Gay Sydney: where to eat, drink, play and sleep

By Emen8, updated 4 days ago in Travel and party / In Australia

sails of sydney opera house lit up in rainbow colours

Wondering if Sydney is gay friendly? Well, the answer is hell yes!

In fact, Sydney has long been known as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, with a huge annual Mardi Gras festival, a host of Pride events, and a gay scene diverse enough to keep every member of the rainbow family happy.

From epic gay club nights to drag queen bottomless brunches, Sydney’s gay scene has it all. You’re gonna want to know how to make the most of a visit to the Harbour City. Let’s take a look!

Where is the gay scene in Sydney?

The whole of Sydney is LGBTQ+ friendly, but there are definitely a few stand out locations if you’re thinking of heading to the city for a visit.

Keep an eye out for the rainbow stickers (you’ll see loads of them along Oxford Street and King Street). These are ‘Safe Space/Welcome Here‘ stickers that show somewhere is particularly welcoming to the gay community.

Although Sydney’s very welcoming in general, these stickers are a great way of knowing you’ll definitely be in for a fun night and likely to meet some fellow queers out for a good time.

Darlinghurst

if you want to be right in the heart of Sydney’s gay scene, inner-city Darlinghurst is just 10 minutes from the CBD and is the perfect place to while away a weekend (or longer). Neighbouring Surry Hills and Potts Point have bustling gay communities too.

You’ll find gay-friendly bars, hotels, clubs, cafés, shops and more all over the neighbourhood, but the main action happens in and around Oxford Street. A walk along Oxford Street gives some real Pride vibe; drag queens, feather boas, and plenty of fabulous to go around no matter what time of day it is.

Newtown

Quirky Newtown has a boho vibe all of its own with street art, live music, vegan restaurants galore and plenty more. It’s a place where artists, musicians, and plenty of the gay community mingle over craft beer, vintage shopping, and community markets.

It might be slightly calmer than Oxford Street. But Newtown — especially the main area of King Street — still comes alive at night, packed with live music and dance parties that go into the early hours.

people dancing in street newtown sydney

Where to drink — gay bars Sydney

You’ll find plenty more queer entertainment venues in and around the city, but here are a few of our favourites.

The Bearded Tit

The Bearded Tit in Redfern is a must-visit. Described as ‘A place for rebels and fluro beasts, where hard love and tender freaks rule’, this quirky place has a tasty cocktail menu and an ever-changing gallery of local art on proud display.

The Stonewall Hotel

Named after the original Stonewall Bar in New York (where the historic Stonewall riots took place in 1969), Sydney’s Stonewall Hotel is located in Darlinghurst. It’s a gay institution with something happening every night of the week. If you like your nights Big (with a capital B), this is the place for you.

The Beresford

This art deco beauty beats with the pulsing heart of a neighbourhood pub. The Beresford is well-known in Sydney’s gay scene for the long-running Sunday social event: Beresford Sundays. It’s an opportunity for LGBTQ+ folks to mingle in a safe space. The venue has everything you need: a kitchen serving wood fire pizza, an outdoor garden and an upstairs nightclub. There really is something for everyone at The Beresford.

The Imperial Erskineville

Located in Erskineville, The Imperial is a sheer gay, glitter-filled delight. Take part in Drag & Dine at Priscilla’s restaurant. Party till the AM in the late-night sanctuary known as The Basement, or get your game on at weekly trivia or drag queen bingo. Whatever you’re into, The Imperial has you covered.

The Bank Hotel

Known as an institution in Sydney’s Inner West, The Bank is an LGBTQ+ favourite. Located close to Newtown Station, The Bank hosts events appealing to the broader LGBTQ+ community, as well as gay men. You’ll find everything from improv comedy battles and music trivia nights to Birdcage, a weekly lesbian and queer social event (everyone is welcome!). The kitchen serves up meals until 10:00pm Wednesday to Saturday and boasts a classy menu on a pub budget.

