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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
February 2010 Email this to a friend

Sydney

By Barry Lorne Freedman

Nobiz

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



Sydney reigns supreme as one of the world's most popular gay destinations, and it's easy to see why. Over the decades, Australia's largest city has produced some of the world's biggest gay icons: Priscilla, Mardi Gras, Kylie Minogue and Speedos.
One of Sydney's big draws is the near-perfect weather. For an impressive five months of the year -- November to March -- the city's beaches and pools are filled with hot gay men. Bondi Beach is the most popular, but there are plenty of other spots for sun and fun.
Nightlife ignites on Friday, when the after-work crowd fills the bars along Oxford Street, and simmers on Saturday with numerous gay parties. But things really explode on Sunday, when the Green Park and Bank hotels are filled with boys engaged in afternoon debauchery.
If the bars and beaches aren't your thing, don't despair. Sydney has a thriving culture of indoor and outdoor sex-on-premise venues. There are saunas and sex clubs sprinkled all over the city, but the real Australian treat is the beats, the mostly outdoor cruising spots.
For a break from the city, consider a day trip to the Blue Mountains to see the three-pointed rock formation called the Three Sisters. Another popular excursion is a visit to the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, where you can sample local favorites like shiraz and semillon.

Getting here
Sydney Airport sits about five miles south of the city. Getting to your hotel is relatively inexpensive, with taxis costing $18 to $32. At about $14, the airport train is expensive and usually requires making a connection.

Getting around
Sydney's public transportation system is not one of the city's shining features. Fares for the extensive network of trains, buses and ferries are expensive, and waits for connections can often be long. Use the trip planner at Sydneybuses.com for help. Short distances are best covered by foot. Taxis are better for longer trips.

Neighborhoods
Half of Sydney's gays (and most of the lesbians) are hanging out in the Inner West suburbs: Newtown, Erskineville and Enmore. Here you will find a relaxed and somewhat grungy vibe. King Street, in the heart of Newtown, is the area's main thoroughfare, with an impressive array of inexpensive restaurants filled with flannel-clad gays. This is also where you will find fantastic pubs housed in Victorian-era buildings.
Gays also gather in the group of inner city suburbs: Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and Potts Point. Victoria Street is the destination for casual after-work drinks and is lined with great restaurants. (Close by is Kings Cross Fitness First, the gym where Hugh Jackman works out twice a day.) Macleay Street in Potts Point is more polished and has an abundance of chic cafes. There's great shopping in nearby trendy Paddington and Crown Street in Surry Hills.

in focus
Dangerous when wet
Sydney is a wonderland for gay men seeking surf, sand and Speedos. There are a number of hot spots to check out, depending on your scene.
Bondi Beach is a magnificent swath of sand about four miles east of downtown Sydney. At the northern end of the beach, just below the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, is the North Bondi section, where you will find all the hot gay men. To get here, take bus 380 or 333. Most buses in Sydney originate at Circular Quay, but many gays will catch these buses from Oxford Street.
Redleaf Pool doesn't look like a pool to most visitors -- it's a fenced-in beach on the harbor with a sandy patch and grassy knoll. Here you will find a lovely mix of beautiful gay men and families with children. Look for the entrance at 536 New South Head Road in Double Bay, an eastern suburb of Sydney. To get here, take bus 324 or 325.
Andrew "Boy" Charlton Pool is an unknown gem to many of Sydney's gay visitors. Idyllically located between the Botanic Gardens and Woolloomooloo Wharf, ABC is so packed with good-looking gay men that it feels like the set of a Kylie Minogue video. The pool is easy to walk to from downtown.
La Perouse attracts a relaxed, burly and sometimes naked crowd. Especially popular with Sydney's big population of bears, La Perouse offers a lazy beach experience. To get to this beautiful beach southeast of downtown, hop aboard bus 394 or 393.

Top experiences
Take a hike. Starting at Bronte Beach, a beautiful walking trail winds along the coastal cliffs to Bondi Beach.

Flower power. Between Hyde Park and Circular Quay, the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the world's most beautiful public parks.

Getting high. The loftiest way to experience the city is from atop the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. For a pricey but memorable half-day experience, scale it with the company BridgeClimb.

What's new at the zoo. Every great city has a zoo, but Taronga Zoo is particularly special. Located on its own island, it's an incredible setting for up-close views of koalas, kangaroos and emus.

