Sydney is a world-class city and you will be surprised by its beauty and cleanliness. A gay capital of the world, Sydney holds Australia’s biggest gay event every year, Mardi Gras: a two-week celebration full of events, prides, parties, and LGBTQ activities. No wonder it is one of the top travel destinations for the global gay community.
The city has something to offer to any kind of traveller. The iconic Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and their warm beaches are just a few highlights of the metropolis. Sailing on a boat in the harbour has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. Sydney will be a party you will not forget.
Gay City Guide
Sydney Gay Mardi Gras February 19 – March 5, 2017
Sydney’s gay bars, clubs, saunas, and shops are located pretty much in one corner of the city: Oxford Street. The gay bars on this street are usually very crowded on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday afternoons are for the Beresford hotel. Some guys go here religiously every Sunday after a day on the beach. It is important to note that Sydney has a lockout law and you will not be able to enter any bar or club after 1:30 am. They will stay open until 4-5 am, but after 1:30 am doors are closed.
Sydney’s only weekly gay club, ARQ, is known around Australia and attracts guys from all over, including straight guys. So be careful who you approach, they can be a bit snobby. They all say they enjoy the music but some of them are after Trans. There is a huge community of beautiful Trans in Australia, and here is a good place for them to get those curious men. Fridays are free entrance and Saturdays are $20 AUD. I still don’t understand why Saturdays are busier.
One of the oldest established gay bars in Sydney. Stonewall has 3 levels with nightly entertainment, including different DJs on each floor, dancers, and lively drag shows. This is a good bar to go to any day of the week. Usually, nights start here before heading to ARQ or any big party. It’s cover-free and it always has a nice ambience.
Location: 175 Oxford Street, Sydney, NSW
This beautiful, two-level bar with a dance floor is located in a historic building and is never truly busy. Most of the crowds end up going to Stonewall or ARQ, but it is a fun place to find a different crowd and less-busy dance floor. Best day to go is Saturday nights.
Location: 117-123, Oxford Street
More of a pub/tavern place, the DJs here are usually incredible, one of my favorites in the city. If you come here on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon, the most popular days, you will see everyone drinking and looking at each other over their shoulder and me dancing by myself.
Location: 360 Victoria Street
The place to be on Sundays is an all-in-one kind of place. They serve delicious pizzas and chips, have three big bars on the first floor, and have a beautiful outdoor patio that, during the afternoon, gets filled with the most attractive boys from Sydney. When the sun goes down, everyone goes upstairs to a second floor that holds a dance floor and another bar. Sometimes they have dancers and drag performers.
Location: 354 Bourke Street
Regular parties and clubs
Pretty much the only gay club in the city. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday but the most popular nights are Fridays and Saturdays. I prefer Friday nights because it is free and less of a druggie scene and it is not as packed as Saturdays. They have two levels, a balcony, and a smoking area. Drinks are pretty expensive. It has a cool laser light show on the second level, the best sound system in town, and two different DJs in each one of the main floors. Flashy performances by Drags and dancers every night.
Location: 16 Flinders Street
The bar from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’s opening scene. With multiple salons and levels, it is the only alternative place in Sydney with a good mix of queer, lesbians, trans, and gays. Sometimes they throw irregular parties at this venue that can be lots of fun. It is not in the Oxford Street area and is a bit far from the city center. You will need a taxi to get in and out of here. The two times I’ve come to this place I’ve had a blast.
Location: 35 Erskineville Road
An alternative basement club in the Berlin/Brooklyn style. More of a mixed crowd, queer and straight people alike. I’m thankful that a place like this exists in Sydney; you will find more places like this in Melbourne. Happening on Sunday nights with free entrance before midnight. Amazing ambience, cheap beers, and great DJs.
Location: 77 William St, Darlinghurst NSW
Give thanks to the universe for this party. The most fun party to dance with the best DJs in town. Sydney’s biggest house party for the gay community and their friends, held at the gorgeous Ivy Bar 4-5 times a year. If you are in town and there’s an I remember house…go! The next two will take place on February 25, the Mardi Gras edition, and April 14, Good Friday party. Check out their Facebook page for updates.
