Despite the government’s protracted negotiations to legalise same-sex marriage, Australia is a country with a largely open-minded population. Cities like Sydney and Melbourne are especially welcoming to the LGBTQ community, with festivals such as Mardi Gras and Midsumma attracting tourists from all over the world. Here is your guide to making the most of Australia’s LGBTQ scene.
The LGBTQ capital of Australia, Sydney is one of the most welcoming and gay-friendly travel destinations in the world with a substantial pink tourism scene, especially during Mardi Gras when the whole city sparkles. Proudly ostentatious, the city boasts many gay and gay-friendly bars and clubs including Sly Fox on a Wednesday night, Arq, Stonewall Hotel, Palms on Oxford and the Imperial Hotel. For great shopping head to Oxford St in Darlinghurst and for a beach-time bake visit North Bondi.
Oozing with sophisticated, European charm, Melbourne is a cosmopolitan city with a strong queer presence. Known as the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne’s LGBTQ community are passionate theatre-goers and are prominent within the arts community. Popular nightlife haunts include Sircuit, The GH Hotel, Poof Doof, The Laird Hotel and The Peel Hotel. In addition to Melbourne, Daylesford also has a large gay community and every March hosts Australia’s largest country queer festival: ChillOut Festival.
This year the Victorian Government announced plans to establish Australia’s first Pride Centre in Melbourne which will showcase queer art and history, offer support services and provide community spaces.
With scenic coastlines and idyllic beaches, Queensland is a slice of paradise. The ‘Brisvegas’ inner-city suburbs of Fortitude Valley and Spring Hill have a lively nightlife scene with The Beat Megaclub, The Wickham, and The Sportsman Hotel. Further north, Cairns, Noosa Heads and The Great Barrier Reef are popular travel playgrounds for the gay and lesbian community – however, you may find regions in the countryside to be less accepting.
Midsumma Festival, Melbourne, January – February
Held annually since 1988, Melbourne’s foremost LGBTQIA+ arts and culture festival features over 100 events including the Midsumma Carnival in Alexandra Gardens, which attracts approximately 120,000 people; the iconic Midsumma Pride March in St Kilda; and Midsumma Horizon, a party featuring live-performance, projection, visual art and music.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Sydney, February – March
Celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2018, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is Australia’s largest LGBTQ celebration. The festival includes the world-famous Mardi Gras Parade, Mardi Gras Party, Comedy Festival, Film Festival, Pool Party and the family-friendly Fair Day, which attracts roughly 70,000 people.
Brisbane Pride Festival, September
Brisbane’s month-long Pride Festival is the third largest in Australia drawing 10,000 people. The festival kicks off with The Launch (a massive party) followed by dozens of events including the unifying Pride Rally and Pride March and Fair Day at New Farm Park.
Feast Festival, Adelaide, November
Adelaide premier LGBTQ queer arts and cultural festival celebrates the artistic endeavours of the community with events showcasing local and international artists and performers. Events include the Opening Night Street Party, Pride March, Theatre and Cabaret Shows and Picnic in the Park.
PrideFest, Perth, October – November
What began as a community movement protesting discriminatory laws against the gay and lesbian community has since grown into PrideFest, a festivalthat includes Perth Pride Fairday and the Perth Pride parade.