Melbourne as a Gay Destination
Similar to it's slightly more brash, glitzy northern cousin, Melbourne has a strong gay community but without all the superfluous Sydney sequins. The scene is friendly and readily welcomes interstate and international visitors.
One of the big reasons to visit Melbourne is the city's cultural credentials. For live theatrical performances make sure you check out what's on offer at the Melbourne Theatre Company, the city's foremost performing arts company that produces a mix of traditional and contemporary plays. For innovative theatre head to the La Mama Theatre or the Malthouse Theatre. At any one time, the city will most likely be hosting big blockbuster musicals at the Regent Theatre and Her Majesty's Theatre. There are also opera and ballet performances in repertory. Additionally, the Southbank precinct is known as the artistic heart of the city, so be sure to explore the collection at the National Gallery of Victoria or enjoy at intimate concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Melbourne boasts two main gay districts. In the north, suburbs such as Abbotsford, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Brunswick have a strong gay representation. Lesbians will appreciate Libation. On the other hand, boys will enjoy the Laird Hotel and the always friendly Peel Hotel.
The other main precinct is south of the Yarra River and includes suburbs such as Prahran, South Yarra and Richmond. Commercial Road is the traditional heart of the south side gay district, located not far from the mainstream entertainment hot spot of Chapel Road. In recent years the two main fixtures of the scene - Xchange and the Market Hotel have closed. This is a reflection of the trend that Melbourne is a welcoming destination to everyone and mainstream bars welcome a diverse clientele.
The hotels located within Melbourne's central business district all appreciate diversity. Therefore gay and lesbian visitors will treated with the same welcoming smile as heterosexual counterparts. For travellers who'd like to be in the thick of the action, consider staying in South Yarra or Prahran, to the south-east of the CBD.
Held annually in January, Midsumma is Melbourne's celebration of queer diversity. Beginning in 1988, the arts and cultural festival has grown in size so that events are now held in over 70 different venues around the city - attracting over 80,000 people. This is one of the major events on Melbourne's calendar, identified globally as one the most significant gay and lesbian cultural festivals.
The festival opens with Carnival, a celebration of diversity held in a central Melbourne park, where the entertainment is focused on a main stage and stalls are manned by community groups. Over the three weeks of the festival there are typically art exhibitions, musical performances, theatrical presentations, live bands, dance parties and sporting events. There's also a pride march along St Kilda's Fitzroy Street.
Melbourne Queer Film Festival
Australia's oldest queer film festival, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival was first established in 1991 and is now held over several weeks in March. Since humble beginnings, the festival is now one of the Southern Hemisphere's largest queer film festival with over 220,000 people attending the film presentations. Most films are shown at the ACMI Cinemas in Federation Square, with additional films screened at the Greater Union in Russell Street.
Photography courtesy of Midsumma. The photographers are Benjamin Ashe and Helen Rea.