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One of the best New Year destinations in the world is undoubtably Sydney Australia. It offers a delightful experience to anyone who is longing for a thrilling night out on New Year's Eve. The mesmerizing fireworks over the Sydney Harbour looks absolutely enchanting and are worth-capturing.

But it's not just New Year's Eve that makes Sydney a must visit gay location - it's Pride celebrations are second to none. From its beginnings as a gay rights demonstration in 1978, Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has grown into a fortnight of culture and debauchery every February. Sydney is a city to enjoy and party.

It's the largest, most fabulous, most diverse queer celebration in the Southern Hemisphere - Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras which runs each year from mid-February to early March alongside Sydney World Pride.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the oldest continuously operating LGBTQI organisations in Australia. It was built on the foundations laid by early community activists who fought for equal rights in a time of wide-spread oppression and discrimination. They aim to be a global leader in the promotion of LGBTQI diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice through culture, creativity and partnerships. Full details can be found here mardigras.org.au.

Photograph by Mazz Images.
Unless you're the Energiser Bunny, you'll be hard pressed to attend everything, but there are a couple of perennial events you should try not to miss. The annual Mardi Gras Parade on the first Saturday is a bustling extravaganza that brings Sydney to a standstill and shines a global spotlight on LGBTQI lives, culture, communities and creativity. With spectacular floats and thousands of participants, the Parade showcases the glitz and glamour of the community.
Every year before the event, a mean-spirited group of God-botherers pray for rain. Imagine the horror on their faces when, one year, after a brief shower, a rainbow appeared! Come rain or shine, the Mardi Gras Parade is a dazzling affair featuring around 200 floats and 12,500 people marching, dancing and generally whooping it up through the streets of Darlinghurst.

After the Parade, the Official Party is both spectacular and raunchy, normally staged in Hordern Pavilion and some surrounding venues from 10pm-8am. It's a time for the community to glam up and go hard. There's no question that they'll be mad at it for days.

Photograph by Mazz Images.
During the fortnight of events there are also Pool Parties, a Family Fun Day, Laugh Out Proud events, minus 18 Queer Formal, Queer Arts After Hours Celebration, Queer Screen's Mardi Gras Film Festival, a Thick 'n' Juicy night, Same Sex Salsa Workshop, Pervert Matinee Closing Party, and even Darlinghurst's Life Drawing LGBTI Naked Model Art and Nibbles Class. Over 50,000 participants take part in a Pride March across the Sydney Harbour Bridge making it the largest pride march in Australia.


One thing you should definitely do is catch the Manly Ferry. Seriously. It leaves from Circular Quay, and takes you to Manly Beach and back. And it's one of the best and cheapest ways to enjoy a cruise with the locals on Sydney Harbour. At Manly, wander down The Corso to Manly Beach, pick up some fish and chips, and enjoy the sun, sand and surf. It's magic.

Ferry arrives at Manly Wharf, Manly.
(c) Destination NSW
A less-touristy alternative is to catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Old Cremorne, then take an easy walk along the foreshore to Cremore Point and pick up the ferry on its return to the Quay. It has all the wonderful views but without the crowds.

One of the most successful additions to Sydney's "must do" list is BridgeClimb Sydney. So get your gear on, strap up, and join a small group climb over the top of the ultimate Sydney icon, the Harbour Bridge. The views are to die for.

You can't come to Sydney and not enjoy lunch while gazing out over the Pacific at Bondi Beach. Bondi's main drag, Campbell Parade, is lined with cafes and restaurants: try Sean's Panorama at the northern end; Yulla or Fu Manchu at the southern end. By the way, alcohol is no longer allowed on the beach itself. After lunch, go for a walk along the cliffs to Sydney's gay beach, Tamarama, renamed Glamarama in honour of the beautiful people.

It may not be an obvious choice, but as a Norwegian visitor put it "leaving Australia without trying to surf is like visiting Norway and not going skiing." And where better to have your first surfing lesson than at Bondi Beach? The local surf school caters for beginners who have never ridden a board before, and for less than 20 pounds provides boards, wetsuits, and two hours of friendly tuition in small groups of about six. The experience is loads of fun, and those wet suits can be very sexy.


Despite the closure of a number of iconic gay hang-outs, Darlinghurst is still the place to circulate and degenerate. The main drag - Oxford Street - is home to some of Sydney's busiest gay bars. One of the oldest is the Universal Sydney. Once a dingy, smoke-filled space where you could perv on blokes playing pool, these days it has a more universal appeal and is not exclusively gay. There's a club upstairs and a bistro next door. They call it "a safe place for all humans to connect" and you can expect the place to be heaving.

A hop, skip and fandango away you'll find the Stonewall Hotel featuring three floors and four bars. Stonewall is twink central and one of the very few places in Sydney to still showcase drag. Palms On Oxford Nightclub is gay club with an unpretentious vibe and a tropical theme, playing hits from the 80s and 90s.

Poof Doof Sydney is a gay club that's full of friendly people and a warm welcome. They are known for Snap Crackle and Pop music in the bar upstairs. Back on Oxford Street you'll find Heaven Nightclub Sydney which is a gay nightclub with really good sound and lighting and great underground music on Sunday as well as fun pop/gay vibes on Saturday. Also, The Eagle Sydney is a popup bar which has events during the year. Their biggest programme is each year during Mardi Gras, and in 2023 during the Sydney World Pride.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade,
Oxford Street.
(c) Destination NSW / Steven Yee
Another mainstay of the Oxford Street strip is the Oxford. The Oxford exudes a chilled vibe offering grub, cocktails and a range of entertainment with live bands and DJs, in a stylish hangout with 3 bars and a lounge that's great to relax in.

