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January 2010 Email this to a friend


By Barry Lorne Freedman

Faboo, Melbourne
Symone and Normie of Faboo

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Melbourne article click DailyXtraTravel

Cosmopolitan Melbourne is Australia's more refined gay destination. Amazing restaurants tempt foodies with cuisines from around the world. Buildings ranging in style from neoclassical to modern draw architecture buffs. And the gay scene, split between the arty queers and the leather studs, has something for everyone.

The city, built during the gold rush of the 19th century, is extraordinarily well planned. Explore such inner-city laneways (narrow, pedestrian-only streets) as Hosier Lane and Degraves Street, and you'll find a selection of cafes that rival the best in Europe. The two National Galleries, one displaying Australian art, the other showing international works, are known for their world-class exhibitions.

While Melbourne has a gay scene to satisfy just about everyone, you can't help but notice how much the city caters to the artsy types and leather aficionados. With posters plastered around the city promoting events like Woof and Trough Faggot, gays with open minds and adventurous spirits will be well rewarded. Of course, everyone comes together on Sunday afternoon for drinks at the Railway Hotel.

Melbourne has a pleasantly high concentration of Greeks and Italians, so if tall, dark and handsome is your thing, you'll be busy during your stay.

Getting here
Most international flights arrive at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, about 14 miles northwest of the city. Some discount domestic carriers arrive at Avalon Airport, about 31 miles southwest of the city. It's not a great option, since it's farther from the city and requires expensive and time-consuming connections. From Tullamarine, the economical SkyBus takes you downtown for about $14. Taxis are also an option but cost upward of $45.

Getting around
Melbourne has amazing public transportation. Buy a Daily Metcard for unlimited travel on trams, trains and buses (about $6 from convenience stores). Get to know the trams, since they are the best way to get around the city.

As you explore the city by foot, pay attention to the weather. Dress in layers since Melbourne is famous for having three seasons in a single day.

To the south of the city are the daytime gay areas: South Yarra, Prahran and St Kilda. Commercial Road is the subtly gay strip in this part of the city. Nearby you will find the biggest gay club and a sprinkling of cafes, bars and stores popular with the boys.

Up north, there are a different mix of gay distractions. During the day, visit the great boutiques, quirky galleries and stylish restaurants along Brunswick Street. At night, the suburbs of Fitzroy, Collingwood and Abbotsford really come alive.

Top experiences
Shake your groove thing. When in Melbourne, do as the Melburnians do, and check out the amazing parties run by the cool kids. The local gay rags have all the info.

Afternoon delight. Don't miss the fun that starts mid-afternoon at the Railway Hotel.

Read a good book. The Melbourne Design Guide, all about the local design scene, is available at Architext (41 Exhibition St; 03/8620-3815), an architecture bookstore. Flip through to uncover all of the city's gems.

Local media
Southern Star, MCV, and Q Magazine are local gay publications. Look for them in bars and shops along Commercial Road.

Event planner
January and February
Midsumma Festival
A gay arts and culture festival.

Melbourne Queer Film Festival
An 11-day program of international gay film.

Melbourne is a paradise for gays looking to indulge in a bit of fashion shopping. There is an abundance of men's stores featuring well-known local talent. Maybe because of the cooler weather, Melbourne's fashion palette is all about blacks, whites and the shades of gray in between.

The local scene is dominated by three heavy-hitting Melbourne brands.
Arthur Galan (187/189 Little Collins St, Central Business District) has casual clothes with a contemporary feel. Calibre (218-242 Little Collins St, Central Business District) is aimed at the well-dressed business executive.
Jack London (301 Swanston St, Central Business District) has a more dapper touch.

Melbourne's indie stores are popular with the gay crowd.
The basement-level Assin (138 Little Collins St, Central Business District) embraces brutal minimalism, with international brands such as Lanvin and Dior Homme displayed against steel and concrete. Nique (205 Chapel St, Prahan) is Assin's friendlier and more accessible cousin. The wild card in town is Kwamee by Francis (Shop 568 Chapel St, South Yarra), a brand that goes against the grain with wild colors.

One-stop shopping is provided by Australia's two grand department stores:
Myer (Lonsdale St, Central Business District) is favored by younger and hipper clients, while David Jones (Bourke St, Central Business District) hits harder with the big brands. Both stores reward the male shopper with extensive and well-chosen selections.

Would you rather look, but not touch? Check out the annual fashion extravaganzas. In March, the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival is the year's top draw for fashionistas. In August and September, Melbourne Spring Fashion Week has fashion shows and parties celebrating the upcoming year's spring and summer collections.


Hotel Saville (3 Commercial Rd; +61-3-9867-2755) profits from proximity to much of Melbourne's gay life in South Yarra/ Prahran. This "affordable alternative" has a motel-like feel, with rooms usually rented by the night.

