In this land of didgeridoo, boomerang, koala bear, wombat and kangaroo, Sydney is to Australia what New York is to the US -- a vibrant multicultural city with a charge that's electric, and a tingle that lingers long after. Renowned for its frolic, it is what locals call the blow in place, a reference to the folks who simply waft into town. Celebrated beaches, breathtaking views, and a spellbinding nightlife contribute to its allure.
Since 1978, Sydneysiders have enjoyed the world swooping down upon them for their annual Mardi Gras Festival. Soon to celebrate its 32st birthday, the next Mardi Gras is scheduled to commence February 20, with the parade taking place on the 27th of February, 2010.
Sophisticated, laid-back and fun, Sydney also boasts a spectacular harbor location and balmy climate almost all year round. It has the best restaurants, most varied museums, finest array of beaches, greatest energy and hottest nightlife of any city in Australia. Understandably, it’s been named the world’s greatest city by the world’s most respected travel magazines.
The most iconic image of Sydney is the famous Sydney Opera House with its distinctive shell-shaped halls rising gracefully along the harbor. But it’s just one of many unique features of Australia’s largest and most sophisticated and picturesque city.
Sydney and the surrounding harbour has the weather of Southern California, the relaxed maritime life of Seattle, and the beautiful coastal hills of San Francisco. Mix with that the European/British flavour of the heart of the city, along with the hustle and bustle of one of the most historic, beautiful and lively downtowns in the world, and you have what can only be defined as paradise!
Sydney is also the gay and lesbian capital of the Southern Hemisphere and one of the world's leading gay destinations. In their summer (our winter), the climate’s not completely tropical, but it’s close, with clear sunny days occasionally interrupted by thunderstorms that can roll in for a few hours. The scenery is a lush green, with wild parrots and cockatoos flying overhead. It’s hard to envisage a city that's gayer than Sydney.
This city wears its queer heart on its sleeve. Going nuts every year over the New Year fireworks is pretty gay in itself, but to go the whole hog by dangling a giant mirror ball from the top of the Harbour Bridge, well, that's positively fruity. Remember th Sydney Olympics closing ceremony.... centrepiece Kylie Minogue held aloft on a giant thong by surf lifesavers in bulge-hugging Speedos!
Most cities can't muster much of a lesbian scene. Sydney has an entire suburb of girls who like girls, from Newtown to Leichhardt (known as Dyke Heart). Even when the macho world of rugby arrived in town for the Rugby World Cup Sydney responded by putting up floral displays around town – ‘The Rugby Pansies’. Again, the gays are clearly in charge. When travelling to other cities the supporters of Sydney Football Club have been known to get the odd homophobic taunt. Instead of cowering or protesting their masculinity the (mainly straight) Sydney supporters have been known to respond in song with the classic "We're here, we're queer, we drink a lot of beer."
Gay Villages... yes There's more than one!
Roaming the town, Sydney`s heart is well laid out, with Hyde Park in the centre and various museums, shopping, botanical parks and gardens, cathedrals, hotels and ferry transportation all within walking distance. You can spend an afternoon having lunch in the park (where lots of hot men sunbathe during the day), stroll through downtown and explore Darling Harbour (IMAX Theatre and a wonderful Aquarium), Chinatown, the St. Mary’s Cathedral and so much more.
Many cities only muster one gay village. Sydney has plenty.This is a big town, so focus. Sydney's fashion and design crowd hang mostly in the eastern suburbs, from world-famous Bondi Beach to Darlinghurst and neighboring Surry Hills, with its concentration of cool restaurants, bars, and village-like atmosphere. The inner western suburbs, such as Newtown and Erskineville, are more alternative and diverse, with a greater lesbian and student presence. Either way, it's one big homo corridor, so much so that Oxford Street in Darlinghurst is no longer the undisputed epicenter of queer Sydney.
Yes, the traditional centre of queer life has been Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, but it has become more mixed in the last ten years. Some say its in decline, others say its just gay people becoming more mainstream with little need for just one gay place. However it is still one of the most popular strips at night for partying.
Nearby Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay have become the home to the smart party set. They both enjoy a stunning harbour setting and close proximity to the nightlife hub of Kings Cross. Further up Oxford Street you get to Paddington. Once a bit of a dive, its rich network of Victorian terraces have long since been gentrified and it's home to a lot of chi-chi metrogays.
Then there's the beach. North Bondi is the current plage du jour while Tamarama (Glamarama) is home to some very well-to-do gay Sydneysiders. Head inland a bit and you come to Newtown, a big rival for Darlinghurst's mantle. For many years it was a big dyke suburb, but now it's pretty mixed with lots of boys moving in to it.
Next door, Erskinville has a very villagey feel and is being gentrified by an army of gay nesters. Leichhardt - or Dykeheart - has a long history of attracting the girls as well as Sydney's Italian community. Grab a latte and mix with the chicks.
Then there is Redfern. It has long been one of the less salubrious parts of the city, but is coming up fast and has just got its first gay pub. Not surprising considering how many gay people have moved there in the last few years.
If you’re into saunas and sex clubs, this town’s got ‘em as well. There’s the Kingsteam on Oxford Street and Bodyline in Taylor Square. For a wilder time, there is SignalMen’s Sex Club and Headquarters, both promising a good time.
There are numerous clothing stores, bookstores and adult merchandise (Tool Shed) shops. There is also some nice patio dining on street-side cafes, as well as very warm and cosy small restaurants all along Oxford St, which stay busy until late at night.
The European feel extends to the club hours - don’t be surprised to see folks still partying at 8am on Sunday morning, as you cruise along looking for a bite to eat. There’s a stereotype that Aussie men are just the most masculine men on the planet. But in fact, there’s a great cross-section in Sydney, including many European and British folks mixed in with a potpourri of Asians from Hong Kong, Singapore and more. There’s bound to be someone for everyone.
Some of the city’s natural attractions are the Royal Botanic Gardens, with 7,500 trees spread over several acres of park just east of the Opera House. In addition, the Taronga Zoo features a large selection of Australian fauna plus animals from around the world. Check out our Attractions Section for more details.
Beaches nearby include Obelisk Beach, which is on the north shore — north of the Harbour Bridge and the South Head Light House (Lady Jane) Beach. Both beaches are fairly secluded and not easily accessible. That said, they are most definitely worth the trip if you like nude beaches. You`ll need a car to reach Obelisk Beach and it’s at least a ten-minute walk from the nearest bus stop to reach Lady Jane Beach. The views as you walk are fantastic.
One great day trip is to take the ferry from Circular Quay out to Manly Harbour. It`s a wonderful way to view Sydney Harbour, and allows you to see a different side of the city. It`s much more laid-back and a great place to spend the day shopping, playing, and enjoying a day at the beach.
Even closer to downtown is Bondi Beach, where topless sunbathing is commonplace, and the standards of dress are almost as relaxed in the many cafes and restaurants of Campbell Parade, which faces the beach, and in the surrounding streets. T-shirts, shorts and sandals are the usual attire. A few minutes walk from Bondi Beach, you`ll find Bronte Beach, a sandy enclave with beautiful people. Day trips in the area include Hunter’s Valley, which is the heart of the Australian Wine Country, and the Blue Mountains, a beautiful range to the west of the city that gets its name from the eucalyptus oils in the air creating a kind of misty blue haze.
Sydney is definitely the gay mecca. It continues to reinvent itself and after a brief hiatus seems to have become reborn with a renewed energy that is best exeplified in the energy and diversity that relaunched the Mardi Gras event to become the world''s bniggest gay festival in what is perhaps the world's No 1 gay city.