Manly is the Northern Beaches' answer to the Eastern Suburbs' Bondi Beach: one famous beach north of the harbor to rival the one south of it. These are by no means carbon copies of each other, however. Whereas Bondi has all glitz and trendy dining and nightlife, Manly is more laid-back and liveable.
You don't give up on lifestyle by being here, though. There are still plenty of delicious restaurants, cool bars, and lots of shopping. Like Bondi, it does attract lots of tourists, but they tend to disembark from the ferry and walk along a pedestrian mall to their destination: the beautiful beach. Occasionally whales and dolphins come into the shallows to say hello to swimmers.
When it comes to housing, you'll predominantly find low-rise and high-rise apartments. Some are basic brick structures while the ones lining the beach are modern and high-end. In the northern section of Manly there are quaint Victorian-style cottages, larger two-story houses, and a number of duplexes.
Driving during rush hour is a frustrating experience: there's only one main road in or out and it's generally tied up with traffic. But ferries are in ample supply, including a fast ferry during rush hour that only takes 20 minutes to get you to Circular Quay in the CBD. One friend who lived in Manly often remarked that when he got on the ferry to head home after a day's work in the CBD, and looked out on the harbor during the 20 minute ride, he often felt he was going on a holiday. The ride can be a rough one in bad weather, however.
Manly is bordered on the north by Manly Lagoon, on the east and south by the Tasman Sea, and on the west by Sydney Harbour, Fairlight, and Manly Vale.
CBD: 17.4 km / 35-75 minutes by car / 35-40 minutes by transit
Chatswood: 17.6 km / 35-60 minutes by car / 50-65 minutes by transit
Brookvale: 6.3 km / 15 minutes by car / 15-25 minutes by transit / 20-25 minutes by bike