|Operator||Transdev Sydney Ferries|
|System length||2 wharves, 11.3km (7mi)|
|No. of vessels||2 Freshwater class; 3 Emerald class (Current), 3-4 Freshwater Class (Future)|
In 1853, Henry Gilbert Smith chartered the wooden paddle wheeler Brothers to bring people to the Manly area and thus boost the value of the subdivision of his land holdings near the Corso. The Manly area with its beaches and bays became a popular weekend destination and more ferries were chartered including by a local hotel owner. By 1855, the paddle steamer Emu (I) provided two daily weekday trips. Emu was followed by Black Swan and Pelican.
In 1859, the first double-ended ferry, Phantom commenced the service. She was a success, and the double-ended configuration remains the standard on the Manly route through to the present-day. Weekends and holidays were even busier than week days, and extra boats and tugs were put into service often as charters, including Goolwa, Breadalbane, Cobra, Royal Alfred, and Manly (I). A new company, the Port Jackson Steamboat Company was formed in 1876, and within a few years it was running British-built Fairlight and Commodore to Manly. In 1881, the company was reformed into the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company, and the biggest paddle steamer ferry to ever operate on the harbour, the opulent Brighton, was commissioned by the company in 1883.
With fares at one shilling for a single, in 1892 the Port Jackson Steamship Company announced a fare increase. In response, some Manly residents formed their own competing company, The Manly Co-operative Steam Ferry Company, which ran chartered steamers at sixpence a single. The Port Jackson company dropped their fares to threepence which was match by the Cop-op. Neither company was profitable at this price, so in 1896 they amalgamated to form the Port Jackson Co-operative Steamship Company. Renowned naval architect, Walter Reeks, designed two new ferries for the service, that would be archetypes for all Manly ferries through to the current Freshwater class. Manly (II) (1896) was the first double-ended screw ferry on the run, and Kuring-gai (1901) was steel, double-ended screw steamer that in its appearance, size and capacity, was the first of the familiar Manly ferries of the twentieth century.
To meet the expanding demand, the company commissioned six similar double-ended screw steamers: Binngarra (1905), Burra Bra (1908), Bellubera (1910), Balgowlah (1912), Barrenjoey (1913), and Baragoola (1922). Prior to the construction of the first Spit Bridge in 1928, retired passenger ferries were used as cargo carriers. In 1928, two new ferries built in Scotland, Curl Curl and Dee Why were commissioned. They were the largest and fastest ferries on the harbour until 1938 when the Company commissioned South Steyne also built in Scotland.
The three Scottish-built steamers and most remaining "Binngarra-type" vessels were pulled out of service over the course of the 1960s and 1970s as the Manly service and its vessels declined. The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company operated the service until it was sold to Brambles Industries in April 1972 and taken over by the NSW State-government Public Transport Commission in December 1974 along with the inner harbour services run formerly run by Sydney Ferries Ltd. In July 1980, operations came under the control of the Urban Transit Authority. Baragoola and Barrenjoey (later renamed North Head), were retired in 1983 and 1985 respectively upon the introduction of the Freshwater-class ferries which remain in service. In January 1989, the service came under the control of the State Transit Authority and in 2004 Sydney Ferries.
In the mid-1960s hydrofoil services were introduced to complement the traditional ferries. They halved the travel time of the ferries but had significantly higher fares. The hydrofoils were replaced in 1990 by Jetcats, however, these proved unreliable and expensive and were replaced by the current Manly fast ferry service. The Sydney JetCats high speed service, was discontinued on 31 December 2008 and replaced with a privately owned service operated by Manly Fast Ferries. In March 2010, the government announced that that Manly Fast Ferries contract had not been renewed. Instead another private operator, Sydney Fast Ferries, was awarded a five-year contract from 1 April 2010. However both operators continued to operate services between Circular Quay and Manly During 2014 Transport for NSW put out a tender for a combined service to commence during 2015  with Bass & Flinders Cruises, SeaLink Travel Group, Sydney Fast Ferries and Transit Systems responding. On 13 December 2014, it was announced that Manly Fast Ferries had won back the rights to operate the service, with a new contract which commenced on 1 April 2015.
In 2013, the Manly Ferry was given the designation F1 as part of a program to number all lines of the Sydney Ferries, Sydney Trains and light rail networks.
In 2019, Transport for NSW announced they would be retiring the Freshwater class as early as 2020, and replace them with three new Emerald Class ferries to provide more frequent services. The three emerald class ferries are named Clontarf, Balmoral & Fairlight as a homage to the suburbs of the northern beaches.
In November 2020, the Minister for Transport announced that when the new ferries are put into operation, the Collaroy would be retained in service until at least 2023 for weekend operation. On 14 January 2021 it was announced that the Freshwater will also be retained for future services. The Queenscliff was retired on 13 October 2021 just prior to the first Emerald Class vessels operating. On 9 December 2021, it was announced that Narrabeen would be given new engines and an overhaul amidst rumours about the vessel having been decommissioned or scrapped.
In 2023 it was announced that plans to return all 4 Freshwaters are underway. With this the Emerald-class are expected to be taken off the Manly run and repurpoused on other routes. The return of the Freshwaters will restore the previous time table used prior to the Emerald's introduction.
Brighton (1883-1916), the largest and last paddle steamer ferry on Sydney Harbour
Binngarra at Manly Wharf, early 20th century
Curl Curl approaches Manly Wharf, 1950s
The Sydney Ferries network is operated by Transdev Sydney Ferries. Route design, timetabling and branding of the services is managed by Transport for NSW. During the Summer Holidays, the Manly Ferry runs to a "Summer Timetable" which provides additional services to cater for demand from increased tourist numbers.
