Your Essential Guide to The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – A Celebration of LOVE!

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the biggest pride event in the world that takes place in the beautiful city of Sydney. It is a celebration of love that knows no bounds. Here is everything you need to know about celebrating Mardi Gras in Sydney!

14th February 2020

1st March 2020

Days to start

What is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras?

sydney mardi gras

Set in beautiful Sydney, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the biggest LGBTQI celebration in the world. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an annual celebration of love that knows no bounds, an LGBTQI rights protest and celebration of sexuality.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has thousands of visitors from all over the world flocking to be part of this glorious and glittering celebration that brings Sydney to a standstill every year. Mardi Gras is a big tourist draw for Sydney contributing millions to the local economy.

When is Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras?

sydney gay and lesbian mardi gras

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade 2020 date begins on Friday 14th February and runs until Sunday 1st March, 2020.

Despite the name the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is not actually held on Mardi Gras day also known as Shrove Tuesday and has no associations with the Catholic Mardi Gras celebrations that occur worldwide before Lent. 

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is the main event of Sydney Mardi Gras and is always held on the first Saturday of March. There are numerous pride events for the two weeks preceding the parade.

The highlight of Mardi Gras is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Parade and Party, which will be held on Saturday 29th February 2020. The other highlight is Fair Day, which will take place in Victoria Park on Sunday 16th February 2020.

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Where is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Madi Gras held?

Sydney is the largest city in Australia, located in New South Wales. Where is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade route? The Mardi Gras Parade marches down the famous Oxford street and ends up in Sydney Centennial Park where the Official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras After Party is held.

How do they celebrate the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras?

sydney mardi gras

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is all about dancing, partying, dressing up, being wild and feeling the unity that this celebration embraces. The main attraction of Sydney Mardi Gras is the parade.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras kicks off when a rainbow flag is raised above Sydney Town Hall two weeks prior to the parade. Other highlights include the Indigenous-led Koori Gras, Bondi Beach Drag Races, Harbour Party, a family fun day at Luna Park, an academic discussion panel Queer Thinking, Mardi Gras Film Festival.

The Origins of Mardi Gras in Sydney

sydney gay and lesbian mardi gras

What is the history of the Sydney Mardi Gras? The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras wasn’t always the extravagant sequin-studded parade that it is today. Back in 1978 a group of young queer Australians decided to protest the criminalisation of homosexuality in Australia.

Ron Austin a man now known as the ‘godfather of Sydney Mardi Gras’ came up with the idea to turn the protests into a big street party. He wanted to have a more positive form of protest and avoid violent arrests. He was inspired by the by the pride celebrations that were occurring in San Francisco.

Fun fact, Ron stated that the term Mardi Gras came about by accident when he suggested his idea of a street party to a friend she said ‘Oh, you mean a Mardi Gras?” and not really knowing what a Mardi Gras was he agreed.

The first parade in 1978 despite being legal was met with brutal resistance from the New South Wales Police Force who used brutality and broke up the parade and arrested 53 people. The extreme police response to a legal, local minority protest transformed the event into a nationally significant event that started the gay rights law reform campaigns.

The next year the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade attracted 5000 people. It continued to rapidly expand throughout the 80s and reached crowds of 100,000 by 1987.

The Sydney Mardi Gras Today

sydney gay and lesbian mardi gras

Three decades later the Sydney Mardi Gras attracts over half a million revellers. The focus today is more on costuming, than on gay rights campaigning, because today society is more tolerant and Gay marriage is legal in Australia. However, the parade still highlights important social issues like equal rights.

Mardi Gras has come a long way since the first Sydney Mardi Gras and reflecting those changes participants represent all walks of LGBTQI community in Australia. You have groups from the Australian Defence Force, police officers, firefighters, emergency services personnel and more.

Mardi Gras Fair Day

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  • When: Sunday 16th February, 2020
  • Where: Victoria Park, Camperdown

One key event is the Mardi Gras Fair Day held in Camperdown that sees 70,000 people gather in a park for a family friendly day. There are hundreds of market stalls and street vendors and loads of fun activities for the whole family.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade

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  • When: Saturday 29 February 2020
  • Where: Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is the time of year when the LGBTQI community puts on a dazzling spectacle of colour and glitter that captures imaginations. The parade is one of the only pride events around the world that is held at night. 

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is one big show that features over 200 elaborately decorated mechanical floats, over 15,000 participants that perform in some 200 LGBTQI community groups who march in the parade.

There is an explosion of feathers, body glitter, sequined outfits, leather outfits and rainbow colours. The participants dance along to the gay anthems that pump out all night, so lots of Kylie Minogue and Cher. Almost a million spectators’ line both sides of the street dressed up in costumes waving rainbow flags.

