RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Sydney Mardi Gras: See the Emerald City at its most fabulous

7th February 2013 Print
Mardi Gras

Over the last 35 years Sydney's iconic Mardi Gras parade has evolved from a march down Oxford Street, to one of Australia's largest festivals - a three-week long celebration across the city featuring epic parties, community events and of course, the world famous street parade which now features some 10,000 marchers.

2013 is the 35th anniversary of the original march and marks an important milestone for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (GLBTQI) people of Australia. As well as a thrilling lineup of music and performing arts, Sydney Mardi Gras 2013 sees the launch of a Sydney Mardi Gras Museum on the corner of Oxford and Palmer Streets, detailing characters and controversies of the Parade through rare archival material.

For the people who march, or cheer from the sidelines, or simply believe in the power of this community event – the party is only just getting started. Here are just a few highlights of Mardi Gras 2013.


Sydney Mardi Gras is a stand out event on the NSW Events Calendar, attracting hundreds and thousands of people and more than 20,000 overseas and interstate visitors who come specifically for the event, injecting around $30 million in new money to NSW.

Sydney Mardi Gras reaches huge media audiences of more than 70 million people from interstate and key international tourism markets via press coverage and social media feeds about the event.

The essentials

Make sure you don’t miss the best that Sydney Mardi Gras has to offer with these headline events:

For some, the main beginning of the Sydney Mardi Gras is marked by Harbour Party ’13, 23 February in the Royal Botanic Gardens. The sun sets over the Bridge and Sydney Opera House, as thousands of gleeful partygoers dance the evening away to the likes of David Morales and Ricki-Lee Coulter.

Mardi Gras Drag Races, Bondi Beach, Friday 1 March, 5pm. Everybody knows Bondi, but not like this. Conceived by beloved drag icon Vanessa Wagner, with Victoria Harbutt and Megan Donnelly, the Drag Races turn Bondi Beach into a raucous spectacle. Think clutchbag discus, three-heeled races, ‘beached’ volleyball, and, of course, competitive feminine posing. While we’re on the topic of Bondi, consider taking in a round of world-class surfing with Let’s Go Surfing at a special Mardi Gras class just before the races kick off (3pm).

Mardi Gras Parade, Oxford Street, Saturday 2 March, 7.45pm. The Mardi Gras Parade remains one of the most spectacular events on the city’s calendar, with nearly 10,000 costumed revellers marching along Oxford and Flinders Street to the ecstatic encouragement of onlookers.   

Mardigrasland (Mardi Gras Party), Entertainment Quarter, Saturday 2 March, 10pm-8am. Last year saw Kylie Minogue bring the house down before nearly 17,000 partygoers, and this anniversary promises to be just as big. With seven uniquely themed spaces and a lineup including Delta Goodrem, The Presets, DJ Crystal Pepsi (aka Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters), Bimbo Jones and Dan Murphy, Mardigrasland is the hottest ticket in town. 

The Laneway (Recovery Party), Hill Street Laneway, Sunday 3 March, 12-10pm. Every Australian knows that the best recovery to a big night out is a relaxing afternoon with friends, and the official Sydney Mardi Gras closing event takes the same philosophy. Sandwiched between The Beresford Hotel and The Flinders, the Laneway party features pop-up performances, DJ appearances, and an atmosphere perfect for seeing out another festival and making plans for the next one.

Sydney Mardi Gras Museum, Cnr Oxford & Palmer Streets, 30 January–3 March, 11am-7pm. This brand new attraction draws on a rich history of controversy, costumes and colour to offer an unparalleled glimpse into the timeline of this remarkable Sydney institution. A series of special talks, ‘Nights at the Museum,’ see the likes of Julie McCrossin and William Yang offer their take on the evolving Mardi Gras.  

The best of the rest

The celebrations don't stop for a second during the Mardi Gras season. Here’s a few extra highlights from across the calendar:

Girls take centre stage as Sydney’s Horden Pavilion becomes a roller derby rink for Battle on the Bent Track, 16 February. Performers and DJs ratchet up the adrenaline as teams from Queensland, Victoria, and NSW/ACT battle it out to become reigning champions. An official after party at The Standard promises to carry the excitement deep into the night. 