Universal

Formerly the Midnight Shift or ‘The Shift’ as locals called it, Universal is the place to go on Oxford Street. If you’re into gaming or want to chill out with other gay men, the Sydney Gaymers gather at Universal each Monday night for Glitch. Enjoy board games, video games and $1 wings in a relaxed environment. Universal also hosts the popular drag event Slay 4 Pay each Wednesday, hosted by popular drag talent Charisma Belle and Carmen Geddit! On weekends you’re spoiled for choice. Enjoy DJs in the bar or venture upstairs to the club for lively dance party events.

Palms on Oxford

Are you looking to dance the night away with your friends to throwback bangers from the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s? Look no further, as Palms on Oxford Street is where you wanna be! Known for its tropical theme and large Hawaiian mural, this retro disco is guaranteed to have you up and dancing! 

The Newtown Hotel

Located in the heart of Newtown, The Newtown Hotel is the place to unwind on the weekend with good eats and live music. It’s also dog friendly — bonus! Featuring a beer garden that adjoins the main drinking area, you can’t go wrong with their $4 pizza on Friday lunch, dinner, and weekends, and if you’re a student, you’re in luck; they’re always $4. 

The Oxford Hotel

This iconic Sydney venue is located next to Taylor Square in Darlinghurst. Boasting a menu with pub classics and entertainment most nights of the week, you’re sure to make memories at The Oxford Hotel. There are three floors of entertainment for you to explore on Friday nights and weekends. Enjoy an alfresco meal and drink, head upstairs to Ginger’s for drag shows and dancing, or descend into the Oxford Underground for a whole range of pumping events.

the oxford hotel sydney at night
Image credit: The Oxford Hotel

Where to eat — gay-friendly cafés and restaurants Sydney

You’d be hard pushed to find a café or restaurant in Sydney that isn’t gay-friendly, but for some super gay vibes head check out these brunch spots.

The Rusty Rabbit

There are gay-friendly cafés all over Darlinghurst but the Rusty Rabbit is the crème de la crème. Especially if you like your coffee and all-day breakfast served by some of the best-looking barmen in Sydney.

Bloody Mary’s Gazebo

Located in the iconic Gazebo building, Bloody Mary’s is a local favourite in the gaybourhood of Potts Point. Serving cocktails, bottomless brunches, and an American-influenced menu, you’ll be spoiled for choice at the Gazebo. They’re also dog-friendly if you’re travelling with a furry companion.

Lumiere Café

Surry Hills isn’t short of gay-friendly venues, but Lumiere Café is one you won’t want to miss. Enjoy breakfast, brunch (bottomless or otherwise!), and lunch with a view of leafy Bourke Street.

Gino’s Kitchen & Cocktails

While the cocktails are delicious, you’ll also want to try dinner at Gino’s Kitchen & Cocktails. If you’re after pizza, pasta, or an Italian-style bottomless brunch, take a walk down Victoria Street in Darlinghurst to this local icon.

Beast and Co

Located in the Surry Hills, Beast and Co is your go-to for Czech comfort food with a modern twist. Offering seasonal menus focusing on traditional Czech family recipes, Beast and Co is one to check out. Also, for brunch lovers, they do bottomless brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 5pm.

The Mayflower

From its Art Deco and floral-inspired interior, The Mayflower is a perfect spot for a Sunday brunch. Offering a variety of delicious dishes on its menu, The Mayflower will hit the spot. Also, for all those Instagram lovers out there, you’ll fall in love with the visual feast on offer too. 

Gluten-Free Friends

Struggling to find some tasty gluten-free friendly treats? Located in Marrickville, Gluten-Free Friends serves a range of gluten-free sandwiches and desserts for everyone to enjoy!

Café De La Fontaine

Ever wanted to go to Paris but seems a bit far? Now you can enjoy a slice of French finery on your doorstep! Café De La Fontaine in Kings Cross sets the mood with their wide selection of patisseries and crêpes in a chic Parisian setting. 

Where to play — things to do in Sydney

Gay cruise clubs in Sydney

Looking to get lucky while in town? Check out our guide on how to up your chances of picking up at a gay venue! Find our complete guide to sex venues across the country in Australia’s best gay saunas and sex-on-premises venues.

Remember that enjoying a fulfilling sex life also comes with the need to look after your sexual health — for your sake and your partners’. If you’re in Sydney and need to get a test or access treatment, sexual health services are available. Check out our interactive map to find services near you. For other LGBTQ+ friendly health services, check out this article.

