Whether you’re a baby gay living in Australia or a seasoned queer travelling from abroad, exploring the queer scene on Australia’s east coast can be daunting.
Everything from partying at the right festival to finding queer-friendly digs can be tough, but luckily, we’ve got you sorted. If you live in Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane, or are planning to fly over, check out our handy survival guide below.
Melbourne’s major pride festival is Midsumma, which generally runs between January and February, so that’s always a good place to start. Alongside theatre shows, parties, exhibitions, and concerts, Midsumma also hosts its annual Carnival and Pride March, staples on any queer Melburnian’s calendar.
When it comes to the nightlife, you’re spoiled for choices. If you’re looking for a laid-back bar for a casual drink or five, DTs, Mollie’s, and The Laird (if you’re a bear or bear enthusiast) are great places to start, before heading to The Peel, Poof Doof, or Sircuit to dance the night away.
During the day when you’re not nursing a hangover or getting ready for a night out in Melbourne’s queer scene, there’s a heap of free things for you to check out. Why not take a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens? Or check out the stunning free exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria? If you’re on a budget there’s plenty for you to see and do that won’t empty your wallet.
And of course, you need to find a queer-friendly place to stay. Melbourne Central YHA can be your hub. Sitting in a perfect location, you can grab a dorm and share a room or even book yourself into one of their private rooms. Plus they have a bar, activities, and super nice people to make sure you have a great stay.
When it comes to Australia’s queer scene, perhaps the biggest and most famous event that comes to mind is Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival. Going strong for 40 years, the parade and after-party are rainbow-filled glittery affairs that should be on absolutely everyone queer’s bucket list. The festival kicks off in February and runs through to March, so mark your calendar.
Some of Sydney’s gay clubs have been on the scene for a long time, and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re in the mood to drink and dance, the Stonewall Hotel and ARQ are hard to pass up – you might even meet a friendly local on the dancefloor. If eighties and nineties pop music is your thing, then Palms is your best bet. All of these clubs are located on the golden mile of Oxford Street, a queer hub for every Sydney gay.
Once the sun has risen, the city is your oyster. When it comes to free things to do and see, why not take a walk around the world famous Sydney Opera House and take in the gorgeous views of the harbour? Or check out a masterpiece at the NSW Art Gallery?
For a conveniently located place to stay, Sydney Harbour YHA is perfect. Located in the historic Rocks district with stunning million-dollar views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour, it combines amazing facilities with a historical experience, and you’ll be within walking distance of pretty much every top sight.
While not as well known as its Melbourne and Sydney counterparts, Brisbane Pride is no less fabulous and gives you the chance to check out Australia at a different time in the year, given its annual September occurrence. With a major rally, pride march, and drag shows galore, you’ll have no problem waving your rainbow flag high up north.
Perhaps its most famous nightclub, if you’re looking for a night out in Brisbane it’s more likely than not going to end at Fluffy. Boasting amazing dance and drag shows, and hosting Drag Race queens when they stroll into town, it’s a guaranteed great night. If you’re heading out to the Gold Coast one night, MP’s has just opened under new management and looks more fierce and fun than ever.
When exploring the city, there are plenty of free things to check out as well. You can stroll or cycle from Story Bridge to New Farm via the scenic Riverwalk floating above the Brisbane River, or catch the free ferry that crawls up the river from the Sydney St terminal in New Farm to North Quay.
In terms of accommodation, Brisbane City YHA hosts loads of weekly activities to keep you entertained and meeting awesome people. There’s also a rooftop poll (!) will stellar views of the city to keep you cool on warmer days. It’s a great place to relax in between pride festivals and gay nightclubs.