Fairy Bower baths as well as interesting sculptures and plaques providing information on the unique marine life, plants, animals, and history of the area.
- The Boathouse Shelly Beach – At the end of the Manly to Shelly Beach walk is the bustling Boathouse Restaurant and Kiosk, perfectly positioned with views of the stunning Shelly Beach. The venue is spacious and food servings are generous! Although, tables are first come first serve, so be prepared to either wait or fight to secure a table – as weekends are quite busy with both locals and tourists.
- Hugos Manly – There’s a handful of Sydney establishments that you would categorise as a ‘quintessential Sydney dining experience’ and Hugos Manly at sunset is one of them. Located on the right-hand side of Manly Wharf, the contemporary Italian dining venue boasts dazzling waterfront views. Ask any Manly local and they’ll have a recommendation at Hugos, whether it’s the award-winning pizzas, yellowfin tuna crostini, or crab pasta, it’s hard to go wrong no matter what you choose. For those brave enough to tackle the famous seafood platter, a word of advice, be sure to wear stretchy pants.
- The Cumberland – Walking past this unassuming bodega-style corner deli near the Manly Pacific, you would never suspect that there is a charming, debonair basement bar hidden behind the fridge door. The Cumberland is an underground speakeasy with a Spanish twist and sophisticated basement bar that serves a selection of over 250 whiskies, craft beer, and a fun, themed cocktail menu including prohibition classics, and tipples inspired by original counties from Sydney. The Cumberland is bursting with character, leaning on a vintage theme, including marble benchtops, hand-carved sandstone blocks, reclaimed timber, and antique brass and copper accents.
As far as local hotels go, the new Manly Pacific is full of character and thought-out details that really showcase and complement its iconic beachfront location. Every part of a relaxing, seamless hotel stay has been thought about, making it perfect for tourists, couples, and families alike. From my perspective, it’s AUD$31 million dollars well spent, especially when investing in creating a luxury centre point that truly elevates Manly as a quintessential Australian destination.
Manly Pacific Hotel
Address: 55 N Steyne, Manly NSW 2095, Australia
DISCLAIMER: The author of this article, John Guanzon, was invited to stay at the Manly Pacific Hotel for the purposes of this review.