Welcome! Here’s our ultimate visitor’s guide to what’s hot in gay Australia.
Australia has asserted its position as a global LGBT hotspot. Masses of tourists are drawn to our shores by the promise of beautiful landmarks and a thriving gay culture.
Same Same takes you on a tour of our major cities, revealing what each has to offer, not only for those making an overseas trek, but for gay locals who want to reconnect with their homeland.
We begin our journey in Perth, Australia’s western-most city. It’s one of the most happening of Australia’s capitals, boasting a number of gay-friendly bars and clubs.
Perth’s exclusively gay nightclub Connections not only serves up spinning DJ sets, but resident drag divas who entertain till the wee hours of the morning. With a penchant for throwing themed bashes, Connections’ Wednesday night Lesbian Mud Wrestling event is always a highlight. And The Court is a fine go-to gay venue for a bit of a boogie, delicious drinks and even better company.
When West Australian locals aren’t breaking a sweat on the dancefloor of one of these popular gay joints, they’re celebrating their LGBT pride at WA’s Pride Festival. Every October Perth attracts 80,000 spectators to their Pride Parade and a bunch of families to their Fairday in Russell Square amongst a mass of other popular gay events.
Also check out Perth’s local landmarks – maybe a tour of His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, or the local Zoo is more up your alley. Popular dining venues include Andaduz, Star Anise and Delizioso Café all recommended by locals.
After traversing the south coast and stopping for a snack at the Great Australian Bight, we recommend exploring Adelaide.
Its location in the Festival State (South Australia) promises oodles of frolicking fun with the ever-popular Fringe and Feast Fests. Adelaide’s Fringe transforms the city into a bursting hub of cultural activity every February/March for the biggest arts festival in the southern hemisphere, while Feast in November is purely for the queers, showcasing everything that the LGBT community in Adelaide love including cabaret, films, parties, bears (with its mini Bearstock festival) and a Pride March to kick it off.
During months when the city is not over-run with cultural events, Mars Bar is the nightclub of choice for gay Adelaidian residents and visitors. Pumping with commercial and retro pop tunes on Wednesday through Sunday nights, enjoy the drag shows, DJs, live performances and most of all, fraternising with fellow partygoers. If you thought that was sleazy, you might want to check out Adelaide’s annual Sleaze Ball.
If clubs aren’t your scene, venture down to the beach on the Glenelg tram and experience the south coast sand and scenery. Maslins nudist beach is located south of the city and is a popular gay locale.
Next stop, Melbourne.
Most lucky folks in the state of Victoria agree that Melbourne’s the cultural centre of Australia, and has been voted ‘the most livable city in the world’ several times in many polls.
Melbourne comes alive early in the year with its Midsumma Festival, featuring a huge number of queer events which paint the city pink, purple, and all the other colours of the rainbow.
There’s a diverse and rich gay scene that is bound to entertain and intrigue you, regardless of what your interest or bent is. Check out the Northside scene with stops at Sircuit, The Peel, the Glasshouse Hotel or Neverwhere. Southside, catch some campness on Commercial Road.
The city is also home to JOY 94.9, Australia’s only full time queer radio broadcaster. The thriving theatre scene and market sales are also major attractions adding to Melbourne’s many delights.
Taking a quick inland detour we arrive at the Australian Capital Territory, home of 350,000 Canberrans. Beyond the obvious sightseeing attractions like Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial that catch your eye as you head into the heart of Canberra, there lives a flourishing LGBT community.
Get your first taste by tuning into QRadio while on the road. The city’s only same-sex dedicated radio show is a Canberra staple for the gay traveler. Pick up a copy of must-read glossy mag Fuse, the capital’s premiere gay and lesbian bi-monthly lifestyle publication, which, with its ‘What’s On’ information, makes the perfect travel companion.
For the lesbian or bi woman, Canberra’s Tilley Café is ideal. No longer a ‘female-only’ venue, kick back among a mix of friends for an afternoon of chilled bevies.
Another LGBT favourite, is Canberra’s Hush Lounge, a gay-owned restaurant and bar. Combining drag shows with live music, cocktails and karaoke, Hush is the perfect place for a dinner date or pre-drinks.