In Collingwood/Abbotsford, the Laird Hotel (149 Gipps St; +61-3-9417-2832) has popular male only guest rooms, TV and breakfast room, plus laundry facilities. They also have three bars, a pool room, and a beer garden out back that draws a crowd all year long.

The Cullen (164 Commercial Rd; +61 3-9098-1555) is a new boutique art hotel in the gayborhood, one of four planned, with two restaurants, hair salon, and displaying paintings and sculpures from local contemporary enfant terrible, Adam Cullen.

Click here for more Melbourne and Victoria area hotel and guesthouse listings.

Entertainment Northside

A Bar called Barry (64 Smith St, Collingwood) is a Thursday, Friday & Saturday camp nightclub that features "cheesy POP, party retro, sexy R'n'b & commercial house" music and karaoke too.

Commercial Hotel (238 Whitehall St, Yarraville) aka "the Mersh" club and restaurant has drag shows galore: wild west drag, drag bingo, drag Madonnarama, and more. There's a huge beer garden, Thursday night live bands, Friday night Cheap Thrills, plus Sunday brunch, and Dogs Night Out...real dogs.

DT's (164 Church St, Richmond) longtime neighborhood favorite, laid-back comfortable gay pub with a crowd of all kinds. Friday raffles and "theatrics" plus barbecue dinners, Saturday drag shows. On Sunday the games begin at 2pm, and their beer garden is an exotic retreat of tropical folliage.

Glasshouse (51 Gipps St, Collingwood) restaurant and bar opens for lunch and dinner, with a beer garden, karaoke on Saturdays and dancing until 5am on weekends.

The Laird (149 Gipps St, Collingwood) is an every night men's bar where the Melbourne Leathermen meet. There are three bars and a beer garden, bear events, underwear parties and pool games are on the house.

Libation (302 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) an exquisite lounge with a bohemian tinge has side alcoves for a little privacy.

Neverwhere (185 Smith St, Fitzroy) has no-cover late dancing Thursday through Saturdays, and Sunday night All Dragged Up & NoWhere to Show talent contests hosted by Rocco D'Amour from 7pm sharp.

The Peel (Peel and Wellington Streets, Collingwood), usually with younger guys in abundance, varies with the night, as do their DJs; each sets his own mood. The dance floor is "full-on" after midnight, but a lounge and games rooms provide chill-out space.

Sircuit (103 Smith St, Collingwood), predominantly men most nights, male-only on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. They have five pool tables and smoking area at ground level, overlooking the street. Upstairs beckons with coffee lounge, huge maze/cruise area, private rooms/booths, porn movie lounges, plus smoking and wash-up areas. Their Butt Naked fully nude (underwear optional) party debuts January 18, 2010.

Entertainment Melbourne City

Fashion Lounge (121 Flinders Lane) has fashionable upmarket atmosphere, and interior textures for discerning eyes at the epi-centre of the fashion, design, restaurant and commerce hub of the Central Business District.

Entertainment Southside
In South Yarra and Prahran, Commercial Road rules the roost and St Kilda is nearby to the Southwest.

Abode (374 St Kilda Rd, St Kilda) is Australia's first and only fixed location, alternative/fetish club. BlueAfterGlow are their BDsM theatrical erotic performance art events; and there's dancing at their Mezzanine dance club.

Bar 362 (362 St Kilda Rd, St Kilda) has live rock and acoustic sets, drag shows, and DJ playing their two bars. The crowd at this hip, funky, no attitude club includes gay and straight rockers, trannies, cowboys, and bikers. They've had Gay Asian nights too.

The Greyhound (1 Brighton Rd, St Kilda) informal gay pub with excellent live music from local bands, drag show entertainment, and karaoke nights. Cheap beer is another attraction at this unpolished, fun and unpretentious hangout. All sorts, suits to bikers or trannies, young and old drop in at this old-style St Kilda mainstay.

Heaven's Door (147 Commercial Rd), cocktail lounge and four floor dance club on two floors, is a "stairway to heaven." Diva hostesses, sexy dancers, hot DJs playing House and R'n'B music, and a mostly young clientele, ages 18-30.

Love Machine (228 Malvern Rd, Prahran) spacious lounge with stylish and sensual atmosphere, weeknd house music dancing. Gayest nights are "Gossip" Sundays, with a variety of theme nights of "queer bent and fanciful nature."

The Market, (143 Commercial Rd) has a big Friday and Saturday dance crowd filling a big space from 10pm until well past dawn (11am Sunday morning). Domestic and international DJs, extraordinary drag and other acts are featured, and their sound system and lights are impressive. The Quest Prahran Hotel (9 Balmoral St) is an easy walk away, and they give 5% off if you mention Market.

