More than two million people walk the length of The Corso each year, going from Manly Wharf to Manly Beach…
The Corso, named after a famous street in Rome, was laid out as part of the original 1855 town plan for Manly by the visionary English entrepreneur, Henry Gilbert Smith.
The Corso may have followed a much earlier path created by the Aboriginal people of the Gayamaygal clan.
Smith realised immediately upon seeing it that Manly’s ocean beach would be a wonderful attraction for tourists.
His vision for The Corso included hotels, tea rooms and a promenade but was initially little more than a boardwalk for early tourists to cross the sand spit (the ‘Isthmus’) between the harbour ferry pier and the ocean beach.
Smith built and leased the first buildings on The Corso including the Pier and Steyne Hotels at its opposite ends. He also donated money for the first St Matthew’s Anglican Church, built in 1864-65.
Soon, visitors began to arrive in ever-greater numbers. There was a veritable ‘boom’ in construction in the 1880s.
The success of Smith’s scheme was made possible both by a new paddle steamer ferry service from the rapidly growing township of Sydney and the newly commissioned wharf on Manly Cove.
Just like today, in the nineteenth century the ferry service was a crucial link to Manly for residents and tourists alike.
Since those days, The Corso and the Ferry Wharf have become icons of Manly.
While much else has changed, the pounding surf, the golden sand, the sweeping bays and dainty inlets – and the delight experienced by countless visitors stepping ashore from the ferries – have remained the same.