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Tuesday 14 April 2015

Mardi Gras: And beyond

Posted in: Events
By Hannah Spyksma - 9th March 2013

It’s always hard when holidays come to an end. But the silver lining is getting to share the best bits of being away and passing on a wee bit of advice about whatever destination you’ve been lucky enough to visit. That way, the holiday lives on.

So, if you’re wondering whether you should head across the ditch for Mardi Gras next year, or just wanting to hit up Sydney for a gay ol’ time, here’s a few of my suggestions and thoughts after having visited earlier this week:

Mardi Gras


Besides New Years Eve, Mardi Gras is the biggest event on Sydney’s calendar. And for good reason. The atmosphere on Oxford St is nothing short of electric, you can’t help but be excited to be there. People turn up hours in advance to secure a perch and are amped to party.

If you want a good spot it pays to get in early, though if you turn up closer to start time (7pm) I reckon the best way to find a viewing point is to just wander up and down the street – you’ll be sure to find something. For those wanting a more comfortable experience, tickets to the Glam Stand ensure your Mardi Gras experience will be completed in style.

There’s been a bit of controversy with Sydney Mardi Gras this year. Reports of Police violence are rife and the hostel manager at the backpackers we stayed at witnessed a gay bashing after the parade which left him rather shaken. Although these are horrible events, in my mind they’re not a reason to be put off going to the parade – they just reinforce the need to celebrate Pride and for the queer and trans* community to remain visible.

Mardi Gras after parties

If you go don’t fret – you will find a Mardi Gras after party. After all, the parade is on Sydney’s gayest street and home to dozens of pumping clubs, bars, cafes and restaurants. There’s always the official after party (I’ve heard conflicting reports about this – some love it, some don’t recommend it, I say it depends what kind of partier you are – it’s pretty hot, sweaty and raucous by the sounds). The place is teeming with unofficial after parties too. If you can get a ticket before hand, then sweet, otherwise be prepared to queue. If staying in the thick of it isn’t your cup of tea then don’t worry, this city won’t be sleeping on Mardi Gras night; the city centre and other inner city suburbs are just a quick walk or taxi ride away.

One thing to keep in mind is the parade finishes between 9.30pm and 10.30pm – depending on where you’re watching from, and bars have a one-way policy from 2am – once you go out you can’t come back in.



It’s pretty easy to go out and party every night of the week in Sydney if you want. While Monday is the quietest night I can attest to the fact that it’s still all happening in Kings Cross then. Yes, I could hear the noise from my hostel window. Lucky I could sleep through it!

Speaking of Kings Cross, this place is teeming with bars – it’s like a condensed version of K Road and there’s something for everyone, from rooftop bars to strip clubs to classy establishments, Kings Cross has it all. Oxford St of course, has every kind of venue you could dream up too, including the famous Stonewall Hotel – a must see for the gay traveller.

A little further out in Newtown, unofficial home of the lesbians, there is also a feast of different entertainment venues including several offering live music and regular gigs.

And if you want a bit of class and swank, head to Surry Hills for wine bars and trendy digs. There’s the CBD too which naturally is home to dozens of clubs and bars.

Tourist attractions

As much as I cringe to say it, I did the whole tourist thing in Sydney. Just one day though, I swear. The Opera House is something that you should really go see, but it’s nothing life changing, same with the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The best part of seeing these was walking from Kings Cross, around the harbour and through the Botanical Gardens, to get there. Sydney makes good use of its waterfront.


Like any major city, the tourist attractions are endless. As well as the above you’ve got Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Bondi Beach, Sydney Olympic Park, Manly, Palm Beach and the Blue Mountains (more on that one later). Bondi didn’t impress me, we’ve got much nicer beaches here in New Zealand, but the walk from Bondi to Coogee around the coast is pretty spectacular and the side streets just of the main parade are pretty cute too.

A great (and cheap) way to see city from the water is to take a ferry to North Sydney beach Manly. This way you get to kill two birds with one stone; you see Darling Harbour – which is beautiful – and you end up at a gorgeous beach where you can soak up the seaside atmosphere and marvel at the fact you’re at a surf beach, but definitely still in the city.


Wining and dining

Spoilt for choice. Seriously. Anyone who loves food will love Sydney. Same goes for wine and cocktail bars. There’s too many to suggest, you won’t have any problems. The one thing I’ll say is that food isn’t cheap, however most places have daily specials which won’t break the bank.


Jess and I stayed at The Funkhouse Backpackers in Kings Cross. As far as budget accommodation in Sydney goes, this place was pretty choice. No one batted an eyelid at the fact we were two girls staying in the same room, and everyone was full of tips for Mardi Gras and good bars to hit up. The place has funky murals painted all over the walls which makes me happy, and provides free breakfasts. The hostel was fully booked the whole time we were there so we had to wait a while for towels to come back from the cleaners, a minor inconvenience.

Kings Cross is central to everything. It’s within walking distance to Oxford St, a beautiful half-hour stroll through the botanic gardens to the CBD, and just a train ride away from Bondi or Newtown.

The Blue Mountains


I’d really recommend skipping off to the Blue Mountains for a day trip if you have some spare time in Sydney. We went with tour operator The Happy Coach and the greenie in me really loved getting out of the city. Of course, the Blue Mountains are super touristy and there’s an element of that that you can’t avoid. But the good thing about The Happy Coach is it’s run by locals from the area and they don’t like queues and tourists either. My kind of tour guides. The main thing about the Blue Mountains is they’re stunning. Waterfalls, rainforests, rock plateaus, rock formations, blue haze; gorgeous and well worth the visit. There are heaps of different tour packages available, something for every traveller.


So there you have it. If you’ve got any specific travel questions about Sydney, feel free to tweet me @hannahspyksma and happy travels! Now back to reality and dreaming up my next travel destination... 

Hannah Spyksma - 9th March 2013

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