If you’ve had a possible exposure to HIV, accessing PEP within 72 hours can help you stay HIV negative. Here’s how to access PEP in Sydney.

Sydney City Steam, AKA 357

Free condoms and lube come as standard in all good sex venues — and 357 is no exception! But visit 9 times and your tenth visit is on the house. The space bills itself as all races, ages and sizes welcome, and Trans Tuesdays make the venue even more inclusive.

Sydney Sauna

The venue is split across two levels with plenty of cruising areas, a cinema room, café, spa, sauna and steam room. Sydney Sauna really is how to do sex in the city, Sydney style!

sling room inside sydney sauna gay sauna
Image credit: Sydney Sauna

Aarows Club

This gay and bi cruise club features three levels of adult adventure and is located in Rydalmere. It’s way outside of the CBD but well worth the extra travel. If you’re asking yourself ‘where can I meet gays in Sydney?’, head here on a Sunday to enjoy the men-only night.

TRADE Club

TRADE is a huge cruise club, bar, restaurant and nightclub over four floors located on Crown Street in Surry Hills. Fun times are guaranteed, and it’s a great place to meet gay men in Sydney.

While the city’s gay sex venues offer some comfort and privacy, for the more adventurous, be sure to explore some of these best gay beaches in Sydney.

Gay theatre in Sydney

Little Ones Theatre

Check out some of Little Ones Theatre’s shows to support the queer theatre community. Little Ones puts on shows as varied as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker to Charles Busch and Christos Tsiolkas — all with a touch of camp flair, of course.

Dendy Newtown

The Dendy Cinema in Newtown is part of one of Australia’s leading independent cinema companies. If you love independent films curated for quality rather than quantity, Dendy is for you. The Dendy in Newtown is well known for screening LGBTQ+ films and is a beloved queer-friendly venue.

Palace Verona

Located in the vibrant heart of Paddington, Palace Verona offers a mix of international and Australian cinema. Its schedule also includes Palace’s famous film festivals! The cinema is easily accessible by bus or a short walk from Kings Cross and Museum stations.

The Red Rattler

The Red Rattler is a queer-run creative playground. It hosts various events, including live music, theatre, film screenings, art exhibitions and more. It’s community-owned and dedicated to providing inclusive and affordable access to LGBTQ+ creators.

Gay festivals in Sydney

The big one we can’t wait for is WorldPride, the annual global LGBTQIA+ festival that’s been staged since 2000 in different cities across the world.

In 2023 it’s heading to Sydney. Happening at venues across the city, it includes events spanning arts, sport, theatre, concerts, parties, a conference, and more. It’ll also feature the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events. A double whammy? Yes, please.

crowd at sydney gay and lesbian mardi gras dance party

Check out our guide to LGBTQ festivals in Sydney and across Australia for other party events you won’t want to miss.

Where to stay — gay-friendly accommodation in Sydney

Stay in the CBD, in the Eastern Suburbs (Coogee, Randwick or Bondi are all ideal), North Sydney, or the Inner West, to be close to the action. Prices depend on the kind of accommodation you’re willing to stay in, and Sydney has no shortage of options from hostels to 4 and 5-star hotels.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to hotel accommodation in Sydney is it gets cheaper the further out you are from the CBD. If you’re within a 20-minute train or bus ride, you’re in good stead to easily get back and forth from Sydney’s gay hotspots.

There’s no shortage of Airbnb’s in the CBD and surrounding suburbs if you’d rather enjoy the comforts of home over a hotel. Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern, Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Paddington and Bondi are some popular areas you may want to consider. You can also check out the popular misterb&b for a range of LGBTQ-friendly accommodation options.

If you’re on a tight budget, there are a range of accommodation options available to you in inner city suburbs. Find hostels and capsule hotels on George St in Sydney, as well as around Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay and Potts Point.

queer community rainbow crossing in taylor square sydney

So, there you have it. The guide of where to eat, drink, play and stay in Sydney for gay men. What would you add?

Want to visit other locations in Australia on your trip? Take a look at our gay-friendly travel guides to these Australian cities: