Skip to Content

Don't miss our latest posts. Subscribe now to our gay travel newsletter

Gay travel guide to Melbourne for first-timers

Stefan Arestis
Gay travel guide to Melbourne for first-timers

We dive into Melbourne's gay scene, spill the tea on the best gay hotspots, and share all our savvy tips and tricks so you can also have an unforgettable adventure in Australia's second city.

“Mullet, mustache, and terrific coffee!”

That summed up gay Melbourne for us!

Australia's second city and much-lauded rival to gay old Sydney. But unlike the Harbor City, Melbourne felt more European, cosmopolitan, and down-to-earth than her big Sydney sista. Melbourne is renowned for its highly-rated restaurants, world-class museums, captivating street art, and terrific coffee.

The gay scene in Melbourne is also a lot of fun. It's mainly centered around Gertrude and Smith Street, which also happens to be rated as THE coolest street in the world by CNN!

We visited Melbourne at the tail end of the Midsumma Festival in February, a spectacle that culminated in the Victoria Pride street party along the main gay roads, Gertrude Street, Smith Street, and Peel Street. Melbourne was also our start/end point for our Great Ocean Road journey, tracing the contours of Australia's picturesque southern coast.

Magical, marvelous, majestic Melbourne is a lot of fun. We only stayed here for 1 week but in that time we came to realize why so many a gay before us had also fallen in love with the city and subsequently moved here permanently to make it their hometown.

After all, the Queen herself, Ms. Kylie Minogue hails from Melbourne! Enough said…

Heads up: We just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links. That means if you book something through one of those links, we'll get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. It helps us keep our blog going – so thank you in advance for your support! ♥

Love is Love street art in Melbourne.

LGBTQ+ 3-Hour Private Walking Tour of Melbourne

You know we love a good walking tour, especially when it's led by an enthusiastic local who's just as keen on showing off their city as we are on exploring it. This isn't your typical stroll around town, oh no! Our fabulous guide didn't just showcase Melbourne's gay scene but also gave us a lesson in the city's queer history. It's like time-traveling with a glitter-filled history book!

This tour not only hits all the main landmarks but the guide spills the tea on the best cafes and restaurants to check out as well as the hottest gay bars for the most unforgettable parties

Don't just tour, sashay! …and let the Melbourne magic slay!

Find out more

1. Where is the gay neighborhood in Melbourne?

The primary gay hub in Melbourne is nestled within the vibrant neighborhoods of Fitzroy and Collingwood, divided by the bustling Smith Street. We've whimsically crowned the intersection of Smith Street and Gertrude Street as the pulsating heart and soul of gay Melbourne, just 'cause! There's no strict rule about it although this is where the rainbow crossing can be found.

The majority of the gay bars and clubs can be found in the Fitzroy / Collingwood gay bubble including The 86, The Peel Hotel, Beans Bar, Mollie's Bar, Evie's Bar, Sircuit, Peel Hotel, UBQ, and the Vau D’Vile Drag Cabaret Restaurant. And let's not leave out the Wet on Wellington gay sauna, tucked away in Collingwood for those seeking a different kind of heat!

South Yarra is another gay area of Melbourne located around 3.5 miles 5.5km south of Fitzroy where you can find gay parties like Emerson Sundays, and Poof Doof Melbourne. The Central Business District (CBD) also has a few gay hangouts like Rooftop Bar and HER. The Richmond neighborhood has the DT's Hotel – Melbourne’s oldest all-inclusive Queer Bar going strong since 1995.

St Kilda has a large LGBTQ community along with the Victorian Pride Centre. This impressive (and award-winning) space includes Australia's first and only LGBTQI+ community radio station: JOY 94.9. Middle Park Beach is a popular gay hang-out spot and is a short 5-minute Uber ride from St Kilda.

Stefan on the Smith and Gertrude Street rainbow crossing in the gay area of Melbourne.
The gay area of Melbourne is marked by the rainbow crossing at Gertrude and Smith Streets

2. Where is the best place to stay in Melbourne?

Most tourists will base themselves in and around the CBD (Central Business District) to be central and close to the main attractions. However, we advise against that. It's pricey and also characterless.

