In February 2023, thousands of revelers will descend on Sydney, Australia, for 17 days of epic queer experiences — performances, parties, and a spectacular parade.
Sydney WorldPride will welcome a vibrant cross-section of people from across the globe to one of the world’s most beautiful harbor cities.
With so much going on, navigating the event and the city will be a fun challenge, so we invited a well-known local, Sydney native David Francis, to act as our digital tour guide.
More than just an Instagram star, Francis was named Mr. Gay Pride Australia in 2017 and now organizes the competition helping search for individuals who best represent and support the LGBTQIA+ community and develop them into future leaders.
GayCities caught up with David to get the inside scoop on how to get the most out of Sydney WorldPride 2023.
Hey David! What does it feel like to have this big event after the social isolation of Covid?
It’s so exciting to have events like Sydney WorldPride joining the calendar and giving everyone something to look forward to. It’s the first time the event will be held in the southern hemisphere, and it’s going to be quite a show! Sydney WorldPride also coincides with the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, so it will be double the party.
Which events are you most excited about? Kylie Minogue is performing at the Live and Proud: Sydney WorldPride Opening Concert presented by American Express.
Sydney WorldPride has added new events to the typical Mardi Gras lineup, and as a local resident, the one I’m excited about the most is the Pride March across the Sydney Harbour Bridge which will be closed to traffic for the march to take place. It’s a great way for everyone to get involved and compliments the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, which is at night time and has all the glitz and glamor of the floats, dancers, glitter, and sparkles.
The Bondi Beach Party presented by Optus will be amazing. North Bondi Beach is a go-to spot for most gays, a place to see and be seen; get out in your board shorts or speedos, and you will see all types represented there. This party is special because they are closing off a section on the edge of the beach just for the Sydney WorldPride party, which will draw massive crowds to Sydney’s most famous beach.
Can you share insider tips you would tell your friends coming to Sydney?
I have friends coming from all over. They are all excited about Sydney WorldPride. Book early, pack what you need, get your outfits and costumes in order, and get ready to have an absolutely amazing time. I make a pretty good tour guide, so hopefully, I can share a few local insights with you all.
If they are not staying on your couch, where would you recommend they stay?
[Laughs]. Well, I always recommend staying in Surry Hills to out-of-towners, located right in the middle of the gaybourhood. Other hot spots would be Newtown, Darlinghurst, and downtown Sydney, all within walking distance to Oxford St, which will be the epicenter for Sydney WorldPride.
What are the queerest nightlife things not to be missed in Sydney?
David sipping a cocktail at Universal bar on Oxford Street.
The best thing to do in the evening is to stroll down Oxford Street. You will find places to eat, bars for a drink, and no shortage of entertainment. Universal and Stonewall tend to have something fun every night, from drag shows to karaoke to meet-and-greet nights such as Malebox, where they stick a number on your shirt, people can send you a note and place it in the ‘Malebox.’ When your number is called, you can try and find who sent it. Drag Bingo is also a lot of fun and usually gets packed out pretty quickly, but it’s always a good vibe.
One of Sydney’s biggest clubs, Arq, had closed, but everyone’s keen that they’ve announced they are reopening in time for Sydney WorldPride. This is more for your big weekend party nights as well as Poof Doof at the Ivy precinct in downtown Sydney, where you’ll see a whole lot of amazing drag performances as well as pop acts and DJs. It’s become the biggest gay night every weekend.
Where are the best restaurants in Sydney?
Plenty of options, but here are a few of my favorite picks. For a cheap and cheerful [meal], Don Don Japanese restaurant on Oxford Street will fill you up and always accepts walk-ins. For proper sit-down meals, Thainesia, a bit past Taylor Square, has been an institution in the gaybourhood that does amazing food with BYO alcohol. Try to make a booking beforehand as it can get really busy. The Oxford Hotel and the Columbian Hotel do a great pub meal in a gay setting any night of the week: think steaks, schnitzels, salads, and burgers.
If you’re not sure what type of food you’re in the mood for, Stanley Street in Darlinghurst will have you covered with a whole collection of restaurants from Thai, Italian, Indian and fine dining.
Is there a favorite local cocktail we should order?
When I was younger, I could plow through a ton of vodka and Red Bulls, but that’ll keep you up all night [laughs]. My go-to these days is a Long Island at Stonewall, famous for its variations, including passionfruit. Great mix and value for the money, too.
