THOUSANDS of Mardi Gras merrymakers will travel to Sydney to participate, celebrate or spectate at the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, culminating in the world-famous Oxford St Parade on March 7.
The annual Mardi Gras attracts more than 25,000 interstate and overseas attendees to take part in some of the Festival’s month-long series of events than range from Fair Day to theatre, from drama to drag shows. More than 130,000 spectators, family and friends will cheer on 10,000 participants when the annual Mardi Gras Parade weaves its way down Oxford St.
As well as enjoying the festival, Mardi Gras travellers should look beyond the Oxford St Parade route to visit Sydney and regional NSW sights. Here are some tips:
To start with, you haven’t ‘done’ Mardi Gras until you’ve attended the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade kicking off at 7.45pm on Saturday 7 March. There’s plenty of room along the Parade route from which enthusiastic fans can view more than 140 floats. Get there early to snag your spot.
Did someone say disco?
And karaoke? Exclusively for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, BridgeClimb has both on offer at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From 25 February to 9 March, beneath Sydney summer skies and a glittering mirror ball, you can dance like a diva to disco beats as you belt out your favourite karaoke classics. Your summit performance will be yours to keep forever with an eight second video to bring back the memories.
Oxford Street entertainment strip
This part of the world hosts many major Sydney Mardi Gras events and is home to the city’s best-known gay venues. To give your dance shoes a workout, head to clubs like ARQ, Midnight Shift and Phoenix Bar. For something a little more lighthearted, there’s the camp classics Stonewall and Palms, or entertainment hubs such as Slide, with its mix of cocktail bar, club and burlesque shows.
Drag show decadance
Over in Erksineville, The Imperial Hotel has been a Sydney drag show institution for decades. Immortalised in the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Imperial currently features drag queens; Felicity and Friends.
Take a road trip – No.1
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is less than two hours from Sydney. Visitors can potter around arts and crafts stores and cafés in Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath. Don’t miss a visit to Three Sisters at Echo Point and take in part in 4.2 kilometre bushwalk down the ‘The Giant Stairway’ and along the valley floor to Katoomba’s Scenic Railway, the world steepest railway incline passenger train. GLBTI Friendly luxury accommodation can be found at the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath or at Lilianfels Blue Mountains.
Take a road trip – No.2
About two hours’ drive north of Sydney, the famous Hunter Valley wine region is set against a dramatic mountain range with lush vineyards covering the rolling hills. This region is home to some of Australia’s top winemakers and food producers. With more than 150 wineries operating in the area, booking a wine tour with Two Fat Blokes Wine Tours is an easy and fun way to find your favourite tipple. Non-drinkers can play golf on championship courses, ride in hot-air balloons or relax at the Golden Door Day Spa. Stay in the romantic and gay-friendly Billabong Moon in one of five boutique cottages perched above a billabong and screened with casuarins.
Take a road trip – No.3
After a heady rainbow-coloured Mardi Gras, why not relax on the whitest sands in the world at Hyams Beach in the Shoalhaven area. Pristine beaches with crystal clear waters await along the White Sands Walk, starting at Vincentia’s Greenfield Beach and including Chinamans, Hyams and Seamans beaches. The Jervis Bay marine park is perfect for kayaking, fishing, snorkeling or just paddling. Swap vamping for glamping at The Escape where deluxe tent accommodation is combined with luxury queen bedding and permanent decking overlooking the private Clyde River frontage.