Exploring Four of Sydney’s LGBTQI Friendly Neighbourhoods
Every March, Sydney welcomes tens of thousands of LGBTQI people as they celebrate Mardi Gras. But the city bursts with pride year-round beyond Darlinghurst’s Oxford Street: rainbow walks and murals can be found city-wide, as can a feeling of connection. While you’ll find LGBTQI communities across Sydney, here’s a guide to four suburbs — Darlinghurst, Enmore, Erskineville, and Redfern — that speak to the city’s wide range of queer venues and culture, meaning you’ll always be able to find a home-away-from-home.
As the historic hub of Australia’s gay rights movement, Darlinghurst is rich with inspiring stories. Uncover them with Sydney’s Pride History’s regular walking tours, led by leading LGBTQI historians and lively ‘nuns’, known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Follow it up with a visit to The Bookshop Darlinghurst, a sanctuary of LGBTQI knowledge since 1982.
As Australia’s home of drag, you’ll find shows seven days a week on Oxford Street, whether it be all-in dance productions at Universal, drag trivia at Stonewall, or more intimate affairs at Ginger’s, The Oxford Hotel’s lounge bar. Downstairs, Oxford Underground hosts regular queer club nights boasting high BPMs. Just off Taylor Square, The Beresford is renowned for its Sunday sessions, though the pub’s spacious, leafy courtyard is perfect for the golden hour any day of the week.
A night on the town calls for a hearty brunch and nowhere pairs Bloody Marys with a big breakfast like Bills. While Bill Granger’s namesake restaurants can now be found around the globe, the original in Darlinghurst maintains its indelible magic as the homely café with the fluffy scrambled eggs The New York Times declared the best in the world. Other local institutions are Infinity Bakery, Sydney’s first organic sourdough bakery, and South Dowling Sandwiches, both offering unpretentious yet unforgettable sandwiches.
DarlinghurstDarlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Enmore may be a compact suburb in the heart of Sydney’s LGBTQI-friendly Inner West, but don’t overlook it. The likely drawcard is Enmore Theatre, known for Art Deco interiors, incredible acoustics, and an enviable line-up of musicians, performers and comedians. Before you catch a show, lose hours next door browsing through SWOP Clothing Exchange. The store where the Inner West’s most fashionable trade in their clothes: it’s always filled with second-hand designer and statement pieces.
For cheap eats, look no further than the Chinese Dumpling Master, an ultra filling Xinjiang restaurant adored for its braised eggplant, the plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling and the fact that it’s BYO. Conveniently, P&V Wine & Liquor Merchants is across the road, which stocks natural Australian and international wines, as well as craft beers, artisanal spirits and non-alcoholic drinks.
Enmore Road provides for sweet tooths, too. Order a generous scoop of Turkish mastic ice-cream from Hakiki, try the multi-award-winning gelato from Cow and the Moon, or, for choux coffee puffs or towering ‘mini’ cakes, head to Andy Bowdy’s café and patisserie Saga.
As a nightcap, visit Twin Peaks-themed tiki bar Jacoby’s for a flaming cocktail, or Midnight Special, a cozy speakeasy with live blues acts and deep-cut vinyl DJ sets.
EnmoreEnmore NSW 2042, Australia
Within Redfern lies the heart of Sydney’s alternative LGBTQI community: The Bearded Tit. Laid back and welcoming, the bar is home to many of the city’s queer creatives, with performances from musicians, drag kings and queens, and members of Sydney’s ballroom community. Get a tarot reading each Thursday in the caravan parked in the beer garden and be sure to listen out for the bathroom-specific mix made by Tit regulars Paul Mac and Jonny Seymour.
Another creative hub in Redfern is 107 Projects, an arts charity that transformed an unused commercial garage in the middle of Redfern Street into a multi-use community space. A café and exhibition space by day, at night 107 Projects holds workshops, performances, readings and all manner of events.
One of Sydney’s quintessential local small bars, Arcadia Liquor offers a leafy courtyard, fairy lights and a refined list of wines and beers. It shares ownership with the nearby Ron’s Upstairs, a charming Mediterranean restaurant-bar with kitsch tapestries, faux vines and a standout paprika-rubbed rotisserie chicken.
The Sunshine Inn is a warm bistro-bar soaked with natural light in the day. At the back, a leather door hides DD’s, a small diner with a handful of seats, a chandelier and an ever-changing degustation menu based around seasonal produce.
RedfernRedfern NSW 2016, Australia
This leafy Inner West suburb is home to Australia’s most famous gay bar: The Imperial, made immortal in The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert. Recently refurbished, the venue embraces its history with Drag’N’Dine nights five days a week at restaurant Priscilla’s. Don’t expect a standard lip sync, as these kings and queens always have a surprise ready. On weekends, club nights like Honcho Disko and House of Mince take over the basement.
Across the road is gastro pub The Erko, with pool tables, a spacious, dog-friendly beer garden, and a barbecue menu filled with slow-cooked smoked meats. The pub also sponsors Erskineville’s PACT, a theatre space that showcases works from emerging LGBTQI and underrepresented artists.
Also on Erskineville Road is The Hive Bar, which embodies the suburb’s ethos of community. Dedicated to sustainability, its vegan-friendly menu uses produce from the bar’s patch at Erskineville’s vegetable garden, paired with beers from nearby breweries. It also invites the public to bring their favourite vinyl for a spin.
Be sure to stop at Concord Street’s mural dedicated to two late LGBTQI musicians, George Michael and trans electronic music pioneer SOPHIE. Chalk can always be found underneath it: leave a message of love along with all the others.
ErskinevilleErskineville NSW 2043, Australia
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