But as in most cities around Australia, once the sun goes down the queens come out, often taking to the Cube nightclub for a bump and grind. Canberra’s only dedicated gay nightspot, Cube plays host to a number of themed nights and diva shows, really hitting its stride after midnight.
Boasting the country’s best beaches, a harbour to envy and a flamboyant cosmopolitan gay nightlife, there’s no wonder Sydney is adored by all who visit.
Sydney’s Mardi Gras Festival is many people’s favourite thing about being gay in Oz. The iconic two-week event, which sees an influx of domestic and international visitors head to the NSW capital in February/March, consists of a Parade down Oxford Street, an official party and tones of cultural events to back it up.
Speaking of Sydney’s ‘Gay Golden Mile’, the Oxford Strip is home to a list of gay-owned and operated venues. On a regular weekend, you can see young queers in their oodles flock to The Stonewall Hotel, one of Sydney’s most enduring gay clubs for its camp drag nights, or the Arq ‘superclub’ in Taylor Square, for its huge dancefloor and numerous themed parties. The ever-fashionable Nevermind, featuring Disgraceland nights with Australia’s golden girl Courtney Act is always packed, along with the long-serving Midnight Shift, which remains a popular destination for gay Asian guys as well as Bear parties and huge drag numbers upstairs.
Newtown has re-established itself as a queer hub, attracting a bunch of eccentric and creative residents with its huge selection of cafes and quirky indie stores. The Imperial Hotel is at the forefront of gay Newtown, where, after a year of closure, the club has exploded once more with drag talent and Tuesday Bingay fundraiser nights. The always popular Bank Hotel doubles as a restaurant/bar and a thriving all-girl spot, with its Wednesday nights in the Velvet room dedicated to women only.
Then, continuing up the coast you hit the Sunshine State. Instead of settling for just one of its many fine cities, Same Same suggests you take the time to bask in all the treasures Queensland has to offer, from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and Cairns.
Brisbane is traditionally the home of much of the gay nightlife and events in the state, including the huge Brisbane Pride Festival each winter.
Away from the biggest city, if you’re looking to get a tan be sure to keep the clothing optional Alexander Bay in mind. A few hours north of Brisbane it’s just near the beautiful Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. The Sunshine Coast also holds an annual Mardi Gras Recovery week that starts in March, perfect for chilling out after the big event.
Travel south for an hour and you’ll hit The Gold Coast, one of the major tourist destinations in Queensland. It’s the home of Surfers Paradise, three big amusement parks, hot life savers and beautiful beaches. The Gold Coast also offers a huge array of shopping and is home to two gay clubs, The Meeting Place and Escape.
Meanwhile, up in Northern Queensland where the weather is hot and the landscape tropical is a little gay Mecca. Cairns is home to the Tropical Pride festival in August with street parades, community fairs and a dance party. Cairns also has two gay bars, The Out Front Hotel and the Vibe Bar.
“We might be Australia’s smallest state, but we’re Australia’s proudest.”
Tasmania’s known for a friendly and free-thinking attitude with a magnitude of events and organisations welcoming LGBTI people from all walks of life.
Tasmania’s largest city and capital is Hobart, featuring a sparkling waterfront & Salamanca Place, where you can enjoy 19th century sandstone warehouses which now serve as dockside bars and restaurants and boutique stores and galleries.
Hobart isn’t the only centre of events in Tasmania. Launceston, based in the North of the state, is Australia’s forth oldest city, were you can enjoy history, culture, wildlife and wine.
While we’re showing off gay Australia, we must also mention our friends over the Tasman Sea in New Zealand’s capital.
Recently named one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 cities to visit in 2011, we couldn’t agree more. Lord of the Rings site tour aside, it’s the historical landmarks and natural spaces, like Zealandia (a conservation sanctuary that is home to rare native plant and animal life) that tend to draw the biggest crowd. As well as this haven of wetlands and forest, the Te Papa museum is a NZ highlight. With a five-floor exhibition of New Zealand culture the museum showcases an array of exciting interactive rides and displays.
Wellingtonians recommend night spots S&M’s cocktail lounge and Club Ivy is friendly and fun venues catering to the LGBT population.