Location: 330 George Street
An inclusive, awesome alternative party that happens every other month in Sydney. Started by Kat Dopper when she came back from living in the coolest parts of London, she came back to her Sydney and found out that every cool spot had been closed down because of lockout laws. Costumes, queerness, and glitter are the vibe of these parties. It has the feeling that you are in a house party with all your besties. Next Heaps Gay party will be on March 4, Mardi Gras edition. Check out their website for more upcoming events.
Day parties of shirtless muscle circuit boys. If this is your crew then this is your jam. Next parties are on January 26, Australia day edition, February 18, pool party edition, and March 4, Mardi Gras party. Follow them on Facebook for the latest updates and ticket sales.
Top 3 Hotels
This 5-star contemporary hotel located in Sydney is the maximum luxury Australian experience. With only 100 rooms it is by far my favorite hotel on the entire continent. This all-accommodation experience offers an iPad and unique historic fittings. Make sure to enjoy the indoor pool and the great fitness centre.
The hotel is located in Woolloomooloo, next to the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is a 15-minute walk from Sydney Opera House or Potts Points, King’s Cross famous gay intersection.
Accommodation options include private rooms and loft suites. All rooms and suites include a free minibar, free WiFi, access to a fitness centre and pool, and free self-service laundry throughout the stay. Each boasts ultra-modern furnishings, a 27-inch LCD TV, an iPod docking station, and luxurious bedding.
The Lo Lounge is a sleek multipurpose social area designed for hotel guests to work, network, or simply kick back and relax. Available 24-hours a day, guests can grab coffee in the morning and enjoy all-day nibbles and refreshments. Other services in the facilities include a personalized concierge service, in-room massages, and a valet laundry and dry cleaning service. Daily newspapers are also provided. Best Rate $450 AUD
For a truly unique experience, stay at the luxury Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection by Marriott. This boutique hotel is perfectly located on the waterfront, near the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You are just steps away from world-famous landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House and the historic Rocks district.
Elegant hotel rooms and suites offer sophisticated, soothing decor and boutique amenities including pillow top mattresses. Treat yourself to sweeping Sydney Harbour views in one of the waterfront suites, or experience the grandeur of their eastern facing Heritage rooms. The Gantry Restaurant, located here at the hotel, offers a chic waterfront atmosphere and panoramic Walsh Bay vistas. Best Rate $430
With a coveted harbourfront location between the world-famous Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Park Hyatt Sydney offers guests an intimate, residential-style hotel with architecture, design, and art that reflects the Australian landscape.
Starting at a spacious 40sqm, new guest room interiors reflect a natural feel. Luxurious furnishings & fittings, naturally-textured fabrics, subtle plush carpets, designer lighting and the latest technology feature throughout. Specially commissioned paintings and artwork by prominent Australian artists are on display, creating an art gallery of unique artefacts in all 155 guest rooms and suites.
The design of floor-to-ceiling glass doors opens onto private balconies honoring the hotel’s exclusive waterfront location. With seamless glass balustrades and natural timber flooring, balconies are furnished with custom designed outdoor furniture and include a plush daybed and sofa from which to enjoy the magnificent harbour views.
The Spa at Park Hyatt Sydney offers the ultimate in beauty and body treatments, with a selection of spa rituals tailored to individual needs and preferences. A relaxation room, whirlpool, aromatherapy steam room, sauna and pool complete the tranquil pampering experience. Best Rate $1170 AUD
Top 3 Restaurants
There is no better place than to appreciate the Sydney Opera’s majestic architecture than from inside their restaurant. The menu is à la carte rather than degustation, and for $80 you can be in and out within the hour if you go the pre-theatre option. Whatever you do, please don’t leave without trying any of their signature duck dishes. If they have the pumpkin appetizers make sure to try those as well. A great experience in an iconic monument.
China meets Australia in this unique fusion incredible experience. With a cozy and welcoming decor, this iconic restaurant in gay neighborhood Pott’s Points is a must when visiting the city. Another amazing feature of this restaurant is that they have snack versions of all their dishes, so if you are exploring the area you can come and sit in the bar and have a taste of this delicious spot.