Pride Day
Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is the biggest gay festival in Australia, attracting visitors from all over the world, with highlights including a film festival, a nighttime parade and dazzling parties.
February 19-March 7, 2010
Mardigras.org.au

Event planner
August
Inquisition
Sydney's annual leather party takes place when the weather's cooler.
www.sydneyleatherpride.org

October
Sleaze Ball
This is the first event of the summer party season leading up to Mardi Gras.
October 4
Mardigras.org.au

Local media
The Star Observer, SX, and MCV are local gay magazines. Look for them in bars and shops on Oxford Street.

DNA Magazine is a national glossy with some very impressive photography.

Accommodations

The Arts Hotel (21 Oxford St, Paddington) formerly Sullivan's, is near most recreations including an easy bus to Bondi Beach.

Comfort Inn Cambridge (212 Riley St) is a spacious and centrally located, three-and-half star hotel, a short stroll from the Oxford St party zone.

City Crown Motel (289 Crown St, Surry Hills) is also close to the Oxford Street action, with various room options and it's own sidewalk cafe and barbecue area.

Governors On Fitzroy 64 Fitzroy St; Surry Hills), a renovated Victorian bed-and-breakfast, has six guest rooms, full breakfast and a friendly atmosphere in their common rooms and spa.

The Hyde Park Inn (271 Elizabeth St), overlooks Hyde Park and has views of Sydney Harbor, great location in the Central Business District, and all the four-star comforts.

Manor House Boutique Hotel (86 Flinders St), a Victorian grand mansion has 18 rooms in an elegant, gay-friendly setting with hospitable staff who make you feel at home. Full breakfast is served here in a lovely setting around the pool.

Medina Apartments (359 Crown St) suits those who want self-contained apartments with swimming pool, spa, gym, and barbecue area.

Oasis On Flinders (Flinders Street), a naturist's retreat has in-the-buff lodgings for gay men. They don't publish their full address, so click for their website. Don't be surprised if they greet you at the door wearing nothing but a smile!

The "hip, ambient, and intimate" L'Otel (114 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst) is a 16-room boutique hotel with up to the minute facilities and a day spa.

Hotel Stellar (4 Wentworth Ave) has hip boutique lodgings near the corner of Hyde Park and Oxford Street, exactly where you want to be, at prices those on a budget can afford.

Travel Lodge (27 Wentworth Ave) offers good value room deals at the edge of the Central Business District, with an easy walk to shops, theaters and restaurants.

The Wattle Hotel (108 Oxford St) offers good service, location and budget prices, at the heart of gay Sydney.

Y on the Park (5-11 Wentworth Ave) has rooms from AU$79 at a great location opposite Hyde Park, close to Oxford Street.

Bars, Pubs and Clubs
Nowhere is the partying more intense than around rowdy Oxford Street in Darlinghurst.

ARQ (16 Flinders Street at Taylor Square) continues to be the big nightspot in town. Their nightclub on two-and-a-half levels has great lights, sound, and both straight and gay party people.

The Colombian (117 Oxford St), a slick, modern gay pub and lounge, is straight friendly too. On two levels, they boast the largest rotation of DJs in Sydney.

The Flinders Hotel (63 Flinders St) is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, especially popular for The Bear's Den each Friday with the Harbour City Bears Club and friends filling the dance floor to an impressive roster of local DJs. A restaurant here opens at 6pm.

Imperial Hotel (35 Erskineville Rd, Newtown), run by ARQ nightclub, has been famous for the Priscilla Show (where bar scenes for the film were shot) for years. Currently undergoing renovations, this legendary venue is slated to reopen soon.

The Midnight Shift (85 Oxford St), a gay must-see for a generation, has a downstairs bar with pool tables and slot machines, and dancing upstairs on weekends.

Oxford Hotel (134 Oxford St) has three distinct bars: a street level Oxford Bar; their Vegas-style Grecian Lounge; and Gilligans in the bowels of the hotel, offering a thumping world of light and sound. On upper levels they have a supper club and the Polo Lounge cocktail bar.

Palms On Oxford (124 Oxford St) basement level piano and drag entertainment nightclub is attitude free, drawing many locals for their "retro" evenings.

Phoenix (34 Oxford St) party bar and alternative dance club has sexy subterranean tech music Saturday nights called Dirty.

Slide (41 Oxford St) is a nightclub, supper club, and restaurant all in one. Open for dinner nightly Tuesday through Sunday, events highlights include shows hosted by El Circo, for dining, wining, and circus-inspired entertainment, bringing in capacity crowds.

