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Elton John is coming to Cairns Tropical Pride (and you so need to be there)

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It’s that wonderful time of year when Tropical North Queensland dials up the sunshine, busts out the rainbows and glitter and puts on the biggest and boldest LGBT+ spring fling in Queensland. The 11th annual Cairns Tropical Pride is here and you’re all invited!

This year’s festival, running from September 30 to October 8, is all about love, discovery, pride and harmony and has a lot of surprises in store, serving up something for everyone; from an international Grammy/Oscar/Tony-winning superstar, to an Australian Olympic gold medallist-turned-cabaret star and all sorts of fun, frocks and fruity cocktails in between.  

It can be hard to plan for a week-long festival. What’s the schedule? What do I need to pack? What will I wear? Well, don’t get your purse in a pickle, because I’ve got you covered!

Behold your action plan for Cairns Tropical Pride.  

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Dancing)

Cairns Tropical Pride

This year, I’ll be kickstarting the festival by getting my “Crocodile Rock” on with one of the world’s most fabulous and iconic LGBT+ artists and activists, Elton John! The living legend himself will be sashaying his way into Cairns for the very first time, bringing his ‘Once In A Lifetime’ tour to a sold-out crowd at Cazaly’s Stadium.

The concert on September 30 coincides with the start of Cairns Tropical Pride, proving that this year’s festival will be louder and prouder than ever before.

Cairns Tropical Pride officially kicks off with the ‘Out! After Elton’ party at Room 6 (the nightclub formerly known as Ribbons) at Hilton Cairns. You’ll find me kicking off the pluggers and hitting the dancefloor with some of Cairns’ finest drag queens like Claudia Izout, Ella Minatti or Delvine DeFilme.

Be sure to wear your most outrageous pair of Elton John-inspired sunglasses for prizes on the night.

Hangover Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Cairns Tropical Pride

By Sunday morning you might be a teensy bit fragile. When I drag my carcass out of bed I’ll be heading to the gay-owned and operated Paradiso Cafe on Abbott St to dive head first into a life-saving cup of coffee and their famous all-day Paradiso Breakfast to bring me back to life.

After chilling here, maybe flicking through the pages of the FNQ Magazine (local LGBT+ rag), I’ll head back out to have a low-key day exploring Cairns, probably making my way to the Cairns Lagoon for an afternoon swim but not before stopping for a photo op on The Esplanade with the country’s first regional city Rainbow Crossing.

Rainbow crossing | Everything you need to know about the LGBT Cairns Tropical Pride

Photo by Cairns Tropical Pride via FB

Later that evening, I’ll be ready for dinner and a show and luckily for me, Australia’s favourite out and proud Olympic Gold medallist (and one of my personal heroes and role models), Matthew Mitcham, will be bringing his ‘Twists and Turns’ cabaret act to COCA on Sunday night.

He’s been scoring nothing short of perfect 10/10 reviews for this autobiographical show and I’m so excited to finally see it, I could practically do an untucked double backflip with a half twist!

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Great Barrier Reef

I’ll be visiting Cairns for the week, so I’ll have to allow some time to see some of the beautiful blues on the Great Barrier Reef while I’m there. If you’re a first-timer to the reef or looking to try something different, see here for a selection of Great Barrier Reef tours.

I have two Tropical North Queensland bucket list items yet to tick off – a glamorous day trip to frolic around on Vlasoff Sand Cay followed by a few days on Fitzroy Island. There’s more to do on the island than just working on the Speedo tan so see here for a 48-hour guide to Fitzroy Island.

Back on the mainland, there are a few Cairns Tropical Pride events happening throughout the week, such as the Pride Picnic with Paddles and Pooches, The Divine Movie and DragFest extravaganza, Trivia night and Barefoot Bowls, so if you want to stick around and get involved in the festivities you’ll be able to find something happening on any given day.

Feel like exploring a little more? Try one of these day trips

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down

Turtle Cove Cairns

The main weekend of the Cairns Tropical Pride is here and it’s time to get back into party mode! On the Saturday, Turtle Cove Resort will host the Queer Spring Break (for the 18+ crowd) from 2-9pm.

If you haven’t booked a room at the LGBT+ only resort itself, don’t fret, there’s a shuttle running from Pullman Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns for $20pp return, departing at 1:30pm and returning at 9. Parking is limited at Turtle Cove Resort plus you’ll want to let your hair down and have a few bevvies so the shuttle is a no-brainer.

Turtle Cove sits on the shores of some of Tropical North Queensland’s most pristine beaches and is bordered by two rocky outcrops, meaning access to the 2km beach is only via the resort.

Cairns Tropical Pride

Free your inhibitions and let it all hang out on this unofficially private beach as clothing is optional. My only advice is to remember the SPF or things could get confusing when the resort puts on the afternoon Sausage Sizzle.

Later in the day, the MerQueens will premiere their ‘Synch or Swim’ show in the resort pool, serving you fishy unSynchronised swimming at its very best. As the sun goes down over the surrounding World Heritage-listed rainforest, there’ll be entertainment by local and guest DJs and drag queens, finishing up with a bonfire on the beach to keep the party going into the night.

Can You Feel The Love Today

Cairns Tropical Pride

The Cairns Tropical Pride comes to a close with the grand finale of the week – Pride Fair Day at the Tanks Arts Centre on Collins Avenue. Gates open at 10:30am with a stacked itinerary of things happening throughout the day.

One of my favourite parts of Pride Fair Day is the Drag Race Relay – a chance for you or anyone in the crowd to enter the relay to become a supermodel of the world! Relay checkpoints include applying your own lipstick, then dressing like a supermodel followed by channeling your inner Linda Evangelista (say that three times fast after a few cocktails) and strutting down the catwalk to the roaring applause of the crowd. It’s always a good laugh!

From here you can complete your mission to rule the world and head over to karaoke at the wedding expo. Note: You can’t go wrong with a daytime matinee rendition of “If I Could Turn Back Time” or “I Will Survive”.

Cairns Tropical Pride

The Dog Show is back in the Amphitheatre, kicking off at 3pm and this year sees the welcome return of best-dressed dog! If you’ve had a laugh at those memes of owners who look like their dogs, you won’t want to miss this event as you can expect to see matching (and outrageously fabulous) costumes.

Other Pride Fair Day must-do’s include the Marriage Equality Forum (which is sure to be heated this year), the Trans and Sister Girl forums, the Community Hero Awards, checking out the Tropical Gaze Art Exhibition and artists, browsing the Fair Day Stalls, having a butcher’s eye at the man candy at Wild Barra before dancing to some of the biggest gay anthems with the Fierce MegaDrag show which leads to the pop-up dance party just before the day comes to a close.

Are you making your Cairns Tropical Pride debut this year? Or a festival regular? Either way, everyone is welcome in this festival of love and inclusiveness, so don’t miss out on the fun!

Let us know your highlights of the week in the comments below and we’ll see you there with bells on!