The Mardi Gras Film Festival, 14-28 February sees Sydney’s silver screens play host to some of the world’s best gay and lesbian cinema. This year the festival celebrates it’s 20th anniversary, with a lineup that includes GAYBY, Keep The Lights On, and the Australian classic Head On. Multiple venues and times. 

Tony Award-nominated New York cabaret iconMx Justin Vivian Bondreturns to Sydney for one night only with the Carriageworks premiere of a new show, Justin Vivian Bond is Mx America, 16 February. Including highlights from an acclaimed debut album Dendrophile, Bond’s legendary wit is sure to entertain.

For those who like to mix exercise with socialising, three Sydney Spokes Sunday Bike Rides, 10, 17, 24 February, led by Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Cycling Club, offer an opportunity to explore the beautiful city with new friends.                        

A city built for a party

Mardi Gras may turn the spotlight to Sydney, but there’s a whole lot more to keep you occupied once you arrive. With quirky cafes, world-class restaurants, and a flourishing small bar scene, this global capital has a few tricks up its sequined sleeve.

The Oxford Street entertainment strip hosts many major Mardi Gras events and is also home to the city's best-known gay venues. Two Oxford Street crossings with Pride rainbow colours will be painted in time for Mardi Gras. To give your dance shoes a workout, head to clubs like ARQ, Midnight Shift and Phoenix. For something a little more lighthearted, there’s the camp classics Stonewall and Palms, or entertainment hubs such as Slide, with its mix of cocktail bar, club and burlesque shows.

For a touch of class, head into the city to ivy, which features a popular open-air Pool Club Bar for the beautiful people and their admirers. ivy celebrates Sydney Mardi Gras with a Pool Party, 25 February, meant to evoke the decadent atmosphere of Palm Springs and St Tropez. Buy your swimwear from Sydney designers, We Are Handsome, if you’re keen to stand out from the crowd.

Over in Erksineville, The Imperial Hotel might seem far from the strip, but it throbs with its own boundless energy and has been an institution for decades (it even appears in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.) With events like Lesbian Speed Dating, Bingay on Tuesdays, and a full lineup of cabaret, there’s never a slow night here. Woof Club Recovery Party, 3 March, is one to watch.

Just down the road, Newtown offers several popular spaces, including the Bank Hotel with its big, balmy beer garden; and the freshened up Newtown Hotel, which features Turbo Trivia every Monday night with Felicity Frockachinno.

The Sly Fox in Enmore is the city's unofficial girl party central - especially on Wednesday nights. Relaxed, friendly, and with a traditional pub vibe, this is one of many welcoming, unpretentious pubs in a funky, gay-friendly suburb.

For more pub atmosphere try The Flinders Hotelin Surry Hills, or The Beresford, a major gay scene destination every week when Beresford Sundays draw a chilled crowd to the attractive courtyard. Sunday afternoon is also a great day for dropping in at the Green Park Hotel, Darlinghurst, a classic destination for suits, students, tradesmen, doctors and drag queens.

For a non-scene alternative, be sure to check out Bulletin Place, one ofSydney's newest small bars, hidden up a narrow staircase in Circular Quay and boasting one of the best cocktail menus in the city. Or delve into the Redfern renaissance, with small bars like The Dock (stuffed ferret included), Dry Land, and the fairy-light fantasia of Arcadia Liquors. For a delicious bite you can’t go past The Eathouse Diner.  

Born to perform

Sydney Mardi Gras is more than just big parties; it’s a pageant of performance, art, and heady discussions. Here are just a few pointers:

This year sees the return to Sydney of two theatre classics. Director Stephen Colyer brings a bold new production of the Tony Award-winning Torch  Song Trilogy, 1 February – 3 March, a searingly personal work by Broadway icon Harvey Fierstein at Darlinghurst Theatre. At the Seymour Centre, a 20th anniversary production of Beautiful Thing, 14 February – 2 March is directed by Brandon Martignago.                    

Bondi Pavilion plays host to Summer Camp, 19 February – 4 March a vibrant exhibition of original paintings and art prints from the Florence Broadhurst Collection, photographer William Yang, and painter Scott Elk.

Over in Paddington, Women Say Something, 15 February celebrates generations of women, with laughter, entertainment, and engaging discussion of what needs to happen to carry on the work they started by simply speaking up. With special guests Heather Peace and the beloved Australian actress Claudia Karvan. 

For more information go to

More Photos - Click to Enlarge

Mardi Gras