Toy wooden ferry

MAG&M Collection Stories:

All aboard! Manly ferries in the 1930-60s

The Manly Ferry is an icon of Sydney, celebrated in art, music and literature. A ferry service from Sydney to Manly Wharf dates from 1855, playing a significant role in the development of Manly and the Northern Beaches. Even today, the journey from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf is the busiest and arguably the most famous ferry journey in the country.

Today we take you back with memories of the Manly ferries between the 1930s - 1960s.

First up, recollections of the SS South Steyne with a 1930s life jacket and photograph from the 1960s of Captain W M Gibson, Master of the South Steyne. The vessel began its career on the Manly run in 1938 and when it was decommissioned in 1974 it was the last remaining steam ferry in service in Sydney.

In modernist style, artist Harold Greenhill depicts a view of Manly ferry commuters during an evening in the 1940s. During this time Greenhill lived in Manly adjacent to the harbour and no doubt saw the daily scene of Manly ferries travelling to and from the wharf, a view captured by photographer Frank Hurley in Manly Wharf and Bus Terminal, c.1950s. This birds’ eye image shows the bustling transport hub, Manly Wharf, the fun pier and Manly baths in the background and is a digitally remastered work, printed from the black and white files in the National Library of Australia’s Hurley collection.



  1. Chuck Bradley (b.1959), Life Jacket (Nostalgica series), 2013, photograph depicting S.S. South Steyne Life Jacket, c1930s. Gift of A. Gowenloch 1982 (MO740)
  2. Harold Greenhill (1914-1995), Evening on Manly Ferry, c.1946, oil on board, 44 x 38cm. Purchased 1979 (A0462)
  3. Ferry clock from the MV Baragoola, made by ‘Smith’, c.1930s (M0741)
  4. Frank Hurley (1885-1962), Manly Wharf and Bus Terminal, c.1950s, 59.5 x 86cm. Digital print by Warren Macris 2018, courtesy of the National Library of Australia (P1856)
  5. Toy wooden ferry, c1940s. Gift of Lundie family 2002 (M1103)
  6.  Capt W M Gibson, Master of the 'South Steyne', c.1960s. Gift of Lyn Westbury 2010 (P1694)