We opted to stay in an Airbnb close to the gay scene, a few minutes walk from Fitzroy. We were rewarded with lots of green space like Fitzroy Gardens – a notorious gay ‘beat' (the Australian slang word for ‘cruising'!) As well as being a residential neighborhood, Fitzroy also has numerous highly-rated restaurants and cafes.

…not to mention the fact that you'll be within walking distance of most of your Grindr dates!

Gay hotel recommendation: check out the men-only Laird Hotel in Collingwood! We also rate the QT brand. We stayed in a lot of their hotels during our gay trip to New Zealand. It's a trendy, hip brand that is also super gay friendly. The QT Melbourne was also starred in our East Australia Lonely Planet Guide.

Gay couple on the Melbourne rainbow crossing.
Sashaying along the Melbourne Rainbow Road we go…


Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.

3. What are the best gay bars and clubs in Melbourne?

There are many gay bars and clubs in Melbourne, particularly in Fitzroy, Collingwood, and South Yarra. Weekends are when they all come alive. Not a lot happens on weekdays, especially compared to the gay bars of Sydney. However, the Monday ADAM naked party at Sircuit gets pretty busy.

Our initiation into Melbourne's gay scene started at POOF DOOF in South Yarra. The gay night only takes place on Saturdays. We knew it from the Poof Doof in Sydney. Proudly billing itself as the largest queer party in Melbourne, POOF DOOF flaunts two distinct dance realms: the downstairs groove for house/techno enthusiasts and, my personal favorite, the upstairs realm for ‘Snack Crackle Pop' pop anthems, hip hop, and throwback classics. As a delightful bonus, POOF DOOF spices up the night with drag performances in the upstairs club.

For a more raunchy clubbing experience, check out the queer events taking place at Laundry Bar in Fitzroy. We went to the Barba party at Laundry during the Victoria Pride weekend, which was wild! A sea of hot topless guys and impressive drag shows. You can't go wrong with that!

Another gem to check out is DT's Hotel in Richmond on 164 Church Street. Not only is it Melbourne's oldest queer venue, it has a range of different events including gay Salsa night, drag night, stand-up comedy night, and karaoke.

Drag show performance at the Barba gay party hosted at the Laundry gay club of Melbourne.
Drag show at the Barba gay party at Laundry Club

Sircuit Bar in Fitzroy doubles up as a bar and dance venue. It has drag shows, GoGo dancers, live DJs, and many special weekly events. The most popular is the Monday night ADAM underwear/Speedo party, which quickly transforms into a nude party.

Nestled in Collingwood, the Laird Hotel isn't just a gay hotel but also an iconic gay bar in Melbourne. It is the epicenter for the city's rubber, leather, and bear community, hosting themed nights like Thursday's Spit and Polish, a monthly underwear party, the weekly Saturday Beat Bear party, and the Sunday Social BBQ.

In Australia, we noticed that quite a lot of venues close early, however, there are a handful that have a late license allowing the party to stretch into the early hours. When we visited, the main gay after-hours club in Melbourne we discovered was The Peel Hotel in Collingwood.

Other noteworthy gay bars and clubs in Melbourne include:

Two men in sailor outfits waving Australian and rainbow flags at a parade.

Gay Australia Tour: Summer Down Under + Mardi Gras

Swim trunks and party pants are in order for this fabulous Australia tour. Slather on your highest SPF and get ready for this ripper adventure during ‘Straya’s summer season (North America’s winter).

This Australia gay tour begins in Melbourne and then heads to the fertile Yarra Valley to sip New World Wines. Next up to the bush and beach lining the heritage-listed Great Ocean Road. Then it’s off to temperate Tassie (or Tasmania to the rest of us muggles). Finally, this sunny sojourn culminates in splashy Sydney for Mardi Gras.

Find out more

4. Get steamy and hot at the Wet On Wellington Melbourne gay sauna

Wet on Wellington is the main gay sauna of Melbourne. Downstairs you'll find a large pool area, sauna, steam room, and enticingly cruisy showers. There is also a lively bar space and a rooftop oasis for smokers and social butterflies. Upstairs you'll find a generous cruising area with private cabins, dark rooms, cinema rooms, and a delightful room boasting a glorious sling for playful encounters.

Our heads up is to check out the Events section on the Wet On Wellington website. The most popular is the February Pool Party during the Victoria Pride Festival. However, make sure you book tickets well in advance as it always sells out.

