General Information

Sydney has long been on the radar of most GLBT travellers thanks to its reputation for tolerance and openness as well, of course, as its many natural and man-made attractions for international travellers. The highlight of Sydney's gay calendar is of course the Mardi Gras festival, parade and dance party held in late February/early March every year when tens of thousands of visitors pour into Sydney for one of the world's biggest and best celebrations of all things gay. 

Orientation & Safety

Oxford St Darlinghurst (a.k.a. The Golden Mile), running east from the corner of Hyde Park South is the sentimental heart of gay Sydney, however the last ten to fifteen years has seen a devolution of gay life "out of the ghetto" so that today there are several gay neighbourhoods in a city that which is by and large very gay friendly with a highly visible and accepted community. Oxford St is still hanging on as the main nightlife area. (See more info below on nightlife)

Apart from Oxford St, areas with decent concentrations of GLBT people and businesses either specifically catering to or appealing to gay communities are Surry Hills (Crown St is emerging as a a really trendy precinct), Potts Point/Kings Cross and Paddington. The other historically gay-friendly area is King St Newtown (and surrounding suburbs of Erskineville, Enmore and Marrickville). Newton has historically had a bit more of an alternative, radical edge to it as opposed to the "scene" of Oxford St. You're far more likely nowadays to see same s*x  couples walking hand in hand on King St Newtown than on Oxford St. 

Any of the abovementioned areas are generally safe and comfortable for gay people. Usual precautions apply about walking on quiet streets late at night and always being street-wise and aware of who's around you. Physical affection in public won't turn heads in Newtown or most of Surry Hills and Potts Point. Hand holding couples are sometimes spotted in the CBD as are snogging couples in Hyde Park. Oxford St on Saturday nights has become a bit of a circus of drunk and drugged up idiots from the suburbs and unfortunatlely homophobic verbal abuse is all too common. Physical attacks unfortunately also occur very occasionally.  

Accommodation

Choosing a place to stay will depend on your interests and motivations for coming to Sydney. If partying and nightlife are high on the agenda, look for accommodation close to Oxford St. Quality Cambridge Hotel is probably the best located hotel. Others to consider within easy walking distance are Mariott Sydney, Arts Hotel (formerly Sullivan's). The Kirketon and The Medusa are boutique/art hotels that have been featured in numerous design and travel magazine articles and books. Both are within 10 minutes on foot from Oxford St. If opting for accommodation in the traditional tourist areas of The Rocks or Circular Quay, Oxford St is only a short trip by bus or taxi or a pleasant 20 -30 minute walk. 

If you're an international backpacker on a budget, there are still plenty of other options! Right in the heart of the city is Maze Backpackers located on Pitt Street. Recognised by ACON as being a LGBTI Safe Place & displays their pride flags year round! 

There is no problem for same s*x  couples booking a double room in Sydney and hotel reception staff won't bat an eyelid. (In the extremely unlikely event you do encounter homophobic staff in hotels, restaurants or any other industry, they are behaving in breach of anti-discrimination laws and their manager should be called immediately!).

Mardi Gras

What began as a street demonstration in 1978 during which pioneers in Sydney's emerging gay scene were beaten and arrested by police for no reason other than their sexuality, has over the last 30 years become arguably the world's largest gay pride parade. But Mardi Gras is more than the parade held in early March. There is an associated 2 to 3 week curated arts festival showcasing a wide range of art including theatre, painting, opera, cabaret, comedy, music and performance art. One of the favourite events for locals is Fair Day, held in Victoria Park, near Broadway  where tens of thousands of queer and queer-friendly people come to enjoy a day in the park with live entertainment, hundreds of community stalls, dog shows, kids' rides and entertainment and really, really, bad beer (it's sponsored by Budweiser - for better or for worse). Then of course there are the iconic dance parities. Harbour Party is held in the Botanic Gardens as the summer sun sinks behind the Opera House and Harbour Bridge to the tunes of local and international DJs. This is a party for 2 or 3 thousand beautiful people in a beautiful setting. That of course is the warm up for the greatest party on the planet: Mardi Gras. Traditionally held immediately after the parade at the Fox Studios site in Moore Park, Mardi Gras party spills over 5 or 6 venues offering something for all 15 - 20 thousand partygoers. From High Camp handbag house, to deep tribal beats, retro, cutting edge electronica and live acts, the whole night is one big high. (Be wary of police sniffer doggies who have been making fairly regular appearances at parties. Such policing tactics are obviously more PR stunt than anything else...as evidenced by the fact that only a couple of dozen people ever actually get slapped with minor charges. You've been warned however).