Stonewall (173-175 Oxford St), a three-story entertainment complex, opens daily at noon. Top Sydney DJs and entertainers draw hordes and their underwear contests (usually on Thursdays) are jam-packed too.

Taxi Club (40-42 Flinders St), on three floors has a restaurant bar, main bar and a disco bar. Pokies (gambling machines) are popular here and there's a diverse, if predominantly transgendered clientel.

Restaurants

In addition to Slide (mentioned above) there are a slew of restaurants, take-out eateries, and cafes dotting the golden mile of gay Oxford Street. Service is usually laid-back and easygoing in that quintessential Australian way.

The lentil soup at Betty's Soup Kitchen (84 Oxford St) more than hits the spot, and there's plenty more home-style fare to choose from. Most everything is priced under AU$10.

Cafe New Deli (181 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville) has generous servings of healthy mod-Oz breakfast and lunch, in a dining area of polished wood floors and art-covered walls. Besides the burgers, wraps and salads they have homemade cakes, and an extensive beverage list including frappes.

Heading away from Oxford St, Lumiere (13/425 Bourke St) cafe and patisserie is a perfect place to tryst with a very Surry Hills feel. A bit out of the crush, they're more likely to have seats and bring food faster too. Known for good and hearty breakfasts, they also have very tempting baked goods and beverages.

Chinese and Thai restaurants abound in Sydney, but you'd be hard pressed to find the sumptuous cuisine of Laos. At gay-owned Pink Peppercorn (122 Oxford St) taste buds are treated to dishes such as gaeng phed phak (vegetables in coconut and red curry sauce), salmon souffle, and various chicken, lamb, beef, and seafood dishes, flavored with lime, dill, lemongrass, chili, and garlic. Prices are good too, with main courses under AU$20.

Looking good

Beauty Room (220 Goulburn Street) with pampering from professionally-trained therapists (both male and female), this skincare center offers a large selection of relaxing treatments, from facial peels to micro dermabrasion and massage.

City Gym (107 Crown St), Sydney's oldest shrine to gay narcissism, has a three level facility, studios, fitness rooms and an entire floor for strength training.

Fitness Network (63 Oxford St), with over 70 clubs across Australia, is gay-mobbed. Their beginner's training area has workout machines specially designed for 'first timers' of any age.

Saunas and Sex-On-Premises

Adult World (124-A Oxford St) has state-of-the-art video booths with choices of 15 movies, anytime. Their backroom has booths, a sling, a bondage room, an engaging mirror room, as well as porn video lounges.

With four floors of steamy adventure to explore, Bodyline (10 Taylor St) has a large Romanesque Jacuzzi, a cedar-wood dry sauna, a maze, and myriad large cabins - some with slings. Their rooftop deck draws a crowd throughout the day, and their nights get busy too.

With four floors to explore, Headquarters (273 Crown St; Headquarters.com.au) is the area's biggest sex club, open 24 hours. The fantasy play-world here includes a mineshaft, jail, SUK-station, water sports space, sling rooms, glory holes, cruise areas, douche rooms; plus private rooms, a video lounge and a coffee bar. Theme parties include Speedos, piss, and naked nights, among their monthly events.

Discreetly tucked away in a 'burb, Ken's At Kensington (83 Anzac Parade) is a legendary sauna on two spacious levels. Facilities include steam room, sauna, spa, weights area and indoor pool. A DVD/TV/coffee/smoking lounge and chill-out area provide time out.

Kingsteam (38-42 Oxford St), next to the Exchange Hotel, is a clean and comfortable place for release, open since 1974. As the only sauna on queenly Oxford Street they get a diverse crowd and boast a gym, dry saunas, spas, steam room and private rooms. For just $10 all day admission, their Tight Arse Tuesdays get hot.

The large, clean Sydney City Steam (357 Sussex St) sauna in Downtown's Chinatown gets super busy offering pleasure on four levels with sauna, steam, rooms, a 16 cubicle suckathorium, massage and naked Saturday nights. Lunch time traffic includes many office workers.

Pleasure Chest (161 Oxford St, 56 Darlinghurst Rd, 705 George St, and 382 Pitt St) are a chain of adult video and toy stores where you can also scratch your itch.

