If you’re wondering what Sydney has to offer queer and lesbian travellers, you’re in the right place. In this guide, I provide a complete rundown of queer and lesbian Sydney, including the best bars, clubs, events, and things to do around the city.
Sydney is one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the world. I love it so much that I often fantasise about living there someday.
Sydney has so much to offer travellers – including queer and lesbian travellers. Not only is there a realm of fascinating things to see and discover, but the Sydney queer scene is unlike any other.
We felt so at home and welcome during our recent visit for Sydney World Pride. We were able to experience the best of queer and lesbian Sydney while also getting to explore and enjoy the city.
The aim of this article is to arm you with everything you need to visit this unforgettable destination. Find out why we believe it to be one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the world.
So let’s get to it. Here’s a complete guide to queer and lesbian Sydney!
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Acknowledgement of country: It’s tradition in Sydney to acknowledge the events on Aboriginal Land. We acknowledge the Gadigal, Cammeraygal, Bidigal, Darug and Dharawal people, the Traditional Custodians of the Sydney Basin. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.
Always was Always will be Aboriginal Land.
Queer & Lesbian Sydney FAQs
Before I jump into talking about the best queer and lesbian bars, clubs, events etc., in Sydney, I thought it would be good to answer some of the frequently asked questions we get about our trips.
• See more and spend less with a Sydney Go City Explorer Pass
• Book a hotel or hostel here or check out air bnbs in Sydney
• Stay connected in Sydney with a portable wifi hotspot or a local e-sim
• Get to know the city on a best-selling Sydney tour.
• Don’t forget travel insurance – World Nomads is our go-to choice for cover.
LGBTQ Rights in Sydney
While Sydney might not be quite where we’d hope it to be on the road to equal rights for ALL the LGBTQ community, we have to appreciate the progress made so far.
Sydney especially feels like a safe space where you can express yourself freely. However, we acknowledge our privilege of being white, straight-passing, cis females.
Unfortunately, the trans community face the brunt of our oppression and continue to fight for even their most basic equal rights. Gender non-conforming individuals face similar issues.
Please don’t forget that we are not equal until we are all equal.
LGBTQ+ Safety in Sydney
Sydney, in general, is a very safe, tolerant and progressive city. As a lesbian couple in Sydney, we never felt the need to hide who we are or refrain from being affectionate in public.
However, we encountered a couple of incidents of homophobia during our visit. Not only aimed at us and never of a violent nature, but either way, it wasn’t at all welcomed.
We also noticed an unusually heavy police presence at many Sydney World Pride events. There was even an incident involving one of our group, who got targeted and searched without any justified reason.
It’s interesting because we were under the illusion (like others) that Sydney is a queer paradise. However, there seems to be an underlying element of queerphobia that’s important to recognise and talk about.
Best Time to Visit Queer & Lesbian Sydney
Sydney is a city that enjoys sublime weather all year round, so there’s no right or wrong time to visit.
However, to enjoy the best of queer and lesbian Sydney, you’ll want to organise your trip around Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is Sydney’s answer to Pride, and it’s one of the most fabulous events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.
I go into more detail about what to expect from Mardi Gras further down. But all you need to know for now is that it’s hosted for three weeks between the end of February and the beginning of March.
Tip: Remember that you must book in advance if you plan to visit Sydney for Mardi Gras! Hotels and parties sell out very quickly.
Sydney is not what you’d call a budget-friendly city to visit. You have to fly there for a start, and unless you live nearby, that’s not exactly cheap.
While there are ways to keep costs down when visiting the city, you will likely notice the inflated prices of everyday items. Eating out is also expensive, but you get what you pay for.
If you plan on exploring the queer and lesbian nightlife in Sydney, you’ll need a big budget to buy drinks. Alcohol and other luxuries like cigarettes are notoriously expensive.
Here are some great tips for visiting Sydney on a budget.
Some might say that taking a guided tour is the best way to experience this fun and exciting city.
We always use Get Your Guide when we book tours. They have an endless selection of tours in locations worldwide, including Sydney. Check them out!
Save Time and Book a Tour
For a more local experience, we recommend checking out the guided tours on Get Your Guide:
Where to Stay in Queer & Lesbian Sydney
Naturally, there is plenty of places to stay in Sydney. Options range from low(ish) budget hotels and hostels to premium luxury resorts and apartments.
However, if you have the budget, the Four Seasons stole the show, largely due to the unrivalled harbour view that we enjoyed from our window.
The Best of Queer & Lesbian Sydney
I’m sure you’re keen to learn more about what there is to see and do in this vibrant and beautiful city.
Naturally, being LGBTQ+ does not prevent us from wanting to explore like any other tourist. You’ll likely want to experience the Sydney highlights as well as the queer things to do in the city.
Since this is a guide to gay and lesbian Sydney, I won’t delve into the highlights here. Instead, I recommend checking out this article on the best things to do in Sydney.
For now, let’s run through the fabulously queer Sydney activities you can look forward to.