It seems we need to be prepared to dress both to go out at night and also for warm weather and the beach. This is a challenge! Where can visitors find the best shopping in Sydney?
Daly Male on Oxford Street has definitely got you covered for more unique clothing styles and options, from button-up shirts to beachwear and, of course, anything sequin and glitter. The guys are so friendly and eager to help you find the perfect outfit for whatever event you’ve got coming up. Both Daily Jocks and Bang Clothing have a big range of sexy underwear, swimwear, and jockstraps, all that fun stuff. Westfield Sydney will cater to the rest of your needs, from your typical department store styling to luxury fashions for a night out.
How should visitors prepare for the warm Sydney weather and endless beautiful sunshine?
Don’t forget to pack singlets, tank tops, board shorts, and speedos to enjoy the sun, but don’t forget to bring sunscreen! The sun can be pretty strong in Australia during summer. You will definitely need a pair of flip flops, or ‘thongs’ as we call them in Australia, not the same as the thongs you’re thinking of though!
Any last-minute advice to prepare for Sydney WorldPride?
For the best haircut in town or a trim-up shave, book yourself into Unoit and the team will get you ready for any upcoming events. Miilk Medi Spa has you covered for that last-minute spray tan and also offers waxing, facials, or massage treatments.
If you want to maintain your workout routine while on holiday, Oxford Performance Centre right on Taylor Square runs numerous PT classes a day, and night, tailored for cardio (HIIT) and weights (strength), with the team running specials for WorldPride visitors.
What about those of us without lifeguard bodies?
Really, you will find all body types at any of the beaches you visit. Large and small, young and old, and everyone’s out there enjoying themselves. Not everyone has a gym-fit body, and that’s great. It’s all about acceptance, feeling good, and being yourself.
Where do you take visitors for the best views in Sydney?
One thing that is a must-do for anyone’s first time in Sydney is to head up to the top of Westfield Tower (officially called the Sydney Tower Eye), the observation desk on top of the tallest building in the city. Unbeatable views over the city and the harbor, and a great place to have a sunset drink at Bar 83. You can soak in the sights and watch the lights come on as day turns into night.
You also need to walk through the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to get the ‘postcard’ shot at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, looking back at the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, right on the harbor’s edge.
If you want to get out on the water, the cheapest and best way is to jump on a ferry at Circular Quay and spend the day in Manly, Watson’s Bay, or across at Taronga Zoo.
What is one piece of advice you would give visitors to Sydney?
Book your event tickets now so you don’t miss out. Down Under Answers are Sydney experts and have tickets available to four key events but you must book before 30 November as part of a tour package.
Don’t plan anything too early the next morning [laughs]. Well, definitely not after any of the main parties! Otherwise, more generally, take the time to walk to and from places and absorb the atmosphere. There will be a real buzz with Sydney WorldPride on, particularly around Oxford St., where they have planned to close the street so the restaurants, bars, and festivities can spill out beyond the sidewalk. Between locals and visitors, everyone is there to have an amazing time, so don’t be afraid to let your guard down, go up to people, and strike up a conversation.
If you see me, come up and say hi. You will be surprised by how friendly and welcoming everyone is.
By the end of our trip, we’ll want to relax and see the beautiful countryside outside of the urban area. What do you recommend in New South Wales?
Take a day to explore the Blue Mountains, a great escape from the urban life of Sydney, and a place to switch off and relax. It’s a World Heritage-listed national park with bush walks and natural sites to see, with the main draw being the famous Three Sisters rock formation.
One of my favorite day trips is hiring a car and taking a drive up to Palm Beach, the northernmost headland of Sydney, where you can take a walk around the lighthouse and the harbor cove and enjoy a very tranquil and different beach experience. There are also great food options around there, and it feels like you’ve gotten away from the hustle and bustle of the city; it’s a great way to wind down.
Australia has developed a reputation for great winemaking.
It’s hard to avoid a good Australian wine. Only two hours north of Sydney is the main wine region known as the Hunter Valley. There are a lot of tours that take you to various wineries and cellar doors for taste testing. Take a day or two before or after Sydney WorldPride, as it’s a must-see (and drink).
See you in Sydney!
For booking information, visit Down Under Answers.