The incredible Courtney Act took me here on a beautiful sunny afternoon and I can’t wait to go back. Located in the heart of Sydney inside the city’s Hyde Park this indoor-outdoor vegan yum cha and pan-Asian cuisine rests in a beautiful parkland under giant Moreton bay fig trees. The dishes keep coming until you cannot take more. Be selective and don’t say yes to everything that they put in front of you. Don’t get too full and leave space for their delicious vegan desserts. Total High end, relaxing experience.
Hostel Prices – Look to spend from $20-40 AUD for a dorm room, if you want a private room the cost will be between $90-140 AUD per night! My favorite hostels are the ones near the King’s Cross area. The Blue Parrot is the best one.
Budget Hotel – Budget hotels begin around $90 AUD per night for a single, and $150 AUD for a double, and get more expensive the closer you get downtown ($200+). Check out Airbnb to rent from a local and get better value for a great location.
Cheap Food options – Thai food restaurants usually have good lunch specials under $10 AUD. Street Sushi is always a good one to keep you alive while walking around the city. Bring your own bottle of water, they tend to be super expensive. Coles supermarket sells a whole Chicken for $6-8 AUD, get that with a bag of greens, they usually cost from $2-4 AUD and with that chicken you will have two meals in one day. Try also cheap backpacker restaurants like the ones in Newtown, Lentil as anything offers an all you can eat vegetarian menu with four dishes every day of the week, chai tea and dessert with a pay what you can policy! You can get a whole meal for $3 even though they always recommend a $7 donation so they can keep up with operation costs.
Transportation– I’ve lived here for 4 months and still haven’t figured out the way they charge you. It seems to be more expensive in rush hours but a ride can be from $2-5 AUD. Taxis and even UBER are expensive in this city. Ferries range between $5-10 AUD each way. The airport express train is $25.
Top Things to Do
Go to the Beach
Although Bondi and Manly are the most famous, I recommend Shark beach and Milk Beach. Milk beach has a beautiful view of the city and a non-tourist atmosphere; you will feel like a local. It also has a nice rock where people jump from. There are signs advising the danger of doing this so you do it at your own risk. Another alternative for Bondi is Manly and Bronte. Manly offers the best surfing in town. Avoid going on the weekends, it gets crazy packed.
Royal Botanic Gardens
One of the highlights of the city for sure. Amazing views of the city skyline and The Opera House. Beautiful scenery, and on a good weather day it is the perfect spot for a picnic and relaxing in the sun.
Take a ferry
There are multiple ferry rides you can take. All of them offer sweeping views of the harbor, Harbor Bridge, and the famous Opera House. If you take the one to Manly it is a 30-minute ride each way that puts you in one of the coolest, northern parts of the city. Manly is famous for its beach, surfing, and cool, straight nightlife.
Sydney Harbor Bridge
The bridge was built in 1932 as a government employment project during the Great Depression. Tours to climb the bridge are incredibly expensive, but it is free to walk across it. Do that 🙂
Sydney Opera House
The most iconic man-made building in Australia, the Opera House is famous for its white-shelled roof. Tickets for a show in the opera house are not affordable, from $75-200 AUD, but if you have the time and money it is a must.
There’s free entry to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks, Nicholson Museum, and the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbor. In such an expensive place it is really refreshing that they give away their art for free. All of these museums are stunning and make for a nice day.
See a show
Australia has one of the best dance groups in the world. The Sydney Dance company performed one of the most incredible pieces I’ve witnessed in my life. If you are in town and they have a show, go! The Sydney National Theater, Sydney Shakespeare Company, Sydney National Ballet, and Sydney Symphony Orchestra all promise to mesmerize you with a good show. This month is the Sydney Festival from January 7-29, make sure to catch the greatest international groups around. I cannot wait to see The Encounter by the incredible British company Complicite. Visit the official festival site for full schedule. Sydney Festival
Walk one of the coastal walks
There are a number of stunning coastal walks that allow you to take in the breathtaking natural beauty of the Sydney harbor. The Coogee to Bondi walk is the most popular, but the Split to Manly walk is my favorite. I recommend, if doing the Coogee to Bondi one, starting in Coogee and ending up in Bondi so you can have brunch or lunch in the fantastic neighborhood-favorite spot, Speedo’s Cafe. Heads up, it’s pricey and small so don’t go on prime time 11-2 pm because you will not have a good time. Don’t leave without having one of their delicious and unique Cronuts!