Manly is located approximately 19 km (12 mi) east of the Brisbane central business district. Surrounding suburbs are Wynnum (to the north), Lota to the South and Manly West (to the west). To the east lies Moreton Bay.
This part of Moreton Bay was occupied by the Aboriginal Mipirimm people. Their lifestyle was semi-nomadic. Increasing contact with the white settlers brought new diseases to the Aborigines including smallpox and tuberculosis which ravaged the indigenous population.
European settlement of the Manly area first took place from 1859 when Thomas Jones obtained a land grant of 200 acres (81 ha). By 1862, Jones had built the first house in the area, a stone homestead he called Wyvernleigh; it would later also be known as Tingalpa House.
In 1882 the land was sold by auction by James R. Dickson for the Manly Beach Estate, apparently named after Manly, New South Wales beach in Sydney. It comprised 177 allotments of about 20 perches (510 m2) bounded by Arnold Street (the northern part of which is now Cambridge Parade) to the north and north-west, Moreton Bay to the east, Spring Street (now Falcon Street) to the south, and Ernest Street to the south-west. In 1885, James R. Dickson auctioned a further subdivision of 700 lots to the north of the 1882 land sale, bounded to the north-west by Gordon Parade, to the south-west by Mountjoy Crescent, to the south by Cambridge Parade and to east by Moreton Bay. The advertising mentioned the forthcoming railway. However, the 1885 land sale was evidently not successful as 400 blocks in that subdivision were offered in a "continuation sale" in January 1887.
In 1889 a railway line was opened that provided a direct service to the state capital, Brisbane; it would subsequently be extended to be the present Cleveland line. By the early 1900s the area had become a popular seaside location.
In June 1890, 395 subdivided allotments of the Manly Beach Estate was auctioned by Arthur Martin & Co. This was the third and final section of the estate. A map advertising the auction shows the estate was close to Manly Railway Station and Ernest Street. 
Manly State School opened on 4 July 1910.
The Manly War Memorial was unveiled in a park at 184 Carlton Street by Walter Henry Barnes, Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, on 5 March 1921. The memorial, originally of Helidon brown freestone on a base of Enoggera granite, with a statue of Carrara marble, honours the 16 local men who fell during the First World War.
In June 1925 the homestead Wyvernleigh/Tingalpa House, by then on a site bounded by Oceana Terrace, Kooralgin Street, and Ernest Street, was bought by James Duhig, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane to be used for the building of a Roman Catholic church and school. Duhig announced that the church would be named after St John Baptist Vianney. The homestead was used for church services until 1927, after which it was demolished to be replaced by a parish hall. On 20 September 1930 Archbishop Duhig performed the stump capping ceremony on the new church hall; the hall appears to be completed by May 1931. Later the hall was consecrated as a church.
The well-sheltered coastal location of Manly has resulted in it becoming a popular location for boating. In 1958 Manly Boat Harbour was built. Large tidal walls were constructed to the north and south with dredging being undertaken to deepen the harbour. The silt that was recovered in this process was brought ashore and used in the construction of the parks and parking areas around the harbour.
Manly has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:
- 184 Carlton Terrace: Manly War Memorial
- Falcon Street: Manly Retaining Wall
- 150 Kingsley Terrace: Michael Gannon residence
Manly Boat Harbour is now the largest boat harbour facility in the Southern Hemisphere, with over 3,000 dry standings and wet berths, plus two public boat ramps (one at each end of the harbour).
A number of boating clubs are based in Manly including the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, the Wynnum Manly Yacht Club, the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club, and the Darling Point Sailing Squadron (which shares space with the Multi-Hull Club of Australia, and the charity for handicapped people known as Sailability).
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Wynnum Manly Yacht Club and Moreton Bay Trailer Boat club have floating marinas, dry boat storage facilities and boat maintenance yards for use by members. There is one commercial marina in the harbour, East Coast Marina, also offering floating berths, undercover boat storage and a boat maintenance yard.
(a Flotilla of the ) also has its Flotilla Base in Manly Boat Harbour, at 40 Trafalgar Street, near the harbour entrance. This Flotilla, the largest in Australia, has the Lord Mayor of Brisbane as its Patron. It was formed in 1972 and continues to operate duty rosters every weekend and public holiday, with its emergency services on call 24/7.
Over 43% of households in this area consist of couples without children and a further 37% are couples with children.
Stand-alone houses account for 67% of all dwellings in this area, with townhouses accounting for a further 10%. The median house price in Manly for the 2004 calendar year was $510,000.
Federally, the people of Manly are represented by Ross Vasta MP (elected 2010) in the seat of Bonner.
In the 2011 census the population of Manly was 3,702, 50.4% female and 49.6% male.
The median age of the Manly population was 42 years of age, 5 years above the Australian median.
73.1% of people living in Manly were born in Australia, compared to the national average of 69.8%; the next most common countries of birth were England 6.7%, New Zealand 5.6%, Scotland 0.8%, United States of America 0.7%, Ireland 0.6%.
90.2% of people spoke only English at home; the next most common languages were 0.5% French, 0.4% Tagalog, 0.3% Dutch, 0.3% Cantonese, 0.3% Thai.
A number of local bus services operate between Manly and surrounding suburbs, with connections to Brisbane City services in Wynnum.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Manly, Qld (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Wynnum Manly Ward". Brisbane City Council. Brisbane City Council. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
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- "Classified Advertising". The Courier (Brisbane). XVI, (1243). Queensland, Australia. 1 February 1862. p. 4. Retrieved 26 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "History". St John Vianney's Catholic Primary School. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
- "BRISBANE'S HISTORIC. HOMES". The Queenslander. Queensland, Australia. 8 December 1932. p. 34. Retrieved 26 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Manly Beach, Waterloo Bay". State Library of Queensland. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
- "COMMERCIAL". The Brisbane Courier. XXXVII, (7, 690). Queensland, Australia. 4 September 1882. p. 4. Retrieved 26 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Manly Beach". State Library of Queensland. 1885. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
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- "Manly Beach". State Library of Queensland. 1887. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- "Plan of the 3rd section of Manly Beach". State Library of Queensland. 28 June 1890. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
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- "Opening and closing dates of Queensland Schools". Queensland Government. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
- "HONOURING THE FALLEN". The Brisbane Courier (19, 696). Queensland, Australia. 7 March 1921. p. 6. Retrieved 24 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Manly War Memorial (entry 600249)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AT MANLY". Daily Mail (7277). Queensland, Australia. 26 June 1925. p. 2. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Advertising". The Telegraph (16, 402). Queensland, Australia. 26 June 1925. p. 9 (5 O'CLOCK CITY EDITION). Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "TEMPORARY CHURCH". Daily Mail (7279). Queensland, Australia. 29 June 1925. p. 7. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "STUMP CAPPING". The Telegraph (18, 039). Queensland, Australia. 29 September 1930. p. 16. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "CHURCH FETE". Daily Standard (5715). Queensland, Australia. 11 May 1931. p. 5. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Manly War Memorial (entry 600249)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- "Manly Retaining Wall (entry 602039)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- "Residence, 150 Kingsley Terrace (c1888) (entry 601904)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 6 July 2013.