LGBTQ+ Travel Guide to Australia
Interesting Cities to Visit in Australia
Modern and sophisticated, Sydney is one of the best cities for tourists to visit. With gorgeous beaches and the Blue Mountains on the doorstep, there’s plenty to explore and discover. Highlights here include the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach and of course the city’s culinary scene.
With vintage shops and graffiti-covered backstreets, not to mention a superb coffee culture, Melbourne has earned its rep as Australia’s hipster capital. Highlights not to miss in Melbourne include the National Gallery of Victoria, the country’s oldest art gallery; The Queen Victoria Market for the foodie inside of everyone; and of course the street art, for which the city is famous.
Fun seekers look no further as Gold Coast is famous for surfing, rollercoasters and nightclubs. Be sure to also make time for The Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre as well as Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to native species including koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles.
One of the oldest cities in Australia, home to indigenous people thousands of years ago, was built on the winding Brisbane River. The city boasts riverfront promenades, islands and beaches, making it a paradise for lovers of water. Check out the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art and head to the city’s South Bank, which has lots going on, including markets, a swimming lagoon and a city beach.
Known for its artsy, bohemian vibe, the city always has a packed calendar of cultural events. The Adelaide region is famous for wine so take some time to tour the vineyards.
On the coast of northern Queensland, Cairns is known as a base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. If snorkeling or diving isn’t in your plans but you still want to get a taste of the wildlife, head to Cairns Aquarium, which is the only aquarium in the world dedicated to the Reef’s wildlife.
Friendly, modern and with an unspoiled coastline, Perth has been continuously growing as a tourist destination. It’s also home to otherworldly rock structures formed 25,000 years ago. Wine regions surround the city, so take time to enjoy some tastings.
This iconic surf destination has a stunning coastline and breathtaking national parks. It’s also known for being a wellness destination with endless spas offering ways to pamper yourself. Beyond the beach, Byron is also a great city for live music fans.
Tasmania’s capital, Hobart is a place of historic buildings, trendy galleries and modern restaurants, all centered around the waterfront. Check out the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery as well as the controversial Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
Interesting Attractions to Visit in Australia
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Designed by a Danish architect who won an international competition for its design, construction on the opera house was completed in 1973. Shaped like huge shells, this famous building on Sydney’s Bennelong Point graces the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the world’s great architectural icons.
GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK
Visible from outer space, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest living structures on the planet. The marine park was established in 1975 to protect its fragile ecosystems, which include more than 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and inshore mangrove islands. One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the park stretches for 2,300 kilometers along the state of Queensland.
ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK
Deep in the heart of Australias’s Red Centre, Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), is one of the most photographed natural wonders in the country. The red monolith forms the centerpiece of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a World Heritage Area jointly managed by Parks Australia and the traditional landowners, the Anangu people.
SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGET
Along with the opera house, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of Australia’s most famous tourist attractions. It was completed in 1932, 40 years before the Sydney Opera House. Rising 134 meters above the harbor, the bridge spans 500 meters, connecting Sydney’s North Shore to the central business district.
BLUE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is just 81 kilometers west of Sydney and is a popular day trip from the city. Named for the blue haze emanating from the eucalyptus trees, this park protects more than 664,000 acres of wilderness and encompasses dramatic gorges, waterfalls, aboriginal rock paintings, and 140 kilometers of hiking trails.
One of the world’s most famous beaches, Bondi Beach is home to one of the oldest surf lifesaving clubs in the world. A great way to appreciate the views is to stroll along the scenic Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, which starts at the southern end of the beach and follows the coastline for six kilometers along sandstone cliffs.
DAINTREE NATIONAL PARK
A Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Daintree National Park in Far North Queensland is among the most ancient ecosystems on Earth. The area belongs to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, and many of its natural features hold great spiritual significance.
World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, between Bundaberg and Brisbane off Australia’s east coast, is the largest sand island in the world and one of the country’s top outdoor adventures. Along Seventy Five Mile Beach, you can see the rusted hulls of shipwrecks in addition to the colored sandstone cliffs of The Cathedrals.
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Northern Territory, the park is a World Heritage Site and one of the planet’s great wilderness areas. Covering more than 19,840 square kilometers, Kakadu is the largest national park in Australia and the second largest in the world.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Built to provide employment during the Depression, the road stretches for 300 kilometers along Australia’s southeast coast, from the surf town of Torquay to the town of Allansford, in the state of Victoria. The top attraction along the road is Port Campbell National Park, with the wind and wave sculpted rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, the Arch and Loch Ard Gorge.
Located off the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, the island is littered with kangaroos. The rock formations known as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park are other distinctive features.
