While Sydney’s Mardi Gras often hogs the limelight as Australia’s premiere gay festival, there’s plenty of gaiety to keep you darting around the country all year long and, after a couple of shaky years in covid-19 restrictions, 2022 looks to be the year to get out and let your hair down and lift your spirits up.
1. Midsumma Festival, Melbourne, Victoria (January)
The highlight of the Midsumma LGBT Festival is Carnival, a huge fair day, usually held in the Alexandria Gardens. Enjoy a great variety of stalls, food and entertainment followed by the closing night Tea Dance in the park. However, the festival also includes weeks of theatre, art, film and happenings prior to Carnival.
While you’re in town, treat yourself to an urban sophisticate weekend, discovering secret bars and cafes in Melbourne’s famous city laneways, shopping at quirky stores, or taking in a show in the East End theatre district.
2. Gaytimes Festival, near Gembrook, Victoria (February)
Now in its sixth year, an easy hour and a quarter drive from Melbourne, deep in the forest, this boutique three-day multiple-stage music and art festival has a full calendar of activities on offer – speed dating and the annual drag race – a literal foot race – proving most popular. With plenty of workshops, ranging from yoga to dance classes to bondage instruction and how to masturbate better (carrots provided), numbers are capped at 1,000, so best to book early. Those who don’t want to camp, you can glamp instead, which means you don’t need to bring a thing.
While you’re in town, with easy access to the picturesque Yarra Valley, extend your trip with a visit to world class wineries, (or if gin is more your thing, visit the nearby Melbourne Gin Company). The campsite is also quite close to the 1,000 steps, a tropical track honouring the soldiers who endured the Kokoda Trail.
3. Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW (February)
One of the best LGBTQIA+ festivals in the world! Kicking off with a community based Fair Day it culminates in a massive Parade filled with marching men, glamorous floats, satirical costumes and plenty of community support groups and allies. Did we mention fireworks, celebrity icons like Kylie and Cher, and a kick ass after party that’s filled with new friends just waiting to be met or even pashed! Covid restrictions may impact some of the larger events. For example, in 2021, the Parade was staged at The Sydney Cricket Ground rather than on Oxford Street, and the same will apply in 2022.
While you’re in town, take a cruise on Sydney Harbour or a ferry to Manly Beach. Be brazen and visit the gays’ favourite nude breaches, Obelisk and Lady Jane on the harbour and Little Congwong Beach at La Perouse. Be brave and do a tandem parachute jump with Skydive Australia over the spectacular coast and harbour.
4. Queer Screen Film Festival, Sydney, NSW (February)
Run concurrently with Mardi Gras (and again in September, albeit in a much smaller localised version) the Queer Screen Film Festival curates up to 130 LGBTQI films for attendees to choose from. Expect film premieres, international guests, conversations and masterclasses over the 15-day festival, as you enjoy the shared experience of watching a queer film in an audience full of, well, queers. Online subscriptions are also available so you don’t have to be in Sydney to enjoy this world-class festival.
While you’re in town, check out Boy George’s one-night-only show Fantabulosa featuring Courtney Act, Mo’Ju and Odette that promises a new twist on iconic songs against a backdrop of high-energy theatrics. The show will also play in Melbourne for one-night in early March.
5. Summer Camp Festival, Multiple Cities (February)
This epic festival visits Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne in February and March this year. Billed as a “summer camp for adults”, organisers promise “a playground of music, art and culture that suspends reality and transcends the boundaries of imagination” across multiple stages are dance spaces.
It all kicks off in Darwin on February 26th then bounces along to Sydney in Centennial Parklands on February 27th with the celebration winding up in Melbourne at Reunion Park on March 6th for one hell of a party. Perth was also on the schedule but that state’s current covid lockdown restrictions have made it too difficult.
Packed with world class talent, the event will be headlined by London’s Years & Years (King), also known as actor, singer and man-of-the-moment Olly Alexander. Olly was acclaimed for his performance in the award-winning drama It’s A Sin, and has collaborated with Lady Gaga on her reimagined album, duetted with Kylie Minogue, and performed a show-stopping performance with Elton John at the Brit Awards in London.
