The first beach north of Sydney Harbour is Manly, which is split into 4 different areas. Manly is the southern corner, well protected from the bigger southerly swells and always crowded with swimmers and tourists. South Steyne produces classic lefts on a NE swell, down near the old stormwater pipe and has been known to hold up in double-overhead plus conditions. There's more peaks along the central Mid Steyne stretch, whilst North Steyne is a good beachbreak even on the usual S wind, S swell combination. The whole stretch is always a little smaller than exposed beaches like Curl Curl, but it seems to maintain better sandbanks and will have cleaner conditions during southerly busters. The flip side is mushy onshore conditions when summer NE'ers blow in.
Manly is a transport hub with ferry links to central Sydney and is on the backpacker trail so crowds are constant. Surf schools litter the stretch and tempers can fray as the space is squeezed. Parking is always difficult (and expensive) beneath the row of majestic Norfolk Island pines.