The LGBTIQ+ travel guide to Brisbane
Warm hospitality is what Queensland’s known for (well, besides pineapple on a burger) so it’s no surprise Brisbane has plenty of LGBTIQ+ inclusive venues, attractions and events to ensure you enjoy your stay. Here’s our LGBT travel guide to discovering Brisbane.
Whether you’ve come for a quick getaway or an extended stay, finding the perfect place to drop your bags is essential.
The Calile is one of the most beautifully designed hotels in town. You could easily spend your entire stay lounging by their pool and eating calamari off Hellenika’s poolside menu. But that would ignore the premium location right in the heart of the James Street precinct, known for its restaurants and high-end boutiques.
For somewhere a little quieter that still has great accessibility, Spicers Balfour offers bed and breakfast style accommodation from within a refurbished Queenslander in New Farm. Perfect for a quiet getaway and walking distance from both the Valley and the Wharves.
Qcottage offers accommodation especially for LGBTIQ+ travellers. Run out of a heritage-listed Queenslander on the city fringe, owners Duncan and Michael have created a warm, familial space where guests can feel right at home. It’s perfect if this is your first visit and you don’t know anyone in town.
Also in the heart of things is the Fantauzzo on Howard Smith Wharves. The six-storey hotel counts some of Brisbane’s finest restaurants and bars as its neighbours, and is walking distance to both the CBD and the epicentre of Brisbane’s nightlife, Fortitude Valley. The Fantauzzo offers a range of larger suites that’s perfect for families.
A morning spent fuelling in West End before wandering the Boundary Street strip is as good a welcome as any to the Queensland capital. Try West End Coffee House for breakfast with a Thai edge, and stop off at Alphabet Cafe to pick up a slice for the road.
For all other meals, Brisbane’s dining scene has you covered. Howard Smith Wharves is the kind of precinct where you can choose your own adventure. Dine fine at one of their lauded restaurants, or keep it low key and pull up a patch of grass with pizza and a jug from Felons (best enjoyed on with an uninterrupted view of the Story Bridge).
Fish Lane is the perfect entree for the south side. Starting here, you can feast on the gastronomical wonders of Gauge and ping pong your way up the laneway towards the bohemian bustle of West End.
If you’re planning a night out in the Valley, start at Honto. This all-black restaurant located out the back of local gay bar, the Wickham, and does some seriously nice upmarket Japanese, and is perfectly situated for a crawl up to cocktail lounges on Ann Street. Naturally, if you’re just chasing a quick bite, Ben’s Burgers in Winn Lane is right in the middle of the Valley action and grills some of the finest classic burgers in the state.
If this is your first night out in Brisbane, make sure you kick it off with a drink at the Sportsman Hotel. Sporties is the city’s only completely gay-owned and -operated bar and nightclub, serving the LGBTIQ+ community for over 30 years. It’s where you’ll find the warmest welcome and an instant foray into the local queer community.
West End is known for its inclusive bar culture and vibrant music scene. Check out Cobbler bar for some knee-weakening whisky cocktails, or head up to the other end of Boundary Street to visit BOSC. and The End, where craft brews flow and local DJs run the floor.
If your vibe is something closer to a medium chill, see out the day with a few glasses of wine at your nearest wine bar. Mr Chester is a firm local favourite, as is City Winery, where it’s not uncommon to find yourself resting your glass on an upturned barrel.
When it comes to getting down, the Valley is Brisbane’s partying hotspot. No LGBT travel guide to Brisbane would be complete without including The Beat Megaclub: a multi-floored gay club that thumps under the credo of ‘Party 365’, so it’s open every night of the week.
The local drag scene comes alive on Sunday nights. Come along to Fluffy at Cloudland and Sunday Gathos at the Stand to see a full suite of Brisbane’s emerging and established drag artists.
For grooving without the club remix, it’s all about Black Bear Lodge. Even though it’s located upstairs, it’s still considered the Brunswick Mall’s resident dive bar. Drop in and you might catch a set from a local or independent artist on tour.
Across the river from the city centre, South Bank is known as Brisbane’s cultural heart. By day, you can come and see the sights and latest exhibits rolling through the Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) – great for keeping the kids entertained – or catch a matinee at our performing arts centre QPAC.
At night, you can attend Up Late at QAGOMA. These events are like nighttime festivals full of food, drinks, and live entertainment to complement whatever exhibition is currently showing.
Another cultural hub, also on the river, is the Brisbane Powerhouse. Located on the other side of New Farm Park, the Powerhouse is a pitstop for the best comedic, dramatic, and musical acts on tour. It’s also where you’ll find a bevy of annual arts festivals, including the cabarets, dance parties, and pageants of MELT: Festival of Queer Arts + Culture, and the gravity-defying spectacles of Wonderland Festival.
Whatever brings you to Brisbane, whether business or leisure, it’s worth trying to time your visit to coincide with some of our annual events for the LGBTIQ+ community. Red-circled on the calendar has to be Big Gay Day at the Wickham. This mini-Mardi Gras is a local street festival that has been running for 20 years straight, with a bill featuring live music acts, street performers, and drag artists.
Other seasonal standouts include the Brisbane Queer Film Festival, showcasing the latest in queer cinema, and the Brisbane Pride Festival taking place every September. The festival inspires countless events across the city in the name of Pride. If you really want to go all out, book tickets to the Queens Ball.
Now that you’ve stocked up on culture, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Ignite your senses and add some fresh skills to your kitchen repertoire with a cooking class. Head up to Yandina and the Spirit House cooking school to take a class in contemporary Thai cuisine.
For something closer to town, handcraft some ceramic treasures at Mas and Miek Ceramic House. Run by a mum and daughter duo, the house is a bright space where aspiring potters can come to learn how to work the clay, and maybe spark a brand new passion.
Or you could always check out Brisbane Distillery and learn how to make your own gin from a selection of over 130 different botanicals. The classes are intimate, small groups ensuring you get the most out of the experience. Head over to their secret bar after the class to taste your handiwork mixed up into a cocktail.
Tucked in the south-east pocket of Queensland, Brisbane is bounded by hinterland and coastline that are perfect for day trips outside the smoke.
Being the sunny capital, we take cooling off pretty seriously. Whether that means getting amongst the surf at one of our local beaches, or paddling among the forest at a waterfall, there are plenty of places to choose from barely an hour’s drive from the CBD.