The 10 Best Suburbs to Live in the NORTHERN BEACHES: Reviewed and Ranked in 2024

Identifying the best suburbs in the Northern Beaches is akin to finding hidden gems in a treasure trove; each suburb has its unique charm and challenges. Choosing the wrong suburb could lead to issues such as unsatisfactory local amenities, long commutes to work, or a mismatch with your lifestyle.

As a seasoned real estate professional with extensive research and first-hand experience, I present a comprehensive list below and trustworthy guide to help Australian couples make an informed decision. Including:

10. Dee Why – Score: 68/100

Dee Why Beach, image by Anton Leddin

Dee Why, a blend of coastal allure and urban convenience, scores well in some areas but falls short in others.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 8/10
  • Schools: 7/10
  • Public Transport: 5/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 7/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 6/10
  • Safety: 7/10
  • Housing Affordability: 4/10
  • Community Vibe: 7/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 7/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Dee Why Beach is renowned for its surf breaks and family-friendly picnic areas. Recent surveys show high satisfaction among locals and visitors.  The suburb boasts a vibrant dining scene, with new eateries and boutique shops opening regularly, reflecting a growing economy.  Known for its diverse community, Dee Why hosts various cultural festivals annually, fostering a sense of togetherness.  Exceptional health care facilities, including the Dee Why Grand, offer comprehensive services, evidenced by the suburb’s high health care access score.

Property prices have risen significantly, with recent data indicating a 20% increase over the past year.  Despite improvements, residents often cite the need for more frequent and diverse transport options.  While there are several parks, the area could benefit from more green spaces and recreational facilities.

Dee Why, with its excellent beach and community spirit, is ideal for young families and health-conscious individuals. However, those seeking affordable housing or extensive public transport may need to consider other options.

9. Narrabeen – Score: 71/100

Narrabeen Beach, image by David Edwards

Narrabeen, where serene lakeside meets oceanic charm, offers a mixed bag of features for potential residents.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 9/10
  • Schools: 6/10
  • Public Transport: 6/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 7/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 8/10
  • Safety: 7/10
  • Housing Affordability: 5/10
  • Community Vibe: 8/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 7/10
  • Health Care Access: 8/10

Narrabeen Beach, with its pristine sands and superb surf, attracts both locals and tourists, as recent tourism statistics highlight.  Home to Narrabeen Lakes, the suburb offers ample outdoor activities, from kayaking to birdwatching, enhancing its recreational appeal.  The community in Narrabeen is tight-knit, known for frequent local markets and community events that create a welcoming atmosphere.  With several top-rated clinics and easy access to larger hospitals, Narrabeen stands out in healthcare services.

The increasing demand for properties near the beach and lake has led to a steep hike in prices, making it less affordable for many.  While sufficient, public transport options are limited compared to other suburbs, as echoed in community feedback.  The quality of schools is decent, but there’s room for improvement, especially in terms of facilities and resources.

Narrabeen is perfect for those who love the outdoors and a strong community feel. However, its higher property prices and limited public transport might not suit everyone’s needs.

8. Avalon Beach – Score: 74/100

Avalong Beach, image by Maurice van Creij

Avalon Beach, a picturesque blend of coastal beauty and artistic flair, presents an attractive yet nuanced living experience.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 10/10
  • Schools: 6/10
  • Public Transport: 4/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 8/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 9/10
  • Safety: 8/10
  • Housing Affordability: 3/10
  • Community Vibe: 9/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 7/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Avalon Beach is arguably one of the best in Sydney, with its stunning vistas and clean waters, as various travel blogs and magazines frequently acclaim.  The suburb is known for its unique boutiques and eclectic dining options, attracting visitors from all over Sydney.  Avalon’s artistic community, hosting numerous art shows and cultural events, creates a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.  The abundance of natural parks and walking trails makes it a haven for nature enthusiasts and fitness buffs alike.

Avalon is one of the more expensive suburbs, with recent reports showing median house prices well above the Sydney average.  The limited public transport options can be a significant drawback for commuters and those reliant on public transit.  While there are local job opportunities, many residents commute to Sydney or nearby suburbs for work.

Avalon Beach is ideal for those seeking a picturesque, community-oriented lifestyle and who do not mind the higher cost of living or limited public transport.

7. Freshwater – Score: 76/100

Freshwater Headland, image by Adam.J.W.C.

Freshwater, known for its historic charm and vibrant community life, strikes a balance between tradition and modern amenities.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 9/10
  • Schools: 8/10
  • Public Transport: 7/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 7/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 7/10
  • Safety: 8/10
  • Housing Affordability: 5/10
  • Community Vibe: 8/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 7/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Freshwater Beach, with its stunning coastal line and family-friendly atmosphere, is a favourite among locals, as highlighted in regional tourism surveys.  The suburb is known for its strong sense of community, hosting annual festivals and events that bring residents together.  Freshwater boasts a lower crime rate compared to other suburbs, offering a sense of security for its inhabitants.  The suburb has excellent healthcare facilities, including specialised clinics and easy access to major hospitals.

The allure of the suburb has led to a rise in property prices, making it less accessible for first-time homebuyers.  While there are bus services, the lack of direct train lines to the city can be a drawback for daily commuters.  Although there are green spaces, the options for recreational facilities are limited compared to neighbouring suburbs.

Freshwater is ideal for families and individuals seeking a safe, community-focused lifestyle with easy beach access. However, it might not be the best fit for those who are seeking affordable housing or extensive recreational facilities.

6. Collaroy – Score: 77/100

Collaroy, blending coastal beauty with a laid-back lifestyle, offers residents a tranquil yet connected living experience.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 8/10
  • Schools: 7/10
  • Public Transport: 7/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 7/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 8/10
  • Safety: 8/10
  • Housing Affordability: 8/10
  • Community Vibe: 8/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 7/10
  • Health Care Access: 9/10

Collaroy Beach, known for its picturesque scenery and clean waters, is a favourite spot for both relaxation and water sports.  With several well-maintained parks and recreational areas, Collaroy is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and families.  The suburb’s growing business sector offers diverse job opportunities, as recent economic reports indicate.  The friendly and welcoming community in Collaroy is one of its most appealing features, often organising local events and activities.

The suburb’s popularity has led to higher property prices, though not as steep as in some neighbouring areas.  Although improving, public transport services could be more frequent and diverse.  The educational facilities, while good, are not as highly rated as in some other Northern Beaches suburbs.

Collaroy is a great choice for those seeking a balance between a relaxed coastal lifestyle and urban convenience. It’s particularly suited for professionals and families who enjoy community engagement and outdoor activities.

5. Mona Vale – Score: 80/100

Mona Vale, image by Nigel Howe

Mona Vale, with its harmonious blend of beach and bushland, offers an idyllic lifestyle that appeals to a diverse demographic.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 8/10
  • Schools: 8/10
  • Public Transport: 7/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 7/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 8/10
  • Safety: 8/10
  • Housing Affordability: 7/10
  • Community Vibe: 9/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 8/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Mona Vale Beach, renowned for its golden sands and excellent surf conditions, regularly receives high praise from local surfers and families.  The suburb is known for its strong community spirit, hosting regular markets and community events that foster a sense of belonging.  With a mix of local businesses and commercial areas, Mona Vale offers a range of job opportunities, as indicated by local employment statistics.  Excellent healthcare services, including the Mona Vale Hospital, ensure residents have access to top-notch medical care.

The desirability of Mona Vale has led to a steady increase in property prices, making it challenging for some buyers.  While there are reliable bus services, some residents feel the need for more direct routes to the city.  The schools are well-regarded, but some lack the advanced facilities found in more affluent suburbs.

Mona Vale is perfect for those seeking a community-oriented lifestyle with great natural beauty. It’s well-suited for families and professionals, though the rising housing costs should be considered.

4. Manly – Score: 82/100

Manly Beach and Sydney Harbour, image by Maksym Kozlenko

Manly, a suburb synonymous with beach culture and vibrant urban life, offers a dynamic living experience for its residents.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 10/10
  • Schools: 8/10
  • Public Transport: 9/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 9/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 8/10
  • Safety: 7/10
  • Housing Affordability: 4/10
  • Community Vibe: 9/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 8/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Manly Beach, famous worldwide for its surfing and beach lifestyle, is a major drawcard for the suburb.  Excellent public transport, including the iconic Manly Ferry, provides easy access to Sydney CBD and other areas.  A plethora of dining options and shopping destinations make Manly a hub for foodies and shoppers alike.  The suburb has a lively, inclusive atmosphere, with frequent cultural events and a strong sense of community.

Manly’s popularity and prime location contribute to its high property prices, as recent real estate reports show.  While generally safe, some areas in Manly experience higher than average nightlife-related disturbances.  Although the schools in Manly are well-regarded, they often face overcrowding due to the suburb’s popularity.

Manly is ideal for those who love a vibrant, beach-centric lifestyle and don’t mind paying a premium for it. It’s particularly appealing to young professionals and families who enjoy a lively community.