Freshwater class ferries
The former Harbour City Ferries fleet of four Manly ferries are known as the Freshwater class and comprised, in order of commissioning, the MV Freshwater, MV Queenscliff, MV Narrabeen, and MV Collaroy, which were commissioned between 1982 and 1988. They were built by the State Dockyard in Newcastle and Carrington Slipways in Tomago. They are 70 metres (230 ft) in length, 12.5 metres (41 ft) wide, draught of 3.3 metres (11 ft) and they displace 1,140 tonnes (1122 Imperial tons). Their passenger capacity is 1,100 and their service speed is 16 knots. Emissions per person‐kilometre travelled are nearly the same for private car and for ferry.
They are powered by two Daihatsu model 8DSMB-32 turbo-charged diesel engines which each develop 2238 kW at 600rpm, and have hand-controllable pitch propellers. The hull and lower cabin area are of welded steel construction and the upper cabin and two wheelhouses are aluminium.
In 2019 plans were announced to retire all 4 Freshwater class ferries and replace them with new versions of the smaller inner harbour Emerald-class ferries fitted with wave piercing hulls. Due to large public outcry and problems with the new Emerald-class ferries 2 of the 4 Freshwater-class ferries (Freshwater and Collaroy) were saved from retirement. In October 2021 MV Queenscliff was retired. Later on that same year, MV Narrabeen was retired after a cancelled engine replacement as it would cost too much money. In 2021 there were plans to save Collaroy only, and retire freshwater, but it was later decided to bring Queenscliff back in service and retire Collaroy. Currently 2 of the Freshwater-class ferries only operate on weekends and public holidays however they have been seen operating when the swells are too large for the Emerald-class ferries to operate.
In 2023 it was announced that plans are under way to return all 4 Freshwater Class Ferries to full time operation, thus bringing Narrabeen and Queenscliff out of retirement and cancelling Collaroy's retirement. But two weeks after plans to bring all four ferries back in service, the NSW government put Collaroy under inspection to see if it was actually suited for continuing service.
Emerald Class Ferries
3 Emerald-class ferries currently operate the Manly ferry service. These vessels are named Fairlight, Balmoral and Clontarf. The Emerald-class ferries are a second series of an inner harbour design fitted with wave piercing hulls to help them cross Sydney harbour's heads.
The Emerald-class are expected to be removed from the run once a time table is worked out for at least 3 of the Freshwater-class.
Sydney Ferries services use Wharf 3 at Circular Quay for services to Manly. Wharf 3 is specially designed to allow for double deck boarding and alighting, lowering dwell time for ferries.
This wharf serves the suburb of Manly and is located opposite the harbour end of The Corso on The Esplanade. The wharf was designed to allow for double deck boarding on the "A" side of the wharf. The "B" side is used by Manly Fast Ferries for services to Circular Quay  while My Fast Ferry and Captain Cook Cruises Harbour Explorer use the Manly Hotel wharf also known as the East Wharf, just south east of the main wharf, for Hop On/Hop off services around Sydney Harbour with the former also operating a loop service to Darling Harbour.
The following table shows the patronage of Sydney Ferries network for the year ending 30 June 2022.
|1 716 000||
|1 067 000|
|1 216 000|
- Figures based on Opal tap on and tap off data.
- Clark, LA (1976). North of the Harbour. Broadmeadow NSW: Newey & Beath Printers Pty Ltd. pp. 38–44. ISBN 0909650055.
- Andrews, Graeme (1982). A Pictorial History of Ferries: Sydney and Surrounding Waterways. Sydney: AH & AW Reed Pty Ltd. ISBN 0589503863.
- NSW Transport and Infrastructure
- Ferry Operator Dumped The Australian 24 December 2009
- Battle to be the last fast ferry on the harbour Archived 2 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine Sydney Morning Herald 9 April 2010
- Fast ferry services Archived 14 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine Transport for New South Wales 4 November 2014
- Fast Ferry Service Contract between Circular Quay and Manly Archived 13 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine NSW eTendering 17 July 2014
- Opinions of commuters wanted on four fast ferry tenderers Manly Daily 12 November 2014
- Terry Dodd has each way bet on Manly fast ferries tender Archived 21 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine Sydney Morning Herald 3 December 2014
- Cheaper fares, more services and new vessels for Manly Fast Ferry customers Transport for NSW 13 December 2014
- O'Sullivan, Matt (4 April 2019). "Sydney's 'beloved' Manly ferries face prospect of last sailings". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 April 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
- Future for Freshwater ferry secured Archived 27 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine Transport for NSW 27 October 2020
- Sydney to retain second Freshwater ferry Archived 21 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine The Young Witness 15 January 2021
- F1 Manly Summer Timetable NSW Transport Info
- Sydney Ferries brochure
- "Review of fares for Sydney ferries" (PDF). 2013.
- "Sydney's 'beloved' Manly ferries face prospect of last sailings". 4 April 2019.
- "End of an era: Last sailing set for Manly ferry". 7 October 2021. Archived from the original on 14 March 2022. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
- "Manly Fast Ferry timetable". Transport for NSW.
- "Manly Darling Harbour Loop timetable". Transport for NSW.
- Manly Sightseeing Cruise Archived 12 January 2019 at the Wayback Machine My Fast Ferry
- "Harbour Explorer timetable" (PDF). Captain Cook Cruises. 15 December 2018.
- Region 8 bus services Effective December 2020 Archived 28 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine NSW Government Transport Retrieved 21 January 2021
- "Ferry Patronage – Monthly Comparison". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
- F1 Manly at Transport for New South Wales