Looking for a rundown of the best queer and lesbian nightlife in Sydney? Keep scrolling to the next section.
Queer Things to do in Sydney
Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
Of course, the number one thing to do in gay and lesbian Sydney is the iconic Mardi Gras festival.
As mentioned earlier, Mardi Gras is Sydney’s answer to Pride, but I guarantee this is unlike any Pride festival you’ve ever attended.
It all began in 1978 when the police targeted a small street festival celebrating gay rights while homosexuality was still illegal. Today it is a monumental annual event spanning over three weeks and attracting tens of thousands of attendees.
The event’s highlight is the parade, held on a Saturday night and lasts for around 4 hours. Afterwards, people gather around Oxford Street for one of the wildest street parties in the world.
Besides the parade, you can expect countless events, parties, discussions, and exhibits to be held all over the city. It really is one for the bucket list!
Remember, though, Mardi Gras is immensely popular. I recommend booking things well in advance to avoid disappointment.
The second thing that should be on your list of things to do in queer Sydney is to visit the gay and lesbian neighbourhoods.
Oxford Street in Darlinghurst is renowned for being Sydney’s main gay district. It is lined with gay bars, clubs, cafes and shops and has an overall great vibe.
Newtown is the unofficial lesbian area of Sydney. While there are no exclusively lesbian bars or the like, plenty of lesbians gather here for the great cafes, eateries, nightlife, and laidback vibes.
Don’t tell me you’re not extra, and don’t seek to take photos of every rainbow you come across because I will know you are lying.
Whether it’s for the gram or the memories, there are plenty of permanent rainbow crossings, paths and murals to snap a selfie with during your time in Sydney.
Check out this article to locate the very best of them.
The Rusty Rabbit
The Rusty Rabbit is a hip little brunch spot in Darlinghurst. Its eclectic fit-out, rainbow decor, and extensive menu attract queers from all over the city.
We popped in for breakfast and mimosas before one of the World Pride events and loved the vibe. It’s that popular people were hanging out on the streets outside drinking their coffee.
Attending a drag brunch is one of the best queer things you can do in Sydney. The drag shows here are some of the best I’ve seen, and the drag scene (for now) is widely tolerated.
Get yourself down to the Burdekin Rooftop on a Sunday for their iconic drag brunch’ Spritz or Swallow’. Think unlimited drinks, a delicious meal, and 2 hours of drag queen entertainment.
Also, Poof Doof, Australia’s infamous queer rave, hosts sporadic drag brunches throughout the year.
If you can go to a gay pool party in Sydney, you’re in for quite the experience! Things get hot and steamy at these events, and the energy is electrifying.
We got to go to the annual Mardi Gras Pool Party, and it was one of the highlights of World Pride. If you’re visiting outside this period, check out Daywash for their pool party dates.
Poof Doof Parties
As I mentioned earlier, Poof Doof is Australia’s number 1 queer rave! They originated in Melbourne but host regular parties in Sydney as well.
If your trip coincides with one of their events, do not miss it! It’s one of the most exciting things you can do in gay and lesbian Sydney, welcoming every colour of our rainbow family.
Fruits in Suits
A networking event organised by the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Business Association, ‘Fruits in Suits’ has been running since 1996.
It provides an ideal opportunity to not only increase your business network but also to connect with like-minded people who you might not have met otherwise.
The event is held on the third Thursday of every month at the Beresford Hotel.
Look out for LGBTQ exhibits at local art galleries and museums when visiting Sydney. They are more common over Mardi Gras, but they also pop up sporadically over the year.
The Powerhouse Museum and MCA for example, both frequently host queer exhibits and display queer artists and icons such as Frida Kahlo.
Sydney’s first queer museum Qtopia also recently opened and is well worth a visit.
They host permanent and temporary exhibitions that explore the LGBTQ+ community through the lens of history, culture, art and contemporary issues.
Naughty Treats at MYKIKI
Ever enjoyed a genital-shaped waffle? Well, nows your chance…
You’ll find MYKIKI in Surrey Hills – just around the corner from Oxford Street. Treat yourself to a peni$ or v@gina-shaped waffle with your choice of toppings.
Trust me.. they really do hit the spot!
Queer & Lesbian Nightlife in Sydney
One thing to be aware of, however, is the ‘Sydney Lockout Laws’, which were introduced in 2014 to help tackle alcohol-fueled violence issues.
The legislation means that clubs and bars in the CBD must close by 3 am, so if you’re used to all-night partying, Oxford Street might not be the best place for it.
All is not lost, though; most people seek out places outside the CBD (like Newtown, for example) to party until dawn.
Best Queer & Lesbian Bars in Sydney
It saddens me to say that there are no exclusively lesbian bars in Sydney. However, these positively queer bars attract a mixed clientele under the LGBTQ umbrella.
Are you looking for a fun-filled evening of queer entertainment? You needn’t look much further than The Oxford. This popular queer venue is home to 4 distinct spaces – each offering a unique experience.
There’s the sophisticated Polo lounge on the top floor, the sweaty nightclub Underground in the basement, and a ground-floor bistro and terrace where you can enjoy casual drinks.