3. Curl Curl – Score: 84/100

South Curl Curl Boardwalk, image by Ciara Ryan

Curl Curl, renowned for its spectacular coastline and relaxed lifestyle, offers a serene yet vibrant living experience.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 10/10
  • Schools: 7/10
  • Public Transport: 7/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 8/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 10/10
  • Safety: 9/10
  • Housing Affordability: 7/10
  • Community Vibe: 8/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 8/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Curl Curl Beach is a highlight, known for its unspoiled beauty and excellent surf, making it a favourite among locals and visitors.  The area boasts numerous parks and recreational facilities, offering a range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.  With one of the lower crime rates in the region, Curl Curl is considered a very safe place to live.  The suburb is well-served by healthcare facilities, including local clinics and easy access to larger hospitals.

The suburb’s appeal has driven up housing prices, posing challenges for first-time buyers.  While adequate, public transport options could be more frequent and comprehensive.  The schools in Curl Curl are good, but there are concerns about the growing student population and the need for more resources.

Curl Curl is an excellent choice for beach lovers and families looking for a safe and engaging community. However, its rising property prices may be a consideration for some potential buyers.

2. Balgowlah – Score: 86/100

Balgowlah, blending suburban tranquillity with urban convenience, emerges as a top choice for a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 8/10
  • Schools: 9/10
  • Public Transport: 8/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 8/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 9/10
  • Safety: 9/10
  • Housing Affordability: 7/10
  • Community Vibe: 9/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 9/10
  • Health Care Access: 10/10

Balgowlah boasts some of the best educational institutions in the region, with excellent academic and extracurricular offerings.  The suburb is known for its welcoming community, hosting numerous local events and activities that foster a strong sense of belonging.  With a thriving local economy, Balgowlah offers ample job opportunities in various sectors.  The suburb provides a plethora of green spaces and recreational facilities, catering to a wide range of interests and ages.

While the beaches are lovely, they are not as expansive or renowned as some other Northern Beaches locations.  Despite being more affordable than some neighbours, Balgowlah’s housing market remains challenging for some.  Public transport, though improved, still requires enhancements to meet the growing needs of residents.

Balgowlah is perfect for those seeking a well-rounded suburban life with easy access to urban amenities. It’s especially suitable for families and professionals who value community and education.

1. Fairlight – Score: 88/100

Fairlight Rookpool, image by Hardlinerr

Fairlight, with its stunning harbour views and quaint village atmosphere, stands out as the premier suburb in the Northern Beaches.

Criteria Scores:

  • Beach Quality: 9/10
  • Schools: 9/10
  • Public Transport: 9/10
  • Dining and Shopping: 9/10
  • Parks and Recreation: 10/10
  • Safety: 10/10
  • Housing Affordability: 5/10
  • Community Vibe: 10/10
  • Employment Opportunities: 9/10
  • Health Care Access: 8/10

Fairlight excels in offering extensive parks and recreational areas, perfect for family outings and leisure activities.  It ranks highly in safety, making it one of the most secure and peaceful suburbs in the area.  The suburb’s strong community ethos is evident in its frequent social gatherings and community-focused initiatives.  Fairlight offers a diverse range of dining and shopping options, catering to all tastes and preferences.

The high demand for properties in Fairlight has led to substantial price increases, making it less accessible for average buyers.  While generally good, health care access in Fairlight is slightly less comprehensive than in some neighbouring suburbs.  Despite good scores, there’s room for improvement in terms of frequency and coverage of public transport.

Fairlight is the ideal choice for those who prioritise safety, community, and lifestyle quality, and are willing to invest in premium housing. It’s especially appealing to established professionals and families seeking a high-quality living environment.

How I Scored Each Suburb

In this section, you’ll discover the rationale behind the scores assigned to each suburb, helping you understand the key factors that contribute to their livability and appeal.

Beach Quality

Beach Quality is a crucial metric, especially in a coastal region like the Northern Beaches. It encompasses the cleanliness, safety, and recreational opportunities offered by the beaches. A suburb scoring 1 might have limited or poorly maintained beach areas, such as Palm Beach, where erosion and limited facilities might detract from the beach experience. Conversely, a score of 10 would be assigned to a suburb like Whale Beach, known for its pristine, well-kept beaches, offering excellent recreational activities and safety measures.

Schools

The quality and availability of educational institutions are vital for families. This criterion considers the number, diversity, and reputation of schools in the suburb. A score of 1 would go to a suburb like Clareville, where educational options are sparse. In contrast, a suburb like Terrey Hills, with a range of well-regarded schools offering diverse educational programs, would score a 10.

