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Your guide to LGBTQI Sydney

Vivid SydneyCREDIT: Destination NSW

At the Heaps Gay Qweens Ball at Sydney Town Hall during Vivid Sydney.

#ilovesydney #vividsydney

Your guide to
LGBTQI Sydney

Vivid Sydney CREDIT: Destination NSW

At the Heaps Gay Qweens Ball at Sydney Town Hall during Vivid Sydney.

#ilovesydney #vividsydney

Hashtags #ilovesydney #vividsydney

Internationally renowned as a queer capital, cosmopolitan Sydney promises you a warm welcome, whatever your orientation or gender identity. The harbour city is, of course, home to the world’s largest annual LGBTQI festival, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but there’s much more for queer folk to see and do during a visit. Read on for an overview of the bustling bars, charming neighbourhoods and progressive cultural events that make Sydney a true LGBTQI destination.

  • Exploring Sydney’s rainbow neighbourhoods 
  • Mingling with locals at one of the city’s top LGBTQI nightlife spots 
  • Securing a great vantage point for the legendary Mardi Gras parade 

Travel tips and practicalities 

Australia consistently ranks among the most queer-friendly destinations in the world, and Sydney is particularly hospitable. Here, LGBTQI people are protected from discrimination by law and are free to marry whomever they choose. It’s common to see same-sex couples holding hands, although locals of all orientations generally refrain from passionate kissing and other explicit displays of affection in public. LGBTQI folk have several resources available to them when they arrive in Sydney. For local and national news with a queer focus, check out the Star Observer, and keep an eye on Time Out Sydney’s LGBTIQ vertical for relevant news and information about one-off events. 

Neighbourhoods to know 

You’ll spot rainbow flags and encounter queer couples wherever you go in Sydney, but for a concentrated dose of the city’s rainbow culture, a few neighbourhoods stand out. On the eastern fringe of the city centre, head to the adjoining suburbs of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. Explore Oxford Street, which is lined with Sydney’s biggest range of LGBTQI nightlife venues and many other queer-focused businesses, such as The Bookshop Darlinghurst, as well as a diverse selection of cafés and restaurants. Be sure to grab an afternoon drink at The Colombian Hotel, which has been serving locals for decades.

Sydney’s other unofficial ‘rainbow strip’ is King Street in Newtown in the Inner West, where the vibe leans more alternative. Here, you’ll find tattoo parlours, design stores and some of Sydney’s best Thai food, along with a diverse crowd of locals — not only queer folk but also students from nearby universities, bohemian families and many of Sydney’s musicians and artists. The surrounding suburbs of Erskineville, Enmore and Marrickville are also packed with LGBTQI residents.  

Not sure where to stay while you’re in Sydney? Consider the suburbs of Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay, which sit between Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Sydney Harbour. This densely populated area has long been popular with queer Sydneysiders, and Potts Point in particular offers a range of accommodation, from upmarket chain hotels to boutique lodges. From here, Oxford Street is an easy walk. 

The Paper Mill, Liverpool CREDIT: Destination NSW

Enjoy food and drink at The Paper Mill, Liverpool.

#lovensw #ilovesydney

The Paper Mill, Liverpool CREDIT: Destination NSW

Enjoy food and drink at The Paper Mill, Liverpool.

#lovensw #ilovesydney

Quay Restaurant, The Rocks CREDIT: Destination NSW

Couple enjoying wine with views across Sydney Harbour towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Quay Restaurant, The Rocks.

#ilovesydney

Quay Restaurant, The Rocks CREDIT: Destination NSW

Couple enjoying wine with views across Sydney Harbour towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Quay Restaurant, The Rocks.

#ilovesydney

Nightlife highlights 

There are a raft of queer-focused venues in Sydney where you can raise a glass and meet like-minded souls. Just off Oxford Street in Surry Hills, The Beresford is a hub for well-dressed gay men, who enjoy lazy afternoons in the venue’s courtyard before heading indoors to dance the night away. (Tip: the crowd is particularly gay on Sundays.) Nearby, Universal on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst is a thriving queer space with a diverse roster events, from theatre and drag shows to full-on club nights. And the stalwart Oxford Hotel on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst is a multi-level rainbow utopia catering to all moods.  

Away from Oxford Street, in Newtown, you’ll find diverse and enthusiastic mixed crowds at venues up and down King Street. One favourite of the neighbourhood’s queer population is the Marlborough Hotel, affectionately known as ‘the Marly’, which has a basement dance space and plenty of secluded corners upstairs for those who’d rather sit and chat. Catch a drag show at The Imperial, a few minutes’ walk away from Newtown in Erskineville. It’s the quintessential LGBTQI Sydney venue, best known for its starring role in the cult film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. 

Sydney is also well known for its nomadic LGBTQI club nights, which cater to every niche imaginable. The broadest and most inclusive of these is Heaps Gay, which is just as likely to be held in a laneway as a mega club. 

The best of Mardi Gras  

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival is much more than just a parade: it’s an entire season of celebration that locals affectionally refer to as ‘gay Christmas’. Stretching across February and early March, the festival program includes dozens of unique events, from large-scale social gatherings to edgy theatre and dance performances.

Apart from the parade itself, the biggest event on the annual calendar is the family-friendly Fair Day, which takes place in Victoria Park near Newtown. Head along for live entertainment, a smorgasbord of stalls, fantastic people-watching and even a hotly contested dog show.

Then, on the first Saturday in March, it’s time for the parade. If you’re hoping to watch the festivities up close, arrive well ahead of time or secure your spot at one of the ticketed events held at venues along Oxford Street. After the parade winds down, revellers head to the world-famous Mardi Gras Party, which attracts international pop-star performers and some of the world’s biggest DJs.  

The Clock Hotel, Surry Hills CREDIT: James Horan; Destination NSW

The Clock Hotel on Crown Street Surry Hills.

#ilovesydney

The Clock Hotel, Surry Hills CREDIT: James Horan; Destination NSW

The Clock Hotel on Crown Street Surry Hills.

#ilovesydney

The Imperial Erskineville CREDIT: Destination NSW

Drag artists getting ready for Drag n' Dine at The Imperial Erskineville in Sydney's inner west.

#ilovesydney

The Imperial Erskineville CREDIT: Destination NSW

Drag artists getting ready for Drag n' Dine at The Imperial Erskineville in Sydney's inner west.

#ilovesydney

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