Signal (81 Oxford St) has more than just lube 'n' condoms within more than 25 rooms: movie lounges, douche facilities, plus a "hole lot more." They're accessible from Toolshed or from their discreet outdoor entrance. Guys with more than 8 inches get special discounts on Mondays.

For those curious about a wild side that mixes everyone up together, the Aarows Gay & Bi Sex Party Club (17 Bridge St, Rydalmere) is primarily for bisexual men and women, trannies, and lesbians, singles and couples, twenty four hours, seven days a week.

Escorts
Escorts' ages generally range from 18 to mid or late 20's.

Delivery Boys Escorts (278 Cleveland St; discreet side entrance on Perry St) is a legit male bordello with "duty manager" on staff to greet and introduce you to the guys one at a time, in a relaxed and private environment. They have an online photo gallery too. If one interests you he'll return to take you to your room, where charge time begins after a shower.

Knightcall (185 Brougham St) offers escort services by the hour, on-site or at your place, every day from 11am until "late." Look the guys over with online photos, or more intimately, on location.

Shopping

Aussie Boys (102 Oxford St) sells gay clothing and accessories, footwear, leather goods, toiletries, CDs, hand-made cards, and more.

Bang (4 Flinders St) stocks a wide range of gay clothing labels from around the world. They specialize in men's swimwear, gym wear, underwear, and club gear. Bang also has sister stores in the Melbourne area.

Bookshop (207 Oxford St) is the Sydney specialist for gay and lesbian books, and a wide range of magazines.

Sax Fetish (110-A Oxford St) shines as Australia's preeminent fetish department store with it's prominent Oxford Street location, catering to a wide range of pleasure preferences. Quality fetish clothing, BDSM accessories, plus toys to indulge every lusty spasm.

Toolshed (with three locations: 81 Oxford St, 191 Oxford St at Taylor Sq, and 198 King St) is a giant among gay and lesbian adult stores, with adult products, a vast selection of porn, clothing, cards, and pride items.


Gay rights in Australia

Gay sex is legal in Australia. The age of consent is 16 in most states, but 17 in South Australia and 18 for anal sex in Queensland (home to the city of Brisbane and the Gold Coast).

Gay marriage is not yet legal. There is a mish-mash of partnership recognition and adoption rights across the nation, varying from one state and territory to another. After years of an anti-gay government, led by John Howard, which rolled back some rights, the new government of Kevin Rudd promised to amend some 60 laws that discriminate against gays. But he remains opposed to gay marriage, and is at heart a religious and social conservative. For a critique of his internet filter proposed for all Australians, see the Australian Sex Party website.


Beach culture

Sydney is all about the beach culture. There's no better place to be for those who love sand and water. The beaches are stunning, and gay men visit them a lot. A couple of safety tips: swim between the flags to avoid being swept away by harsh rip tides, and ask that cute guy to join you in the water as your 'buddy.'

The two gayest beaches are Harbour Beaches, both of them allowing nude bathing: Obelisk Beach, and Lady Jane Beach. They're not easy to get to without a boat, but worth the hassle. The best way to Obelisk is to spend the coin and take a water taxi from the south side of the Harbour. Take water, food and sunscreen. The Enchanted Forest above this beach has a great reputation for sex. Don't bring valuables.

If you prefer something tamer, North Bondi beach has a strong gay following. It's a short walk north of Bondi Beach, the world-famous and easy to get to stretch of sand in the close-by eastern suburb of Waverley.

If you're finding it a bit chilly for the beach, check out the Andrew "Boy" Charlton Pool (1C Mrs Macquaries Road, The Domain), popular with Sydney gay men who strut gym-carved bodies here.


Explore The Rocks

Sydney's historic neighborhood is known as the founding place for both the city and the country, as the British began their colony here. Also known as Sydney's outdoors museum, many gays know it for the shopping.

It's located at the foot of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the western shore of Sydney Cove. The old district has been revived with cafes and restaurants, tourism shops and pubs, live outdoor concerts and street theatre. On weekends, there's a market with some 100 stalls.

While you're there check out the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Sydney Observatory.


Event Planner
Australian Summertime

January
Bondi Openair -- An ocean-edge festival of music, entertainment & films.
Starting this year January 20, 2010
Bondiopenair.com.au

February
Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
(multiple events), February 17 - March 7, 2010.
www.mardigras.org.au

March
Blue Mountains Music Festival
Blues and Roots music festival in Katoomba, March 12-14, 2010
www.bmff.org.au

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