Public Transport

Public Transport is a key factor for those commuting to work or requiring easy access to other parts of Sydney. A score of 1 indicates poor transport links, as seen in Duffys Forest, with limited bus services and no train connectivity. A 10 score would be given to a suburb like Brookvale, which boasts frequent bus services and connectivity to key areas in Sydney.

Dining and Shopping

The variety and quality of dining and shopping facilities reflect the suburb’s lifestyle and convenience. A low score of 1 would be for a suburb like Scotland Island, with very limited options. A high score of 10 goes to suburbs like Warriewood, offering a wide range of dining and shopping facilities catering to various tastes and needs.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation are important for leisure and health. A score of 1, indicating minimal recreational spaces, could apply to suburbs like Oxford Falls. In contrast, Narrabeen, with its extensive parks, walking tracks, and recreational facilities, would score a 10.

Safety

Safety is paramount, encompassing crime rates and general feelings of security. A suburb scoring 1 on safety might be Church Point, known for some isolated safety concerns. A suburb like Bilgola Plateau, renowned for its low crime rates and secure environment, would score a 10.

Housing Affordability

Housing Affordability is crucial for many, reflecting the cost of buying or renting in the area. A suburb like Bayview, with its high property prices, would score a 1. On the other end, North Narrabeen, offering more affordable housing options, would score a 10.

Community Vibe

Community Vibe assesses the sense of belonging and community engagement in a suburb. A score of 1 might be assigned to a suburb like Elanora Heights, where community engagement is less visible. A suburb like Newport, with strong community bonds and regular events, would score a 10.

Employment Opportunities

The availability of local job opportunities is a key consideration. A low score of 1 could apply to a suburb like Ingleside, with limited employment options. A suburb like Frenchs Forest, with its growing business parks and employment opportunities, would score a 10.

Health Care Access

Access to health care facilities is essential for residents. A suburb scoring 1 on this criterion, like McCarrs Creek, would have minimal healthcare facilities. In contrast, a suburb like Belrose, known for its excellent access to healthcare services, would score a 10.

My Research: A Blend of Data and Local Insights

In the pursuit of compiling this comprehensive guide, I employed a multifaceted research approach, combining hard data with rich local insights to ensure an authentic and reliable representation of each suburb.

In person: The journey began at the heart of each suburb, I visited local cafes, restaurants, main streets and eateries, like the bustling Boatshed Cafe in Narrabeen and the quaint Armchair Collective in Mona Vale, conversing with residents. This time provided invaluable insights into the community vibe and lifestyle of each area. Additionally, I visited local markets, such as the vibrant Manly Market Place, to gauge the culture, vibrance and understand the local businesses that form the backbone of these suburbs.

Online: My research also extended online to consulting a range of local publications and regional news outlets, such as the ‘Manly Daily‘ and ‘Pittwater Online News‘. These sources offered a wealth of information on local events, developments, and issues pertinent to each suburb. Furthermore, I reviewed and looked into the data and reports from the Northern Beaches Council and NSW Government websites, focusing on aspects like crime rates, development plans, and environmental initiatives, which significantly influence the liveability of a suburb.

I also engaged with local real estate agents and attended community council meetings in suburbs like Balgowlah and Fairlight. This provided me with a deeper understanding of housing trends, future development plans, and infrastructural changes. To complement this, I explored popular real estate websites – realestate.com.au and domain.com.au and databases for up-to-date market data, housing affordability indices, and historical price trends.

In Conclusion

In summary, this guide offers a comprehensive look at the top suburbs in the Northern Beaches, each uniquely suited to different lifestyles and preferences. Here’s a recap of our top picks:

  1. Fairlight – Score: 88/100
  2. Balgowlah – Score: 86/100
  3. Curl Curl – Score: 84/100
  4. Manly – Score: 82/100
  5. Mona Vale – Score: 80/100
  6. Collaroy – Score: 78/100
  7. Freshwater – Score: 76/100
  8. Avalon Beach – Score: 74/100
  9. Narrabeen – Score: 71/100
  10. Dee Why – Score: 68/100

Each suburb has been carefully evaluated based on a range of criteria to ensure they meet the diverse needs and preferences of potential residents. From the vibrant community life in Manly to the peaceful, family-friendly atmosphere of Mona Vale, the Northern Beaches offers something for everyone.

For those seeking assistance in finding the perfect property in these suburbs, considering the use of a buyer’s agent could be a wise decision. A professional residential buyer’s agents are well-versed in the local property market and can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the buying process. They can help you navigate the complexities of the real estate market, ensuring you find a home that not only meets your criteria but also allows you to experience the best of what the Northern Beaches have to offer.


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