The festival, parade and party are organised by "New Mardi Gras"

Night Life & Entertainment

Many would say that Oxford St has been somewhat in decline over  the last five or ten years. More straight clubs and bars have opened attracting a fairly unsavoury element to the area on Friday and Saturday nights. At the same time, more gay and lesbian people are going out to mixed and straight venues and nowadays able to feel completely comfortable in those sorts of venues. However, a number of gay venues are still going strong. For weekly listings pick up either of the two gay papers from cafes, record shops etc: The Sydney Star Observer and SX. Both also have websites with event listings. For girls Lesbians on the Loose (LOTL) is the main weekly paper. Cherry is informative also. 

Clubs Bars and Pubs

Stonewall: Ground floor is camp, mainstream and happy, mostly men. Youngish crowd from 20s to 30s. Mostly pop tunes and remixes. Regular drag shows.  Upstairs is a cocktail bar, more funky house DJs playing, mixed crowd.

Oxford: Ground floor, popular with bears and men in their 30s and 40s. Upstairs the "Supper Club" hosts mostly live events as well as special club events. Good cocktails, the crowd depends on the event. Basement: Gilligans, small, dark, intimate club space with great illuminated walls. Check event listings, mostly underground/queer/alternative events. 

Palms: A classic that hasn't changed for decades. Think pop music and retro favourites, boys like Daffyd from Little Britain, fag hags, squealing laughter. Innocent fun. If you're drunk enough to see beyond how terribly tacky it all is it'll possibly the best night out you've had in ages.

Colombian: It's the noisy place on the corner. Popular, crowded, some great pumping house (think Head Kandy twisted disco compilations), usually full of people either coming up or coming down or coming up again around lunch time on Sunday :-). Door policy is a bit odd - sometimes it's mostly gay, sometimes very straight. Upstairs has a good lounge bar which also hosts various nights and one-of events. 

Midnight Shift: A Sydney favourite. Downstairs "Video Bar" is usually packed on Friday and Saturday nights from around 11.Very popular with Asian boys and their admirers. Music is similar to ground floor of stonewall - not a place for serious club music aficionados! Lots of drag shows. Upstairs seems to change names/themes and open/close on a very regular basis. Check the gay press for events.

Slide: nowadays mostly a cabaret and performance space rather than the lounge bar it used to be. Check listings for events

Exchange Hotel/Phoenix: Basement bar Phoenix is the home of queer Sydney's underground scene. Each Saturday night is a different monthly rotating event catering to different crowds (leather, alternative, artfags etc). As of 2012 Phoenix seems to host less queer events and more straight ones. Over summer however, legendary indi-alt-queer night Loose Ends take place on Sunday nights. Some of Sydney's most talented DJs play progressive music in this intimate space. Phoenix is also the main morning recovery venue for those still partying after the sun comes up.

Arq: Large club. Two distinct spaces with different DJs and crowds. Main, upstairs Bar is mostly fairly generic House and Trance, downstairs can vary according to the event. Regular Lesbian nights. Check listings. 

Nevermind: A club a few doors away from Stonewall. Friday and Saturday night events for pretty young twinks. 

Green Park Hotel: (Victoria St Darlinghurst) A fantastic local corner pub with a mixed crowd of locals. Their beer garden is the best place to spend a sunny sunday afternoon.

Bank Hotel Newtown: Wednesday night is lesbian night everywhere in Newtown, but most girls swing past the bank at some stage during the night. Big pub, out the back is a large deck which is lovely on warm nights. Other nights of the week it's mixed. Occasional dedicated Gay and/or lesbian events.

Sly Fox Enmore: Possibly the closest thing Sydney has to a proper girls bar. Wednesday night goes off. 

The Clarence Petersham: Ceased trading at a gay venue mid-2010. 

Imperial Erskineville: After a lengthy battle with the local council the Imperial reopened in 2010. Unfortunately the renovations ripped to soul out of the old girl. The front bar is sterile and stinks of spilt beer. They now charge an arm and a leg to get into the cabaret space to watch the same old tired drag shows and the downstairs cellar bar is rarely open. Priscilla tragics will still love it. Everyone else just goes to any one of the dozens of local pubs instead - they're all completley gay friendly . 

Venues open and close with alarming regularity, so always do a scan of the gay papers or a search online to see what's open and what's on.

Dining

Oxford St is a culinary wasteland, but fear not, there are plenty of good restaurants nearby. Wander south along the whole length of Crown St and you'll pass lots of good restaurants. Head down the hill to Little Italy on Stanley St. Victoria St Darlinghurst is a very hot restaurant strip at the moment. King St in Newtown will keep you busy for months savouring food from every corner of the world.

Beaches

The north end of Bondi has been popular over the last few summers.

Sydney has a number of nude beaches (both legal and not-quite legal) which attract a mixture of gay and straight devotees. Lady Jane near Waston's Bay can be reached by ferry or bus (routes 324, 325). Obelisk Beach near Mosman is hard to get to by public transport, but very popular nontheless. Little Congwong Beach at La Perouse is traditionally a nude beach but it's status as such has never been legally recognised. There are occasional police visits, but requests to cover up are studiously ignored as soon as they've left. Take the L94 bus to the last stop.