Ginger’s, on the first floor, is a New York-style cocktail bar with intimate seating and hosts regular cabarets and live music extravaganzas!
Located at the beating heart of Sydney’s gay scene smack-bang in the middle of Oxford Street, The Stonewall is one of the most famous queer bars in all of the city.
Named after the New York City bar of the same name, the venue hosts three levels of entertainment, including fantastic drag shows and unmissable parties.
To the naked eye, The Beresford is your average local pub offering a little something for everyone. But beneath all that, this beautiful venue remains a staple of the Sydney queer scene.
Sunday’s especially are a queer extravaganza, when crowds flock for boozy sessions in the courtyard before continuing the party upstairs on the Beresford dance floor.
The Sly Fox
While there are no specific lesbian bars in Sydney, you will find yourself amongst plenty of queer women in The Sly Fox.
From live music and DJs to drag bingo and other queer entertainment, this late-night party venue in Newtown deserves a visit!
The Imperial Hotel
One of the most famous gay bars in Australia, The Imperial was the setting of the opening scene in the 1994 cult classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
This Erskineville pub remains a hotspot for the LGBTQ community, hosting regular drag shows, cabarets, DJs, and parties. There’s also a restaurant on the ground floor.
When you fancy a low-key evening in Sydney, Kinselas is a fabulous queer + lesbian friendly bar set in what used to be an old funeral parlour.
It might sounds a bit morbid but it’s actually a gorgeous art deco building with high ceilings and a retro vibe.
Pool tables, a bowling alley, quiz nights, and a dance floor are just a few of the things you’ll find here.
The Bank Hotel
Another popular spot for a lesbian night in Sydney is The Bank Hotel. While The Bank attracts a mixed clientele, its especially popular amongst queer women.
Look forward to cocktails, craft beers, live music, and a quirky outdoor garden at this trendy Newtown hangout.
Another acclaimed venue in Newtown that’s positively queer-friendly is The Vanguard – an iconic live music, burlesque and cabaret venue.
Their program is as alternative and diverse as their clientele. Expect everything from burlesque shows to album tours to drag entertainment!
A little birdie tells me that it’s a popular haunt for Sydney lesbians!
Best Queer & Lesbian Clubs in Sydney
One of my all-time favourite venues in Queer Sydney, Universal provides everything you want from a fun and fabulous gay night out.
On the ground floor, expect those dance classics that we all know and love alongside live shows from some of the best drag performers in the country.
In the basement, sweaty bodies dance the night away to energetic dance beats.
A two-tiered powerhouse in the heart of Oxford Street, Arq is one of Australia’s biggest and most iconic gay clubs.
The arena is the star of the show, featuring a powerful sound system, euphoric laser displays, and regular concerts from world-class DJs and performers.
Downstairs is a slightly more intimate affair, hosting smaller gigs and drag shows.
Palms on Oxford
No trip to gay and lesbian Sydney is complete without a cheesy night out at Palms. We’re talking family party vibes here, with the cheesiest pop anthems and all-around great vibes!
This unpretentious venue is insanely popular amongst LGBTQ+ locals and travellers, so arrive early on weekends to avoid the inevitable queues.
Our Secret Spot
If you’re looking for some slightly more x-rated fun, then Our Secret Spot is a diverse s$x club that opens its doors to everyone.
While there are plenty of gay saunas in Sydney, these are mostly frequented by gay men. Whereas, this alluring swingers club often hosts bi, pans, and lesbian nights as well.
Lesbian Nights in Sydney
While the city might be absent of any specific lesbian bars or clubs, here are some popular Sydney lesbian nights worth looking out for.
Located upstairs at The Bank Hotel, Birdcage is Newtown’s weekly lesbian and queer party. Running since 2012, the event has become somewhat of an institution for Sydney’s queer women.
The party goes off every single week on a Wednesday. (Wet Wednesday, anyone?) It’s a bit lame that it’s held on a school night, but if you’re in Sydney on holiday, you ain’t gonna care!
Another lesbian night in Sydney that deserves your attention is Girl Thing. This one seems to be less regular than Birdcage, but look out for their sporadic parties held at The Imperial Hotel.
If the stars align and you get to attend, you can expect quite a wild night out. Live music, drag performances, DJs, and lesbian jelly wrestling – need I say more?
During our recent visit for World Pride, Ultra Violet was the premier event for queer and lesbian women in Sydney.
Held at the Sydney Town Hall, it was quite the extravaganza with multiple rooms and a variety of entertainment, including a live performance from Peaches!
I’m unsure if the event will continue now that WorldPride is over. But considering the number of people who attended, there’s an obvious need for more lesbian events in Sydney.
Have Fun Exploring Queer & Lesbian Sydney
That concludes our guide to queer and lesbian Sydney. I hope that you found it helpful and that you have an awesome time exploring this lgbtq+ friendly city.
If you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please reach out to us in the comment section below. We love hearing from you!
Stay adventurous and happy travels.