One more thing to keep in mind: Wet On Wellington operates on a cash-only basis, so plan ahead and hit an ATM before your visit. While they do have an ATM on-site just before payment, it charges a fee for cash withdrawals.

Pool Party at the Wet on Wellington gay sauna in Melbourne.
Pool Party at Wet On Wellington during the Victoria Pride Festival

5. Do not miss the Midsumma Festival and Victoria Pride!

While Sydney has Mardi Gras, Melbourne takes center stage with the vibrant two-week celebration known as the Midsumma Festival, lighting up the city every February/March. To avoid any overlap, Midsumma typically usually wraps up the week before Mardi Gras kicks off.

Midsumma is a kaleidoscope of diverse cultural, community, and sporting events, featuring highlights like the Midsumma Carnival at Alexandra Gardens and the Midsumma Pride March in St Kilda (also known as Melbourne Pride, Victoria Pride, or St Kilda's Pride March).

The festival crescendos with a weekend of legendary parties hosted by the city's main gay bars, including the renowned Wet On Wellington, which throws a must-attend pool party (as mentioned above). The grand finale unfolds on the last Sunday with the Victoria Street Party, turning the main gay roads in and around Smith Street into a massive gay street celebration.

A word of advice from us: don't forget the sunblock! Melbourne's sun packs a punch this time of year, and we learned that lesson the hard way with some unexpected sunburn.

Midsumma Festival Victoria Pride street party gay couple Stef and Seby kiss
A stolen kiss at the Victoria Pride gay street party

6. Are there any gay beaches in Melbourne?

There aren't any official gay beaches in Melbourne especially when compared to the gay beaches of Sydney. There are a few nude beaches located outside of the city that are popular with gay guys, but in the city itself, there are none.

St Kilda Beach is the closest beach to the city, around over 5 miles (8km) south of Fitzroy. It takes around 20 minutes to reach it by Uber (longer with traffic). As the closest beach to the city, it will inevitably draw a sizeable LGBTQ crowd on weekends, but mixed in with local families, so don't come here expecting many cruising adventures. However, the boardwalk that starts at St Kilda Beach makes for a romantic walk and goes on for miles: look out for the resident penguins that nest in the rocks by the pier.

Further afield there are a couple of nude gay beaches that get pretty popular with the Melbourne gays:

  • Sunny Side Beach: is the closest you're going to get to a gay nude beach in Melbourne. However, it is located in a bay (Port Philip Bay) rather than the open ocean so the water can get pretty murky. The cruisiest spot is by the rocks at the Mt Eliza end of the beach. It is located around 37 miles (60km) south of Melbourne and is best reached by car (around one-hour drive).
  • Point Impossible: is another clothing-optional beach, located around 68 miles (110km) southwest of Melbourne. It's a handy stopover if you're doing the Great Ocean Road Trip (see below). By car, it takes around 1.5 hours.
  • Point Addis: another gay beach close to Melbourne with plenty of cruising fun in the bush area! It is close to Point Impossible but also requires a car to reach it (around a 1.5-hour drive).
Gay couple at the Addis Point gay beach of Melbourne.
We see you…cruising in those bushes 🙂

7. What's the beef between gay Sydney and gay Melbourne?!

Two queens stand before me… Ladies, this is your last chance to impress me and save yourself from elimination. The time has come for you to lip-sync for your life. Good luck and don't f*** it up…

That's right, Sydney versus Melbourne is a real thing!

Among our Melbourne gay friends, Sydneysiders are regarded as being full of attitude, obsessed with image, and being beach body perfect. On the flip side, our Sydney gay friends perceive Melburnians as pretentious hipster coffee snobs with a bone to pick. However, when you throw the two groups into a room together, they mesh like a house on fire…until you casually inquire, “So guys, which city is better and why?”…Go on we dare you. It's cheeky but immensely entertaining!

There is some truth in these stereotypes. Sydney has impeccable beaches on its doorstep with almost year-round beautiful weather, which naturally lends itself to an outdoor-centric lifestyle. Melbourne on the other hand grapples with less-than-stellar weather, and while it does boast a few gay beaches (see above), they're not as accessible. Melbourne's diversity shines with a larger immigrant community from various parts of Asia and sizable European communities, including Greeks and Italians.

