Living in Manly
The Northern Beaches are sometimes known as the Insular Peninsula because once you are in the area there is no real need to head into Sydney city as everything you need is already here. This is particularly true in Manly which is geographically the closest northern beach suburb to the city. Manly has all that's good about the beach lifestyle under its belt - low level housing, parks, less noise, less traffic, an easier pace of life and, of course, beautiful beaches. It also has the benefit of being well connected to the city by ferry or bus.
The most populated and famous part of Manly is the expanse known as Manly Corso which is a busy paved promenade running from the beach to Manly wharf. Manly is a popular option for surfers, beach bunnies, and those who prefer a cleaner existence beyond the urban sprawl. Manly can fast become a frustrating choice to set up home if you don't like commuting but this is the price you must pay to live among the natural assets of the area.
Manly has been undergoing so much property development in the last 10 years that it's difficult to keep up. Shops and apartment blocks are going up at an alarming rate. Amazing houses can be found perched on the hills and or on the waterfront for well over a million dollars. For the average income earner the most likely option for housing is an apartment or modest house a little further away from the water. Older apartments might not be roomy but they can be priced reasonably and many are within walking distance to the beach. If you have a higher budget a large amount of new apartments have recently been erected in the area. These are too young to have any real personality at this stage, but the Northern beaches are not really about old world charm at any rate.
As on any beach suburb there are bound to be a large proportion of surfers and healthy families with their healthy with their healthy lifestyles. This is a where the older generation can finally afford to retire in the sun and hard working professionals are determined to make the pilgrimage into the city each day where their jobs afford them their coastal escape on the weekend and evenings. There is clearly no shortage of fit, young, well dressed and attractive locals to gawk at (similar to Bondi), and even the "anti-establishment" teenage locals seem just a tiny bit more optimistic than their city based peers.
Interestingly, Manly is visibly free of any of the city's homeless or less privileged residents which does make the area appear strangely sanitized but the effects of late nights, alcohol, and large crowds on the Corso every Friday and Saturday night certainly evens up the suburb's quota for brawling and street crime - its just done in a more expensive outfit. Manly is doing a fabulous job of tidying up or disguising its less-desirable characteristics.
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
Pubs are an Australian institution and only in the last decade has the demand for clubs caught up with the rest of the world. Manly still definitely caters for those who prefer quiet schooners of beer and the sports channel on TV (The Stein, The Ivanhoe), but it also has a decent selection of clubs and bars to keep the younger crowd happy. Live entertainment can be found at the Fishos, with local and city bands playing Fridays and Saturdays. Manly Corso itself is the entertainment strip for the area and simply heading here will provide a broad array of eating and drinking options. For more diverse cultural experiences (theatre, dance, exhibitions, comedy), consult the local paper - The Manly Daily. Manly's specialty is, understandably, drinks with a view.
Manly comes alive in summer and the crowds that disembark from city ferries all day every day in summer are a testament to the area's popularity. Manly has the ocean, parks, beaches, cafes and even fishing, all in close proximity to each other. There is absolutely no shortage of beautiful places to spend a warm day. Locals tend to start their days with runs, swims or rides along the beach, lunches on the Corso, and then an afternoon drink in the sun on the waterfront. BBQs along the beach or in parks are a common choice for dinner.
Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways
Aside from two supermarkets (Coles and Woolworths) which promise basic supplies for reasonable prices, the cuisine in Manly is vast and varied. As this is a tourist-driven area be aware that money can be unloaded in a "holiday" fashion easily in restaurants obviously benefiting from foreign patrons still unaccustomed to, or un-phased by, Australian currency conversion. Restaurants and take-away businesses change hands frequently, so the only way to really be sure of quality is to experience it all for yourself. It won't be a difficult task, as the lion's share of fresh Australian cuisine is notoriously good. Alternatively, simplify your tastes and opt for the ever-reliable fish and chips on the beach.
The Manly ferry and Jetcat are most certainly the most scenic form of transportation into the city but for the one-way costs of $6.40 and $8.20 respectively, many find this an expensive daily choice. Buses run from the Manly bus terminal frequently, and cost somewhat less into the city, but this will include the commute through Military Road - a two lane traffic-congested headache that every beach local loathes enthusiastically. Its existence is possibly only appreciated between the hours of 2-4am when for a small window of time, it's not filled with frustrated drivers inching forward, and refining their road rage skills. Buses also run from Manly northward along the coast, right up to Palm Beach (around a 45 minute journey to the city or Palm Beach from Manly).
There is a taxi rank near the Bus depot in Manly and, as the suburb and surrounding areas are more spread out than the city, taxis are sometimes an unavoidable necessity when all local pubs and clubs close. Keep in mind that you and around 700 other people will have the same idea, so do not expect to get home quickly or easily around this time.
Areas of Sydney