Willoughby is located approximately 9 kilometres from Sydney CBD, and is well serviced by buses to the City, North Sydney, Manly and Chatswood. The area is mainly residential, with shopping and café precincts on High Street, Penshurst Street and Willoughby Road. Willoughby is split into three precincts: Willoughby, North Willoughby and Willoughby East. The majority of housing is freestanding houses (72%), and there are also a number of Art Deco semis, a scattering of Victorian terraces, 1970s apartment buildings and some new developments. The housing style is predominantly full brick Californian bungalows set on large blocks which were built from the 1920s onwards.
The most recent census shows that approximately 70% of properties in the area are owner-occupied (either fully owned or being bought). The wide, tree-lined streets are laid out in a regular grid pattern between the main arterial roads - Eastern Valley Way and Penshurst Street. Willoughby has an abundance of parkland, including Willoughby Park with its two ovals, pavilions and bowling club; Bales Park; Bicentennial Reserve and Willoughby Leisure Centre; and a number of parkland reserves. There are three schools in the area.
Willoughby Public School (established in 1863) in Oakville Road; Willoughby Girls High School (started in 1934) in Willoughby Road; and St Thomas School, which was opened in 1928. Willoughby is part of the City of Willoughby, and was named by Sir Thomas Mitchell after his friend and superior office Sir James Willoughby Gordon. The area was first sub-divided in 1854, and was named "The Township of North Sydney" until 1865 when it was incorporated into a municipality and renamed The Municipality of North Willoughby.
Until the turn of the century, there were many orchards, Chinese market gardens, dairies and farms in the area, along with tanneries (including the Rosewall tannery established in 1869 by James Forsyth). Some areas of Willoughby (such as around Willoughby Park) are conservation areas, and there are many historic buildings still in existence, which are identified by Heritage Plaques. For more information about Willoughby Council, services and history, please visit the Willoughby City Council website.