Dykes on Bikes

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Every year the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade starts with the famous Dykes on Bikes accompanied by many firework displays launched from rooftops along the parade route. The Dykes on Bikes are as the name suggests hundreds of lesbians who ride the parade route on motorbikes.

Most groups represent an organisation, theme or political message. Drag queens, community heroes, queer performers, LGBTQI groups join with allies from all walks of life to creating amazing performances and jaw dropping floats.

Sydney Mardi Gras After Party

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The official Sydney Mardi Gras After Party is the best post-parade party. Around 20,000 people will head to the Hordern Pavilion for a multi-arena concert that features numerous live performances from international stars and DJs.

It’s a wild party and not for the faint hearted. The party kicks off after the parade around 10pm and goes until the early hours of the morning. If you have excellent party stamina, then you can go straight from the After Party to the Recovery Party.

If you don’t have tickets to the official after party, then don’t worry it’s a Saturday night and there lots of bars and clubs all over the city that are hosting awesome parties.

Laneway Recovery Party

sydney mardi gras

Laneway is the ultimate recovery party for those who don’t want the fun to stop. It is called Laneway because it quite literally happens in the Laneway located between The Beresford and Flinders Hotel in the centre of Darlinghurst.

The event started a few years ago when a small group of friends would gather there but has quickly grown into an official after-after party. Laneway sees quite a bit of mayhem so if you love day drinking this is where to go.

What to expect Sydney Mardi Gras?

sydney gay and lesbian mardi gras

Expect huge crowds attending Mardi Gras so get there early because otherwise you are not going to see much. If you want you can be part of the parade several groups have open membership and all you must do is pay, buy the costume and learn the moves.

Everyone is in a good mood and there are random street parties all up and down the parade route. All the bars and clubs along the parade route are also packed out with people having a good time. There is lots of drinking and everyone is in a good mood.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a bucket-list event and the most exciting celebration of love one can attend. Head to Sydney and dress up in your craziest costumes and you are guaranteed to have the time of your life.

What the wear to the Sydney Madi Gras?

You don’t have to dress up to watch the Mardi Gras Parade, but you will find that most spectators do dress up and that anything goes! You will see superheros, villains, drag queens, angels, devils, lots of cross dressing and plenty of other wild outfits.

If you don’t dress up its not a problem lots of people don’t go all out but will wear something a little sparkly. You will also see lots of bright coloured or rainbow outfits and accessories. And some just wave the iconic gay rainbow flag.

Where to stay at the Sydney Madi Gras?

sydney gay and lesbian mardi gras

Well the parade takes place in the Sydney CBD so if you want to be close to the action as well as close to most of Sydney’s iconic sights then this is the area for you. There are also lots of restaurants, clubs, shops and cafes in the city. We recommend staying in the Sydney CBD as you have easy access to everywhere in the city. It is also where most the major hotels are located.

Around Oxford Street, or in the Darlinghurst/Surry Hills area is pretty much the gay area of Sydney where there are lots of gay bars and nightclubs. So if you want to be close to all the action, we recommend finding accommodation in these areas.

If you want to stay by the beach, then we recommend staying at famous iconic Bondi Beach which is only a 20-minute bus trip away from the parade. Or even the famous Manly Beach area which is also only a quick 30-minute ferry trip into the city, or 15 minutes by fast ferry.

There is no shortage of accommodation for all types of budgets hotels, hostels, guest hoses, B&Bs and plenty of couch surfing.

Check out some accommodation options here.

How to get to the Sydney Mardi Gras?

If you live outside of Sydney or outside of Australia, then flying is your best option. Sydney has a major international airport that is well serviced with flights both  domestically and internationally.

Sydney is well connected and there are plenty of trains that run frequently into the city as well as buses that can take you to the parade. Public transport is your best option as several streets are closed and traffic gets very busy in the city. Of course you can always grab a taxi or uber if needed.

What to do and see in Sydney?

While Sydney may be one of the world’s most expensive cities, it can be said that the best things in Sydney are free! Sydney has over 100 beaches, several national parks, three beautiful harbours and an abundance of scenery. To travel from the city to nature is only ever a short trip away!

Sydney is a very cosmopolitan city with great shopping, nightlight as well as a great arts, culinary and coffee scene. Here is some of our top things to do and see. Of course you must see Sydney’s most iconic sites the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach.

Our other suggestions are to catch the ferry to Manly Beach a gorgeous beachside suburb. Also do the Coogee to Bondi Walk or catch the Ferry to Taronga Zoo and see Australia’s cuddliest animals. Enjoy some Fish and Chips when you catch the ferry to Watsons Bay. Walk around the city and visit Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Visit one of the city’s beautiful national parks including Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the Royal National Park Sydney or Sydney National Park. Or even head a little further afield and visit the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, or Jervis Bay.  

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

Before you go!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance! Being protected on your travels gives you an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Never travel without coverage!

Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.

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