But let's not forget Melbourne's trump card: terrific coffee, which brings us to the next point…

Gay couple posing in front of colorful Melbourne street art.
Sydney versus Melbourne…who wins?

8. Try the famous coffee of Melbourne

Ask anyone in Australia and they'll proudly declare that Melbourne is the epitome of coffee excellence. Even Forbes rates Melbourne as the best city in the world for coffee…hence the good-natured ‘coffee snobs' banter by our Sydney friends. Personally, this suits me to a tee. As a proud coffee snob, I can personally attest that never a bad brew did I have in Melbourne!

Melbourne's affinity for good coffee owes much to its post-World War II European immigrants, particularly from Italy and Greece. They brought with them a rich coffee culture, passing down the art to subsequent generations.

What's our recommendation for a good cafe in Melbourne?

To be honest, just pick anyone. You can't go wrong. Every place we went in Melbourne for coffee (with almond croissant or carrot cake accompaniment) was excellent. To give you an idea:

  • Never once did I need to inquire about the use of fresh milk, unlike many cafes around the world I've been to that use yucky powdered milk!
  • The quality of the beans was always top-notch, rich, and bursting with flavor. Not once did I need to ask if they were using instant coffee instead of coffee beans like many places I've been on my travels.
  • The milk-to-coffee ratio was meticulously measured, avoiding the common pitfall I've experienced in various places (yes, even in Sydney!), where a request for a cappuccino often resulted in something more akin to a lackluster coffee-flavored milkshake.

Melburians just know how to make a decent cup of coffee. This coffee snob was living his best life here!

Stefan drinking delicious coffee in Melbourne.
A very happy coffee snob Stefan in Melbourne!

9. Dedicate a morning at the National Gallery of Victoria

We're all about gay travel and focus a lot on the gay scene on our blog posts mainly because we always strive to seek out and support queer-friendly spaces. However, we love the arts just as much and always visit the city's top museums.

I'll be honest though. Between the two of us, I'm the one with a more limited appreciation for art, mainly because I have a low attention span and my knowledge of the arts is not as rich as Seby's. Therefore our museum visits tend to be limited to an hour, most of that time taken up by my investigating the museum cafe…they're always the best!

So when I say the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is bloody good, then you know you're on to a winner!

We both agreed it was one of the most engrossing art museums we've ever been. We visited during the Triennal Exhibition, which left us in awe. A lot of it comes down to how the art is presented. Whereas other famous museums we've visited the art is clustered together in one room that you don't quite know where to focus your eyeline. At the NGV they clearly pay a lot of attention to the way the art is presented in each room, so it doesn't feel clustered or inaccessible and instead sucks you in, making you want to see more.

The NGV building itself is also impressive. Look out for the colossal ‘thumbs up' statue by the entrance and the remarkable running water installation by the entrance.

Seby posing by art work in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
Beautiful art with a handsome Frenchman…what more can one possibly want in life, eh?!

10. The foodie haven that is Melbourne!

Just like its coffee, Melbourne sets the bar high when it comes to its foodie scene. Every meal was a delight!

The city's unique fusion cuisine is a testament to the diversity and rich tapestry of immigrants hailing from all corners of the globe. Melbourne's culinary scene benefits from a coastal stretch offering fresh fish and seafood on one end and a countryside dotted with flourishing farms on the other.

Our culinary adventures led us to the delectable seafood at the Builders Arms Hotel and the mouthwatering chicken parmi at the Gertrude Hotel.

Our local gay Melburnian friends also recommended Lucy Liu (for Modern Asian), Supernormal (for Modern Asian), Stalactites (Greek), and Gimlet at Cavendish House (Modern European).

Gay couple eating dinner at the Builders Arms restaurant in Melbourne.
A perfect meal at the Builders Arms Hotel

11. Discover the famous street art of Melbourne

Melbourne's street art has achieved global acclaim renowned for its unparalleled diversity and originality. Adorning the grand colonial-era walls and weaving through a labyrinth of back alleys, this art form emerged as a hardcore underground movement in Melbourne in 1983, inspired by the New York break-dancing craze.

