The Mardi Gras recovery plan you didn’t know you needed
There’s no denying the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the reigning queen of LGBT festivals in Australia, pulling in up to 300k party goers from around the world in a flurry of feathers and a sea of sequins. If you’ve been, you’d know it’s a huge weekend!
After what feels like an eternity of pre-party preparation (so that I can comfortably wear nothing but a pair of Budgy Smugglers and a tonne of glitter down Oxford Street in broad daylight), Mardi Gras weekend always seems to come and go quicker than you can say “marriage equality”. The non-stop weekend of partying leaves me absolutely shattered but still wanting just that little bit more.
Luckily, when I get back to Queensland, I can cool the turbo while keeping the party going with this four-step Mardi Gras recovery plan.
Step 1: Chill out at Turtle Cove Beach Resort
The first thing to do after Mardi Gras, is chill the F out for a few days, relax and maybe eat carbs for the first time in months. The best way to do that is get yourself on a direct flight from Sydney to Cairns and stay at the world’s #1 adults only LGBT-exclusive hotel, Turtle Cove Beach Resort.
By the time you land in Cairns, you’re probably gagging for a coffee, so when you first arrive, stop by the gay-owned and operated Paradiso Cafe in the CBD to pick up a roadie and your free copy of the FNQ Magazine for full listings on LGBT venues and events in the region, before heading up to Turtle Cove.
The resort is a little slice of gay heaven and is set on some of the most pristine and secluded beaches between Cairns and Port Douglas, looking out to the Great Barrier Reef, with the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest behind you. When you’re kicking back in a hammock between the palm trees with a fruity cocktail in hand, the ringing in your ears from the Mardi Gras after-party will fade away before you know it.
Oh, and just quietly, if you went through Mardi Gras feeling like the Speedo or nipple tassels you were wearing were actually too much clothing, Turtle Cove Beach Resort is nudey optional, so you can really let it all hang out if you want.
Step 2: Swap the VIP List for the World Heritage List
If it’s your first time to Tropical North Queensland, you might want to step outside the rainbow bubble (sounds scary, I know, but just for a little bit) and actually see some of the spectacular sights.
As your Mardi Gras hangover is probably still lingering like old trade that won’t take a hint, you might want to keep it to an easy day trip or two.
Whether you want an express pass to the Great Barrier Reef or a trek through the Daintree Rainforest, see here for 11 ways to explore two World Heritage-listed areas from Cairns.
Step 3: Get back on it in Brisbane
I chatted with Queensland’s most fabulous export and RuPaul’s Drag Race Royalty, Miss Courtney Act, and asked her how she likes to keep the party going after Mardi Gras. This is what she had to say:
“I love Big Gay Day! I headed up there after Mardi Gras last year and had a blast. Did a performance, hung out backstage with Pam Ann which is always a hoot and then took the party to Fluffy until it all turned into a tequila-infused blur.”
Did a performance? Gurrrrl! Don’t downplay it, you killed it on that stage last year!
After your cool-down week in Tropical North Queensland, get your butt down to Brisbane in time for the weekend, because on the first Sunday after every Mardi Gras, The Wickham Hotel transforms the block into the biggest street party in town for Brisbane’s Big Gay Day.
This is my favourite (and biggest *ahem* #sizequeen) LGBT event on the Quee(r)nsland calendar, not only because it’s always a massive day out and a whole lotta fun, with local and international DJs, drag queens and headlining superstars putting on a stellar show, but because a portion of the profits go back into the LGBTIQ community.
Over the 17 years since the Big Gay Day started, I’ve seen cracking performances by Kelly Rowland, Boy George, Crystal Waters and the original Supermodel of the World herself, RuPaul!
Oh, and by the way, Courtney… as a mile high cocktail waitress myself, I’d kill to hang out backstage with our poster girl Pam Ann!
Of course, no Big Gay Day (or any given Sunday for that matter) is complete without a pilgrimage to the holy mecca of gay Brisbane – Fluffy at Family Nightclub. If you’ve made it this far, you’re clearly in it for the long haul! Resident DJ Harry K will keep you dancing till the sun comes up at the official Big Gay Day After Party.
If you find yourself walking home on the Monday morning in the harsh light of day while everyone else is commuting to work, it’s not cute, but it is a sign you’ve had an unforgettably epic weekend so you should own it!
Step Four: Follow the Rainbow to the Sunshine Coast
Now, I might show my age by saying this, but back in my day (oh for real, shoot me now!), Noosa was an LGBT haven, especially in the weeks after Mardi Gras. The scene may have faded over the years but there is a push to bring the sparkle back to the Sunshine Coast and the Rainbow River Festival is a driving force in that movement.
So, if you’re still not ready to let the party stop, back it all up with the Rainbow River Festival at Noosa the weekend after Brisbane’s Big Gay Day. Start with Friday night cocktails and Drag Bingo, hosted by the hysterical drag queen named Melony Brests.
Join the rally on Saturday at Villa Noosa before spending the afternoon kicking back on one of the local beaches – my pick is the secluded Alexandria Bay, aka A-Bay, aka Gay Bay. Hike through the Noosa National Park past the aptly named Fairy Pools to get there. Be on the lookout for koalas, goannas and if you’re lucky, you might even see a cockatoo.
You’ll need a beverage or two after that big day so head back to Villa Noosa for drinks on Saturday night. On Sunday, go along to the free picnic by the Noosa River, then jump on board the Rainbow Party Boat for the official river festival party! This year’s theme is ‘Pink Flamingos’ so expect it to be camper than a Kylie Christmas album.
By now, you should be sufficiently partied out for the summer and ready to start letting yourself go for the winter months. But be warned, summer will be back toot sweet so make sure you’re ready to do it all again next year!
Psst… Courtney Act also had this to say:
“I remember going camping on Stradbroke Island with my family when I was a kid. It was so beautiful. Do people still do that?”
They sure do! So if you’re ready to get away from the scene altogether after the summer of festivities, see here for how to escape to North Stradbroke Island for a few days.