Beyond Oxford Street: The Best of Gay Sydney

By: Oliver Johnston |

oxford street sydney
It’s not an overstatement to say that Sydney has one of the most thriving gay communities in the world. San Francisco has a gay community synonymous with the struggle for equal rights, largely thanks to the efforts of the late great Harvey Milk. Berlin has emerged from the shadows of WW2 and the Berlin Wall to become a city that hosts massive pride parades where leather clad large gentlemen can walk hand in hand with assless chaps that proudly display a hairy backside. But Sydney has also carved out a reputation as a place where it’s great to be gay, and on a Saturday night on Oxford Street, straight guys are almost a minority. So if you’re out and about in Australia’s harbor city on a date, or perhaps looking for one, there are a few places that you need to know about.

It’s Mardi Gras Time

Each year in February or March, the gay eyes of the world (and the straight eyes that appreciate a hell of a lot of glitter) turn to Sydney for the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which turns Oxford Street into the biggest gay party you could imagine. The party is unimaginably intense, and Sydney turns into a sweaty heaving mass eager to worship at the altar of Kylie Minogue. The gay bars and clubs around Oxford Street turn into sardine cans where you’ll need to use a combination of elbows and politeness to make it to the bar to order a beer.

Same Sex Silver Screen

If a gigantic gay party isn’t your thing, you might enjoy some of the Mardi Gras support events, such as the gay and lesbian film festival arranged by Queer Screen. You might not be a fan of dry humping a stranger on the dance floor, but at a film screening, you can try to initiate intelligent conversation about the rich subtext of the film you’ve just seen… possibly followed by dry humping. The Sydney International Film Festival (held annually in June) also has an impressive selection of gay themed films from around the world.

The Joys of Newtown

Oxford Street is definitely worth an evening of exploration, but some of us might find it to be a bit too hectic. The Stonewall Hotel (175 Oxford Street) is a gay Sydney institution, so check it out on a weekday if you don’t want to fight the well-groomed shirtless crowd. Other parts of Sydney are also establishing themselves as gay hotspots, and while Newtown (just out of downtown Sydney) is unlikely to steal Oxford Street’s crown, it certainly makes for an interesting alternative. Try the Imperial Hotel (35 Erskineville Road), which was the inspiration for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and it still has eye poppingly amazing drag shows. Sly Fox Hotel (199 Enmore Road) is great for a beer but also has live music and occasional comedy nights.

Oxford Street really is a delight, and remember that it’s a long street, and so once you pass Taylor Square, the gay venues abruptly fade away, giving way to chic cafés, art house cinemas and bookstores. It can be just the thing to recharge your batteries after the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street: simply walk a little further along, relax for a while, and before you know it, you’re ready to head back and enjoy the best of gay Sydney (dry humping is optional).

Image via sydnycity on Flickr.