You might be quick to associate Australia with barbeque or “barbie” as they call it. But in a land so diverse where you can travel from the scorching heat of the outback to the cooler temps of the Blue Mountains and everywhere in between, it would be rather silly to reduce Australian cuisine to just barbie—although if you’re into meat, you can’t miss out on it either. When the first British settlers arrived in the country in the 1700s, they preferred to survive on a bland diet of bread and salt-preserved meat rather than embrace the nutritious bush tucker diet of the native Aboriginal communities. But by the 19th century, agriculture was booming and with the expansion of the railways came a wider distribution of homegrown produce. When the gold rush hit, local cuisine was given a boost with the addition of the fragrant aromas and flavors of Asian cuisine, as Chinese prospectors arrived to try their luck in the mines. Today, Australia is home to people from all parts of the world, many of whom have introduced their own native country’s culinary heritage to Australia’s vast melting pot of cuisines.
In Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, expect fantastic seafood, while the Hunter Valley is more of the place to find locally grown produce and rustic farm to table dining. If you head up to the Blue Mountains, you will learn to love the meat pie, an Australian culinary institution. The typical meat pie is roughly hand-sized and usually filled with mince or diced meat, sometimes with the addition of gravy and vegetables, and is eaten as a snack or light lunch. And when in Sydney, Australia’s premier gastronomic destination, be aware that locals take brunch very seriously. Brunch in Sydney is typically a weekly ritual, and there are plenty of incredible places dedicated to the city’s favorite mid-morning meal. From baked eggs to waffles to Vietnamese pancakes, Sydney offers an extraordinary variety of brunch options.
Safety Considerations for LGBTQ+ Visitors to Australia
Australia legalized same-sex marriage on 9 December 2017. States and territories began granting domestic partnership benefits and relationship recognition to same-sex couples from 2003 onwards, with federal law recognizing same-sex couples since 2009 as de facto relationships. In addition to marriage, same-sex relationships may be recognized by states or territories in various ways, including through civil unions, domestic partnerships, registered relationships and or unregistered de facto relationships.
Same-sex adoption is legal nationwide, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression is prohibited in every state and territory, with concurrent federal protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Transgender rights and intersex rights vary between jurisdictions, with some states requiring a person to undergo sex reassignment surgery before changing their legal sex on official records. Non-binary Australians can legally register a “non-specific” sex on federal legal documents and in the records of some states and territories.
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips/Events for Australia
New South Wales
- Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – SGLMG is one of the oldest and continuously operating LGBTQ+ organizations in Australia and was built on the foundations laid by early community activists who fought for queer rights in a time of oppression. While this stretched out celebration lasts weeks, it still maintains a commitment to social justice for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Sydney Pride Festival – Pride is a special time for the community to remember its history and celebrate the present, and Sydney Pride never disappoints, even if it does play second fiddle to Mardi Gras.
- Newcastle Pride Festival – Newcastle Pride aims to showcase to locals and visitors that Newcastle is a city of diversity, culture and beauty.
- Coastal Twist Festival – Central Coast NSW’s version of Pride bursts into spring with a weekend of queer happenings from cabaret and dance parties to exhibitions and events.
- Broken Hell Festival - Throughout the festival’s three stages, you'll experience non-stop entertainment, comedy, cabaret, live music and social activities paying homage to the iconic cult movie and stage musical, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.
- Melbourne Queer Film Festival – For nearly 30 years, Melbourne Queer Film Festival has engaged the community to showcase the finest contemporary queer cinema from Australia and beyond in the largest queer film festival in the southern hemisphere.
- ChillOut Festival – ChillOut has grown to become the biggest and longest-running country queer pride event in regional Australia. They are all about celebrating diversity while sharing their love for this magnificent part of the country.
- Midsumma Festival - this annual festival in Melbourne is one of Australia’s leading and long-running LGBTQ+ events and is considered alongside Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as one of the major pride celebrations in the country.
- Brisbane Queer Film Festival – The festival aims to present, indulge and empower LGBTQ+ film, filmmakers and screen content and first debuted in the year 2000.
- Cairns Queer Film Festival – The Cairns Film Festival is a social event for the community, by the community that enables the inclusion of all LGBTQ+ people, connecting through films to educate while supporting the health and well-being of all.
- Brisbane Pride Festival – Brisbane Pride Festival is Queensland’s largest and Australia’s third largest LGBTQ+ event, attracting more than 10,000 festival-goers over the entire month of September.
David Duran is a freelance travel writer who has contributed to various publications including Fodor’s Travel, the New York Post, Travel + Leisure, and more. He’s visited all seven continents and more than 80 countries, co-authored a book on travel guides, filmed a travel show pilot currently under development and moonlights as a luxury travel advisor for one of the largest travel agencies in the world.
Image credit: @yoshiandray