Hailing from New Orleans’ hip-hop and electronic scene, Big Freedia has a slew of music royalty credits to her name. Featuring on tracks with Beyonce, Drake, Lizzo, Kesha and more, and joining the panel on the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent will shake up the Summer Camp stage.
Much loved duo, The Veronicas will devour the stage as only these iconic twin sisters can in their first LGBTQIA+ performance since New York Pride in 2019, leaving no audience member Untouched.
Global pop powerhouse Cub Sport have sold-out dates across four continents and will dazzle on the main stage. The prolific Brisbane band released their fourth album early last year and are yet to take it on tour, until now.
Also on the bill: ARIA award-winning Ladyhawke (My Delirium), party starters Confidence Man, chart-topping producer Young Franco, festival staple Kinder, up-and-coming New Zealand rapper JessB, alt-pop breakout Sycco, and (Darwin only) The Merindas. They’ll be joined by over 150 DJs, drag queens, dancers and performance artists in each city.
6. Broome Pride, Broome, Western Australia (March)
A pride festival in the rainy season? Not even a cyclone is going to stop Broome Pride from happening. This highly inclusive weeklong, family friendly festival sees great support from the local community – a true sign of acceptance given there is not many gays in the village. There will be at least two chartered jets flying up from Perth for the event. Expect cabaret nights, dildo races, a Dragged Around Broome tour, bingo, exercises classes and story times (for the kids) all hosted by drag queens of course! And a Big Splash Pool party where the rain doesn’t matter.
While you’re in Broome, indulge in a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle beehive rock formations, a tasting and tour at the Moontide Distillery makers of the tropical Pride Tide gin, walk out to the Catalina wrecks on a low tide and, of course, take the quintessential camel ride along Cable Beach.
7. Chill Out Festival, Daylesford, Victoria (March)
Gays go cowboy in this four-day festival that sees idyllic country town Daylesford awash with Melbournians. Bootscoot at the Town Hall bush dance, attempt (with grace) the inflatable obstacle course at the pool party, or make new friends at one of two campgrounds – that is if you haven’t taken part in a house-share. The final day is capped off with a quaint parade that circles the main street twice – just in case you didn’t see it the first time, and a Carnival Day with concerts, a silent disco, and a stiletto tossing competition.
While you’re in town: Pay a relaxing visit to the neighbouring spa town of Hepburn Springs, visit the nearby gold rush towns of Ballarat and Bendigo, of go for a picnic at hanging rock.
8. fabALICE, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (March)
Get your Priscilla on and go outback the weekend of fabAlice, held the weekend after Sydney’s Mardi Gras Festival concludes. Enjoy Friday night cabaret as the festival kicks off, followed by a community parade on Saturday before a big dance party that night in an outback quarry with the MacDonnell Ranges as your backdrop. Hot dry weather makes watering hole hopping oh so sweet.
While you’re in town, be sure to check out numerous art galleries featuring the best of Aboriginal art, or pay a visit to the offbeat Desert Park, an outback version of a zoo. Or rent a car to go further afield to stunning Uluru and Kata Juta.
9. Big Gay Day, Brisbane, Queensland (May)
Big Gay Day is Brisbane’s biggest street festival with over 3,000 people packing Alden Street and The Wickham Hotel in Fortitude Valley for one fun-filled day. The festival supports local LGBTQIA+ charities through fundraising and raising awareness for community groups. Expect live music from local and international acts with fun activities like drag queen dunk tanks, flash mob dances and talent pageants. 2022 will be the first year the event is themed with an out of this world space vibe, so start thinking about your costume!
While you’re in town, consider climbing the Story Bridge for a bird’s eye view of the city or for something truly other-worldly, consider a side trip to nearby World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and famous for its dingo population.
10. Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Adelaide, South Australia (June)
Queer icon Tina Arena has taken on the role of artistic director for the 2022 festival, so it’s got to be good, right? The world’s biggest cabaret festival attracts the cream of homegrown and international talent. Visit The Pina Colada Room for a nightly homage to disco or re-live jazz struck Shanghai with the Shanghai Mimi Band and, of course, don’t miss the artistic director herself performing a string of Songs My Mother Taught Me along with other musical guests.
While you’re in town, plan a side trip to the many wineries of the stunning Barossa Valley, just over an hour’s drive outside Adelaide.
11. Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania (June)
An honorary LGBTQIA+ event, Dark Mofo is the Mona Museum’s midwinter festival celebrating the seasonal long dark nights through large scale public art, food, music, fire, light and noise. Each year, Dark Mofo delves into centuries-old rituals to explore the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, and birth, death and renewal.
While in town, don’t forget to check out the world class MONA museum itself, the Salamanca art markets, experience the food and wine Tasmania is famous for, or delve into the island’s convict past at historic Port Arthur.
12. Miss First Nations Pageant, Adelaide, South Australia (June)
Now in its sixth year, the Miss First Nations Pageant, a floating festival that travels around the nation, will be held in Adelaide in 2022. Australia’s only indigenous drag queen pageant, it started from a parade float during Top End Pride and blossomed into a week of events that include best national costume, non-conventional drag talent (think roller-skating, flute playing), and lip-sync superstar, curated by 40 judges. The Saturday night Grand Final Gala is the place to see who wins the crown.
While you’re in town, be sure to check out at Tandanya – the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural institute.
13. AFL Pride Match, Melbourne or Sydney (August)
Break out your rainbow kit and wave your rainbow flag, in this Australian Football League match where pride is celebrated both on and off the field. Seeking to educate through exposure and promote a safe space in a sporting environment, the Sydney Swans play St Kilda in this floating fixture which may be in Sydney or Melbourne in any given year. Want more? Join the clubs official LGBTQIA+ member group, the Rainbow Swans. In 2018, the Sydney Swans became the first professional sporting club to have its own float in Sydney’s Mardi Gras Parade.
14. Gay Ski Week Australia, Falls Creek, Victoria (September)
Step out of your hotel, slap on your skies and you’re on the mountain! That’s the beauty of Fall Creek Ski Resort in the Australian Alps. But with more than 50 events offered over the 10-day affair it’s a wonder there’s any time to ski at all! Pack wisely, because there’s a Winter Onesie-land cocktail party, an indoor pool party, comedy night, queer shorts film fest and cabaret to name a few events you’ll be attending. The culmination is Pride Day with a Rainbow Run brough to life by those skiing with flags and a blowout party that night.
2022 will see the introduction of “taster” day trip from Melbourne for those snow virgins who just want to dip their toe in the snow. Oh, and be sure to try the homegrown glitter gin, so you’ll sparkle both inside and out!
En route to Falls Creek why not stop at Brown Brothers Winery or the Feathertop winery for a tasting or to collect extra supplies for the week ahead.
15. Top End Pride, Darwin, Northern Territory (September)
A smaller LGBTQIA+ community means this event feels a lot more inclusive and features wonderful support from a broad community of straight allies. With paradise-like weather and strong Indigenous content, highlights of the three-day festival include the ever-popular dog show (who doesn’t love a camp dog?), the elegant Dine With Pride, and the love boat tour on Darwin Harbour before wrapping up with a pool party. There’s also community forums featuring black and queer rainbow elders.
While you’re in the region, nearby Litchfield National Park with its incredible waterfalls, rock pools and magnetic ant hills is closer than Kakadu. Or further down the road Katherine with its spectacular gorges or Adelaide River with its jumping crocodiles.
16. Broken Heel, Broken Hill, NSW (September)
Loved Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert? Then get your cock in a frock and rock on out to Broken Hill via a dedicated train, The Silver City Stiletto. The 10-hour journey features on-board drag entertainers and a welcome party on arrival. Then the fun of this five-day festival starts. Expect an outdoor street party, a Priscilla inspired-costume competition (yes, lots of iconic thong dresses!), a muumuu event, shows in the ghost town of Silverton with its red dirt and wide-open spaces and, of course, an interactive screen of the legendary movie itself.
