By all accounts, Perth Pride rocks. This year, Perth’s annual lesbian and gay pride festival has plenty to celebrate, given the gay and lesbian law reform which swept through Western Australia in March. According to the locals, Western Australia now leads the country in terms of legislative equality for gays and lesbians.
The festival this year is themed Bloom With Pride, and begins with fair day on Sunday 29 September from 11am to 6pm in Hyde Park. Join over 6,000 gay and lesbian folk, families, children, friends, drag queens and kings for all-day entertainment, including the ubiquitous dog show.
The Pride Festival continues with a month-long celebration of arts, culture and community events. Special tours include a conducted walk through His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, Australia’s only remaining Edwardian theatre. Pride patron and theatre historian Ivan King will reel off what he calls a litany of legends about the performers and performances which have graced The Maj since its doors first opened in 1904.
This year sees the continuation of Fremantle Pride Week from 5 October to 13 October. Fremantle is the sea port of Perth, and boasts well-preserved heritage buildings, colourful street entertainment and a great cappuccino strip on South Terrace, which is where you will find Kulcha -“ the venue for an evening of same-sex ballroom dancing on October 11. Outdoor courtyard music will feature at the historic Fremantle Arts Centre on 6 October and 20 October, so bring a picnic basket and rug.
Closing the festivities will be the annual Pride parade and party on October 26. Up to 80,000 people are expected to line the route along William and James Streets, and around 3,000 people are expected to participate in the parade. A good time is promised for all, with a bit of politics, a lot of humour, and absolute glamour.
Of course the festival and parade can’t finish without the Pride party. This is Perth’s queer night of nights, where 3,000 or so dance till dawn. For further details, visit the Perth Pride website at www.pridewa.asn.au.
Gay and lesbian Perth is concentrated in the suburb of Northbridge, right next to the CBD. Perth has two full-time gay venues. The Court Hotel, on Beaufort St, is a friendly pub attracting a clientele that’s mixed in both sex and age. The large beer garden is particularly popular in summer. Connections Nightclub, on James St, is the place to go for serious dancing and drinking into the wee hours. On Sunday nights the in-crowd head to Luxe Bar, on Beaufort St, for a cocktail or three.
For accommodation close to all the gay action try the Hotel Northbridge, or the gay-owned and -operated Pension of Perth, or Richards of Northbridge. Up-market options include Rydges of Perth, a very gay-friendly and well located hotel in downtown Perth.
Rydges hosts Fruits in Suits on the third Wednesday of every month in its CBD Bar. This is always a buzzy event and a great place to make contacts, business or otherwise.
As for the rest of Perth, there’s plenty to enjoy that’s not specifically queer. It has some excellent restaurants, great weather, and a wonderful laidback feeling.
Water dominates the city, and at any turn you catch a glimpse of the Swan River snaking its way to Fremantle and the Indian Ocean. Bordering the river is Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens, an easy stroll from the CBD. Here you’ll find an incredible array of wildflowers and native plants, and wonderful views of the city and river. The park is a popular summer venue for outdoor cinema and concerts.
Close to the city centre, on James St Mall, you’ll find the cultural precinct. The Art Gallery houses a very impressive collection of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art. The Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, the Western Australian Museum and Library are also here.
Perth enjoys some beautiful beaches. Cottesloe is a good place for a swim, surf or coffee. The clothing-optional brigade hang at Swanbourne Beach, just north of Cottesloe. Both are accessible by train or bus.
Rottnest Island should not be missed. Ferries run to the island from the CBD and Fremantle. The island enjoys crystal-clear beaches, picturesque vistas and almost no traffic. Hire a bike to explore the island’s deserted bays. The entire island is easily negotiated by bike in two to three hours. For the less energetic a bus regularly drops off and picks up around the island. Overnight options include the Rottnest Hotel and the Rottnest Lodge. Watch out for the quokkas!
The writer is a shareholder in Gay Travel Guides Pty Ltd, publisher of Qbeds and the Gay Australia Guide and travelled with assistance from the Western Australian Tourist Commission.