Down towards Catani Gardens, the Prince of Wales (29 Fitzroy St) has fine lodgings and a liquor store, two restaurants, and two art-deco bars. There's prime quality live music here most every night band, and a lower level dance floor. The earthy Saloon Bar is the gayest, especially for their half-price Monday evenings. Monthly Girlbar parties take place here too.

Priscilla Posely, and friends present amazing entertainment at Priscilla's (153 Commercial Rd), a cozy dance and cabaret club Wednesdays through Saturdays. They have drag shows, male dancers, karoake, no cover charge, and a heated all-weather outdoor space to smoke or relax in.

Open seven nights with an intense dance floor Tongue & Groove bar/nightclub (16 Grey St) is open until 5am. Australia's hottest male swimwear competitions are held here too; check out those tight "budgie smugglers."

Xchange (119 Commercial Rd) a full-on venue 365 days a year, has BoyZone all-male territory, drag shows Wednesdays through Saturdays, Funniest Homo Videos Wednesdays, and Friday night shower contests for big cash prizes.

Entertainment, various dates/venues

Beyond Black are leather fetish events with dress code at various venues around Melbourne. Next dates: January 31st, at Chasers (386 Chapel St); and April 25, 2010. Check Beyondblack.com.au for details.

Closet "gay disco infernos for Melbourne's homosexuals and those who love them." Top DJs, various club spaces, several times each year. See Closetparty.com.au for dates.

Summadayze is a big New Year's Day music festival. See Summadayze.com for future events.

Looking good

Heavenly Solutions (13 Izett St), a gay-owned and operated salon, offers waxing, facials, massage, wraps and beauty treatments in the thick of it all.

Fitness first (560 Church St) in the suburb of Richmond, draws lots of gays with a state-of-the-art gym.


55 Porter Street (55 Porter St, Prahran) is the not spiffy but still popular standby in the midst of everything, with huge spa, dry and steam saunas, and solarium.

The revamped Subway Sauna (Vault 13, Banana Alley Vaults, at Queensbridge St) is at the heart of the central business district with rooms, cruise areas, porn video lounge, wet areas and a cafe.

Wet on Wellington (162 Wellington St) is Melbourne's only sauna with 25-meter heated lap pool. That's on top of a licensed bar, steam and sauna rooms, roof-top sundeck and patio, movie theater, private rooms and lockers -- plus porn lounges, maze area and suckatorium.

Sex Clubs

Just up the street from The Peel bar, Club 80 (10 Peel St) is a playful sex club with communal areas, cubicles, and glory holes. Clothing is optional. They provide internet access and show art house movies along with the porn.

Ten Plus (59 Porter St, Prahran), a no-attitude cruise club in two buildings has a mixed bag of people, outdoor area, theme rooms, and group areas, sling rooms, glory holes, free internet, and porn.

Close to the casino in South Melbourne, Stableboys (44 Gladstone St) is a European-style male brothel. In luxurious theme rooms their stallions, stable boys and trannies await your pleasure.


Bang (41 Cato St) touts sports gear, party apparel, underwear and accessories for the fashion-conscious.

Beat Bookshop (157 Commercial Rd) adult bookshop vends all kinds of pleasure implements and fantasy enhancements. The popular upstairs lounge and video room may provide even more immediate sensual gratification.

Eagle Leather (58 Hoddle St, Abbotsville) is a store and community center of sorts, with leather and fetish clothing, accessories, toys, books and magazines plus bear items. Open daily except Monday, they have an online store too.

In Fitzroy, Hares & Hyenas (63 Johnston St) is the gay and lesbian bookshop with information, free local gay papers, and lots of interesting T-shirts, posters, cards, and art.

INYA (53 and 59 Izett St), in the former Shaft and Faboo locations, has calendars, rainbow gear, lubes, dildos, fleshlights, porn DVDs and magazines, and their special items: Bandangles. These silicon bracelets can be worn as a fashion accessory and are color coded much like the hanky codes of old. They also have all the local mags to get oriented in Melbourne, and can hook you up with their own accommodations. See their website for details.

Lucrezia and De Sade (441 Brunswick St) is the southern sister of Sax Fetish in Sydney. Custom designed and ready-to-wear leather and denim fetish garments are designed and manufactured here.


The Konk (149 Commercial Rd) cafe and bar serves brunch and dinners featuring a modern Australian blend of traditional and spicy Asian flavors, at seating inside, or on their courtyard. There's an art gallery upstairs, and customers may use their secure WiFi access. Open until 1am.

The Red Tongue Cafe (275 Brunswick St, Fitzroy), open every day at the Paris end of one of Melbourne's most interesting streets, has great outdoor seating. Fully licensed, they serve gourmet pizzas, lunch, dinner, breakfast all day, and have take-out too.

Click South Yarra Restaurants, and Urbanspoon Melbourne
for more area dining options.

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