Making up for lost lockdown time, in 2022, Broken Heel has added a second festival at the end of March to complement its original September event.
While you’re in town, be sure to visit The Palace Hotel featured in the film (you can even stay in the Priscilla Suite), take a step back in time at Bell’s Milk Bar, tour the Pro Hart and Regional Art galleries, or take an Indigenous Mutawintji Heritage tour to learn more about the local culture.
17. Cairns Pride Festival, Cairns, Queensland (October)
Held in collaboration with Black Pride, the three-week Cairns Pride Festival celebrates LGBTQIA+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy folk along with raising the visibility of community. Now in its 15th year, the backbone of the event is an art show (in various mediums) showcasing local Far North Queensland talent. The festival culminates in a Fair Day and a Halloween-themed closing party.
While you’re in town, be sure to visit Fitzroy Island for diving/snorkelling access to the Great Barrier Reef or go bush by taking a Skyrail gondola up above canopy and onto the Kuranda tourist train.
18. PrideFEST, Perth, Western Australia (November)
Marking the beginning of Australia’s summer Pride season, Perth’s PrideFEST features a night-time parade on the last Saturday in November that has grown to become Australia’s second largest. The PrideFEST calendar also features the ever-popular Fair Day community event, alongside a host of cultural and sporting events. Finish your evening at iconic Connections nightclub, the longest running LGBTQIA+ club in Australia.
While you’re in town, consider a day trip to Perth’s offshore playground, Rottnest Island to snap a selfie with its native quokkas. For those with a few more days to spare, indulge in a trip to the Margaret River wine region.
19. Feast Festival, Adelaide, South Australia (November)
So named to represent the all-inclusive melting pot of queer community (no, it has nothing to do with food) this festival runs the whole month of November. It kicks off with a daytime parade that anyone can jump into and participate in and then continues with a Carnival night. The festival boasts over 100 events that range from cabaret and theatre to literature before concluding with a Picnic In The Park featuring music and a dog show.
While you’re in Adelaide, why not do the Adelaide Oval Roof Climb for unparalleled views of the city, or visit the Adelaide Zoo, both proud supporters of the Feast Festival.
20. P&O Pride Cruise (November/December)
P&O Cruises Australia are setting sail on two, 3-night weekend cruises designed especially for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, their allies and supporters. The cruises are honouring Pride, the diversity of the community, and the endless variety of talented artists and entertainers in it. P&O’s Pride Cruises will be safe spaces and inclusive for all members of the community – something curated just for us.
Cruise ambassador and DNA favourite, Simon Dunn will be onboard along with drag queens and ex-RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Coco Jumbo and Etc Etc. Plus, gorgeous Sydney DJ Victoria Anthony, with many more artists to be announced soon!
Cruises depart from Sydney and Melbourne.
21. DNA Pool Party, Sydney, NSW (December)
This pre-Christmas event features plenty of scantily clad lads bopping to beats poolside at Sydney’s swish downtown club The Ivy. Whether floating on inflatables or sipping cocktails in the sun this is an afternoon to let your hair down. Don’t forget your gift bag on departure, there’s likely to be a saucy surprise inside!
22. Tropical Fruits, Lismore, NSW (December)
The country alternative to a big-city New Year celebration. Held at Lismore’s show grounds, patron’s camp, then party the night away in three dance spaces, enjoying a spectacular display of fireworks at midnight. The pool party the next day is a chilled affair, perfect for nursing any lingering hangover. Those with stamina can continue on to the recovery party. Expanded over the years, the five-day event includes a parade, art exhibition, cabaret, drag races and a bubble pit among other attractions!
While you’re in town, the nude / gay beach, Byron Bay’s Kings Beach is the hot place to strut or cruise the surrounds for new chums. For something a little different, make the early morning effort to hike Mt Warning to be at its peak (the first place the sun hits in Australia) for a very special sunrise.
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