Across the way, off Taylor Square, you'll find Arq in Flinders Street. For 18 years, this spacious multilevel club has been packing them in.

Upstairs you'll find wildebeests of shirtless brawn strutting to beats, while down below there's more groove than corrugated iron. Over 30s will especially appreciate the soft furnishings where acting laidback couldn't be easier. They stage regular drag performances and DJs spinning house. Please note however that the venue is currently closed for refurbishment.

If Darlinghurst gets a bit too much, you can always head to Erskineville where you'll find another gay icon of the scene: the Imperial. It hosts drag, cabaret, and top-notch DJs, there's also a cocktail lounge and terrace. In nearby Newtown, while not exclusively gay, both the Bank and the Newtown both to be found on King Street are lively spaces that attract a mixed bag of punters. The Bank offers cocktail jugs and hearty food in a bar with an open street view, plus a vibrant, leafy beer garden. The Newtown meanwhile has Sydney Drag Icons and some Disco Heaven Queens on Saturdays nights.

Both Erskineville and Newtown have the advantage of having escaped the city's notorious 'lockout laws'. In response to incidents of alcohol-fuelled violence, the NSW government has introduced laws preventing bars and clubs from accepting patrons after 1.30am - so it pays to think ahead about where you want to be spending the latter part of the night.


If you want to play down 'n' dirty Sydney has no shortage of saunas and sex clubs. Investigate Trade Club on Crown St, Darlinghurst - it's a large gay cruise club & dance bar with a wide range of facilities including playrooms, cruise area, video lounge, private cabins, bar, cubicles and refreshment facilities.

Those who like to take in the baths should head for Sydney Gay Steam on Sussex Street, Sydney Sauna in Oxford St, Darlinghurst or closeby The Den. The venue has an adult entertainment shop which sells all the suuplies a boy could ever need. Bodyline which is found in Taylor St, Darlinghurst is another popular sauna but it is currently undergoing refurbishment and aims to open again soon.

357 Sydney City Steam has a Foam Party every Sunday from 4pm to 7pm in their wet area on the first floor. They're extremely popular and bring in a young crowd as they fill the steam room up to the ceiling with foam so you are up to your neck in suds. It's non-stop explosive sexual fun for 3 hours! The sauna also host Trans Tuesdays, Black Out every Friday and a Towel Free Naked Party each Wednesday and Saturday. Hang up your towel on one of the hooks provided, and no carrying !!

Cozy Spa in Sussex Street, Haymarket is a place to rejuvenate with some friendly Asian male therapists. They have private treatment rooms where you can take a shower before and after treatments. Each therapist is trained by a thai trainer or in Thailand where massage skills have been perfected over the centuries. They know very well how to treat their customers.

Mardi Gras Bodypainting
Photo: Eva Rinaldi
CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Aarows is an adult entertainment club in Rydalmere which caters for discreet gay, bi and swingers. It has been established as Sydney’s premier health, recreation & social centre where safe sex is permitted regardless of gender. They have a gym, spa and lounges over 3 levels which are open 24 hours a day. On Sundays it's Men Only and nude from 8am - 8pm on their 3rd floor, which has a cinema room, private booths, sling rooms, large orgy area and a cosy lounge area.


Being Sydney, there's also a beach scene to explore. Obelisk, Tamarama, Lady Jane and La Perouse are all good for a cruise.

Above is just a microcosm of the carry on to be had. As you'd expect from the party-pig capital of the Asia Pacific, Sydney has something for everyone. So enjoy, stay safe and have a brilliant New Year!


Like any big international capital you've got a big choice. If you're looking for great deals on apartments and gay-friendly hotels check out the special offers in real-time with OutUK's online service Bookings.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade,
Oxford Street. (c) Destination NSW


357 Sydney City Steam (357 Sussex St; Website)
Aarows (17 Bridge St, Rydalmere; T: +61 2 9638 0553; Website)
ARQ (16 Flinders Street; T:+61 2 9380 8700; Website) TEMPORARILY CLOSED
Bodyline (10 Taylor St, Darlinghurst; T:+61 2 9360 7451; Website) TEMPORARILY CLOSED
BridgeClimb Sydney (3 Cumberland St, The Rocks; T: +61 1300 908 057; Website)
Cozy Spa (Level 1/422 Sussex St; T: +61 416 559 675; Website)
Heaven Nightclub Sydney (169 Oxford St, Darlinghurst; facebook)
Lets Go Surfing (128 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi; T: +61 2 9365 1800; Website)
Oxford (134 Oxford Street; T:+61 2 8080 7080; Website)
Palms On Oxford Nightclub (124 Oxford St, Darlinghurst; T: +61 2 9357 4166; facebook)
Poof Doof Sydney 330 George St; Website)
Stonewall Hotel (175 Oxford Street; T:+61 2 9360 1963; Website)
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (Website: mardigras.org.au)
Sydney Sauna (1st flr, 38-42 Oxford St, Darlinghurst; T:+61 2 9360 3431; Website)
Sydney Mardi Gras and World Pride (Website)
The Bank (324 King Street; T:+61 2 8568 1900; Website)
The Den Club (1st flr, 97 Oxford St, Darlinghurst; T:+61 2 9332 3402; Website)
The Eagle Sydney (2 Oxford St, Darlinghurst; Website)
The Imperial (35 Erskineville Road; T:+61 2 9516 1766; Website)
The Newtown (174 King Street; T:+61 2 9557 6399; Website)
Trade Club (273 Crown St, Darlinghurst; T:+61 2 8068 1915; facebook)
Universal Sydney (85 Oxford Street; T:+61 2 8080 7065; Website)

Revised November 2022


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