Sydney is one of the most gay friendly cities in the world and has something on every day of the week to keep any guy or girl entertained. So if you had to do it all in one week, it might look a little like this...
Monday: Corelli’s Café
If you don’t like Mondays, we’ll tell you why. You need to take it easy, Sydney style, with lunch at the lesbian-run Café Corelli (352 King Street, Newtown). The décor and diners are a casually stylish jumble – bright-eyed students from the adjacent performing arts school and older lesbians who bought homes before the housing boom sit comfortably side by side at the mismatched tables.
Tuesday: ‘Bingay’ at the Imperial Hotel
Two fat lady boys. That’s 88 at gay bingo, an innuendo-filled evening with singing in a relaxed pub atmosphere alongside chatty Sydneysiders. A perfect Tuesday way to meet the locals in hip but homely Erskineville. Find the Imperial Hotel at 35 Erskineville Road, Erskineville.
Wednesday: The Sly Fox Hotel
Nothing fancy schmancy about the lesbian nights at this local pub (199 Enmore Road, Enmore). It’s a product of its semi-suburban surrounds (popular with lesbians), far from the glitz of Oxford Street. Wednesdays are full of straightforward girls fuelled on happy hour, cheering on the drag kings, or whoever else is dancing cheek to cheek.
Thursday: The Midnight Shift
Drag queens are big in Sydney. Not just literally in their ankle-destroying heels, they’re also hugely popular in many clubs, where the dancefloor will stop throughout the early evening for a mimed number or three by the likes of Amy Housewine. You can see where Priscilla Queen of the Desert earned her falsies by catching a full show at the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville. But, if like some locals, you don’t want to pay for the new $20 entrance fee, catch a polished, free show at the long-running Midnight Shift, such as ‘Crack is Whack – the Whitney Houston tribute show’. This club sits halfway down Sydney's main gay strip (85-91 Oxford Street, Sydney).
Friday: Bank Hotel
A mixed gay, lesbian and straight crowd perch on the stools of this polished bar. To call the gossipy outdoor space a beer garden might dismiss the thirty-something majority here who prefer a glass of wine. The atmosphere is very local and decorated with eucalyptus trees and the distinctive cackle of cockatoos at the end of their own working week. Find the Bank Hotel at 324 King Street, Newtown.
Saturday: Arq and Swagger
If you’re going to do Sydney, go hard at Arq (16 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst). Lady Gaga lost her head and her heart on the dancefloor here. Saturdays are summed up in the night’s name ‘Dance Dance Dance’. Pretty clear. The Sydney DJs here will make sure that you and Arq’s young crowd do indeed get sweaty till the wee hours with their mash up of dance hits.
Gay dance hits aren’t for everyone. For queer guys and girls into hip-hop and R’n’B, there is salvation at Swagger (Nevermind, Level 1, 163 Oxford Street, Sydney). Even if the music isn’t your favourite, you might still enjoy the young, fun and very mixed gay, lesbian and straight atmosphere with hipster leanings.
Sunday: Bourke Street Bakery
Wind down after a week of parties with a stroll through the gay villages. Start with a ginger brulee tart at the cosy-but-worth-it Bourke Street Bakery (633 Bourke Street, Surry Hills). You’ll need the energy for the long but gentle walk through the leafy streets of dowdy-turned-designer Surry Hills. From here head towards Darlington, Erskineville and Newtown, where the gay and lesbian vibe is much more about walking the dog in large parks, a nose ring hanging in there from the 90s and maybe even a dreadlock or two. Add some no-nonsense Thai, cosy bookshops (people still read here), varied record stores (people still shop in actual shops here), a health food megastore and a sleepy stream of macchiato seekers and you have King Street in Newtown.
Party like a Sydneysider with Lonely Planet's Sydney Encounter.