Home each year to one of the world's premier GLBT events, Sydney Gay Mardi Gras (held in late February and early March in 2014), the stunningly situated Australian city of Sydney is a pleasure to visit anytime. Dozens of the city's best hotels, from chic international properties to cozy B&Bs, enthusiastically welcome gay travelers. Neighborhoods worth considering include the City Centre, which is closer to major attractions, and Darlinghurst, close to the gay bars and restaurants of Oxford Street. But also consider nearby Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Double Bay, and Paddington. Here are some of the best hotel options:
Oxford Street may be the traditional heart of gay Sydney, but it's in offbeat and artsy Newtown - an inner suburb just a few kilometers west of the city center - that you'll find one of the city's most diverse scenes, a mix of organic coffeehouses, stellar Asian restaurants, edgy boutiques, and mixed gay-straight clubs and hangouts. The Abbey is a cheap and basic backpackers hotel along Newtown's main drag, King Street - accommodations in this gay-friendly hostel range from multi-person dorm units for about the price of dinner at one of the nearby Thai or Indian restaurants to still reasonable-priced private and double rooms (all bathrooms are shared). If you're not going to be in your room much, this is a terrific bargain choice.
Arguably the best of the city's several members of the gay-friendly 8 Hotels Collection, a group of mid-priced to upscale boutique properties that also has locations in Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane, the Altamont is a great option if you're on a budget but still seeking a great location near Oxford Street gay bars (as well as King's Cross and Potts Point) and attractive rooms with private bathrooms and smart furnishings. Although it occupies a Georgian Colonial mansion, this pet-friendly hotel has a spare, modern look and a delightful rooftop garden. Years ago the hotel was a nightclub in which members of the Rolling Stones, among others, stayed.
The former Sullivans Hotel is an attractive, contemporary five-story hotel on Oxford Street in Paddington, just a 10-minute walk east of the main gay-bar district. The 64 rooms have tiny but well-equipped private bathrooms and simple, blond-wood furniture with the usual comforts - safes, phones, cable TV, and a/c. Garden rooms cost a bit extra but have free Wi-Fi and open onto a lovely little landscaped courtyard (it has a small pool). The hotel is still owned by the Sullivan family, and the staff is gracious and friendly. For proximity to gay nightlife and reasonable rates, it's a solid choice.
This gay-owned 1885 Victorian inn lies in the heart of bustling Surry Hills, just a few minutes' stroll southwest of Oxford Street's gay scene and close to a number of trendy shops and restaurants. There are four rooms, one with private bath, and all decorated elegantly with fine antiques and painted with warm colors. Though historic, the inn has been nicely updated, and rooms have flat-screen TVs with DVD players, hair dryers, clock radios, and free Wi-Fi. It's a great value, and the owners are a great resource of nightlife and dining recommendations. Note that breakfast is available, but not included in the rates
Like a pair of other hotels on this list, the Altamont and the Kirketon, the Diamant is a member of the gay-friendly 8 Hotels boutique lodging group. It's got a terrific location in King's Cross, close to Potts Point, Rushcutters Bay, and Darlinghurst gay nightlife - it's about a 20- to 30-minute walk from the Inner Harbour. The Diamant is one of the brand's most upscale properties, with chic, contemporary furnishings and a cool little wine bar called, aptly, Time to Vino, which also serves very good small-plates-driven food. Guests receive free passes to a nearby gym, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff provides full concierge services.
The ultra-chic, see-and-be-seen Establishment is just a few blocks south of The Rocks and Circular Quay, close to key attractions and some of the city's finest restaurants. The 31-room property is also run by the same team (the much-talked-about Merivale Group) that operates the nearby and very happening Est., Sushi E, and Mad Cow restaurants, and the trendy Ivy Bar and Ivy Lounge, which are hosts to a rocking pool party during Sydney Mardi Gay Mardi Gras. Merivale also operates other top-notch, gay-friendly hotels in the same neighborhood, the Grand Hotel and Wynyard Hotel. For Sydney socialites and hobnobbers, any of the Merivale properties are a great choice - the Establishment is particulary notable for its cushy digs.
Although it looks like a rather prosaic modern high-rise from the outside, and as Four Seasons hotels go, it's not especially a standout aesthetically, this is nonetheless a stellar luxury hotel when it comes to location (steps from the Rocks neighborhood and Circular Quay - many rooms overlook the Inner Harbour), outstanding service, and overall comfort. Guests are treated like royalty here, and the hotel also has one of the best spas in the city, the Spa at Four Seasons. And although rates are high, they're not quite as astronomical as some of the other high-end hotels in town, especially for a room facing the city center skyline (you pay a good bit more to look at the harbor or opera house).
Like the Altamont and the Diamant, which are also on this list, the Kirketon is part of the hip 8 Hotels boutique lodging brand. This intimate, upscale hotel is just three blocks north of the gay-bar action and cool restaurants along Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, and it's a short walk from several other excellent neighborhood eateries (Fish Face, Le Petit Creme). Rooms are sleek and spare, if a bit dark (especially some of the bathrooms), and the bar on the ground level is a fun spot to socialize (although also a source of noise that can carry into the rooms at times). The hotel is a good choice for its centrality and hip vibe.