One of the most iconic locations to immerse yourself in Melbourne's street art is the cobblestone pathway of Hosier Lane in the CBD. Though be prepared to navigate through the weekend crowd of Instagram models. Just around the corner lies Rutledge Lane, equally famed for its street art walking tours.

For those seeking a vibrant explosion of color and thought-provoking political and countercultural messages, our top pick is ACDC Lane, also nestled in the CBD. This graffiti-laden haven pays tribute to the legendary Australian hard rock band AC/DC (and yes, like you, we were surprised to learn they're Australian).

Beautiful street art mural in Melbourne.
One of the many impressive street art murals in Melbourne

12. Admire the Melbourne skyline at the Eureka Skydeck

Reaching a majestic height of 975 feet (297.3 meters), Eureka Tower proudly stands as Melbourne's second tallest building (with Australia 108 taking the title at 1,040 ft / 316.7m). The 88th floor of Eureka Tower has been transformed into a 360-degree viewing platform known as the Melbourne Skydeck, inviting visitors to stroll around and absorb the panoramic city skyline.

During our visit on a scorching summer day in mid-February, Melbourne surprised us with an unexpected twist— a dramatic summer storm unfolded as we ascended the viewing platform. It was truly spectacular witnessing the swift passage of clouds and impending rainstorms across the city, only to vanish as the sun reclaimed the sky. A unique moment etched in our memories.

General admission to the Skydeck is priced at $28 when purchased online, or $34 for on-site purchases at the ticketing office. Additionally, the Skydeck offers a variety of VR experiences, including the thrilling Plank Experience. Check their website for more details.

Cute gay couple selfie at the viewing platform of the Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne.
Stefan and Seby with the skyline view behind us taken at the Eureka Skydeck

13. Plan a road trip to the Great Ocean Road

Driving along the Great Ocean Road (B100)has always been a childhood dream of Seby's, so after a week in Melbourne, we decided to dedicate several days to this breathtaking road trip.

Starting our journey in Melbourne, we picked up our car rental and headed west. The highlight of most Great Ocean Road adventures is the awe-inspiring 12 Apostles limestone formations in the Port Campbell National Park. Therefore, we chose to make this iconic landmark our base, booking a delightful 2-night stay at the charming and incredibly romantic Daysy Hill Country Cottages in Port Campbell.

The drive from Melbourne to Port Campbell takes around 3 hours. It took us the entire day because we stopped numerous times to take photos and do mini treks. We also left on a day when Taylor Swift was performing in Melbourne causing crazy traffic jams!

Road sign of a kangaroo on the Great Ocean Road.
Only in Australia…!

The first hour of our drive from Melbourne to Geelong was uneventful. Whilst we didn't stop at Geelong, we recommend checking it out. It is the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula where you'll encounter quaint seaside towns like Queenscliff and surfer-friendly beaches. Wine enthusiasts will find over 50 wineries, specializing in pinot noir, chardonnay, and shiraz. Standout wineries for tasting recommended to us include Jack Rabbit, Scotchmans Hill, and Bennetts on Bellarine.

Other noteworthy stopovers beyond Geelong before reaching Port Campbell include Anglesea for its striking towering orange cliffs, Aireys Inlet for the historic Split Point Lighthouse, and Cape Otway for its shady rainforest and wildlife…koala spotting is a must!

We made Port Campbell our base because it's a few minutes' drive to the impressive Twelve Apostles and other captivating rock formations. These include the Bay of Islands, London Bridge, Gibson Steps (and the beach it leads to), Loch and Gorge, and The Grotto.

Our advice: once at Port Campbell, spend a day exploring all the different rock formations, but reserve Twelve Apostles for the golden hues of sunset. It creates a stunning backdrop adding a touch of romance to an already spectacular experience!

The impressive Twelve Apostles at sunset.
Nothing beats golden hour at The Twelve Apostles

For more inspiration:

Stefan posing on the ACDC Lane street art road in Melbourne.
Stefan blending with the iconic street art on ACDC Lane
Stefan Arestis

Hey everyone, I'm Stefan, the curly-haired Greek flavor behind the gay travel blog Nomadic Boys. Together with my other half, I have explored more than 90 countries across 5 continents. What I love most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, learning new cultures. I've written about LGBTQ travel in numerous online publications such as Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times and Pink News as well as for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Check my full bio here.