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They said yes! After spending years debating same-sex marriage, the Australian government finally put the issue to a popular vote. On November 14 the results came in with an astounding 61% voting in favor of marriage equality. It was a victory long overdue for a country that had already been rolling out the pink carpet to queer travelers for decades in the form of fabulous cities, beaches and all-night bashes (we’re looking at you Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras!). If you’re looking to have a gay old time Down Under, here’s exactly where you need to go.

RELATED: 7 trips every gay guy should take with his best gal pal

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney
An undisputed gay mecca, there’s actually a lot more to queer Sydney than Bondi’s beach boys and all nighters on Oxford Street. Go underground (literally) at subterranean queer hangout Tokyo Sing Sing in Newtown, find your own slice of sandy heaven at Little Congwong Beach and if you can’t day trip your gay booty all the way out to the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley, at least take the ferry to Manly Beach for a day of irresistible girl and guy candy.

Whitehaven Beach and hill inlet in the Whitsundays, Queensland Australia.

The Whitsundays
Uninhabited tropical islands, swirls of ocean blues and whites and the perfect bikini tan even if you aren’t seeking one. This is life in the Whitsundays, a collection of 74 islands teeming with marine life, national parks and adventure activities galore. But really the only way to properly do them is grab a crew of your best mates, board a sailboat and drift away from the mainland for several days—or several weeks if you’re boss will allow it.

Cape Byron lighthouse is at the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.

Byron Bay
Hippie chic isn’t the sole domain of Malibu or Bali. Aussies have their own funky paradise where they come to surf, practice yoga, supper on raw foods and rave until dawn. Its lighthouse stands at the continent’s easternmost point and worth visiting, but we say check in to a queer guesthouse and check out gay and clothing optional King’s Beach or time your visit to coincide with Tropical Fruits, a queer group that hosts regional parties throughout the year.

Brighton Beach, Melbourne, at dusk.

Melbourne
Forget about Sydney, the heart and soul of Australia is artsy and elegant Melbourne. No, seriously. A visit hardly guarantees a beach holiday, but this is Kylie territory (the Aussie diva was born and raised here) and queerness abounds in irresistible neighborhoods like South Yarra, Prahran, beachy St. Kilda and boho Fitzroy. Midsumma Festival will celebrate 30 years of queerness in January, while Pride happens in March, but really it’s gay here year round.

The Red Desert in the North Territory, Uluru

The Red Desert in the North Territory, Uluru

Uluru
A bucket list destination that attaches no labels to it, Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) sits smack in Australia’s vast and untrampled mid-section. Sacred to the Anangu people and Instagrammed by global nomads hearty enough to make the trek (the nearest sizable town is Alice Springs which is six hours away by car), Uluru nevertheless enchants with its vast size, stark beauty and irresistible red glow. They very opposite of rowdy Sydney, this is contemplative Australia at its best.

ALSO: Earn instant rewards toward hotels Down Under, only with Orbitz Rewards!

Perth Western Australia just after sunset with the moon in the sky.

Perth/Fremantle
It’s a long way to Perth—one of the most remote cities on earth—, but once you arrive it might be hard to yank you away. The sunniest city in Australia boasts roughly 35 more bright days annually than Sydney so naturally gay beaches like North Swanbourne and Warnbro are a must. The nightlife scene is small, but bumping and there’s a ton to do around town. Don’t miss a stroll along High Street in Fremantle or a day trip to picturesque Rottnest Island.

View from airplane over Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef
Above the surface the eye is greeted with vast ocean expanse punctuated only by the occasional sandy cay. But dunk your head underwater and you’ll be greeted with miles of rainbow-colored coral, millions of fish of every shape, size and color imaginable and creatures great and small including centenarian sea turtles, giant clams the size of a bathtub, majestic manta rays and so much more. But be good to these sea creatures, the reef is mighty endangered.

View of skyscrapers from Kangaroo Point in Brisbane.

Brisbane
Upbeat, sunny and optimistic as cities come, Brisbane is the Aussie counterpart to San Diego—perfectly sized and with a no drama attitude. Like other mid-size cities in Oz the gay scene is modest, but beyond a handful of queer bars there’s boat tours along the Brisbane River, animal encounters at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and activities galore an hour south in the Gold Coast—a region filled with beaches, theme parks and kitschy attractions galore.

Aerial view of the Great Ocean Road with Gog and Magog rock formations.

Aerial view of the Great Ocean Road with Gog and Magog rock formations.

The Great Ocean Road
Every country has its iconic road journey (think Route 66 in the USA and Germany’s Romantic Road), and the indisputable king of Aussie highway adventures (although some might beg to differ) is surely this 151-mile twisty and bendy thrill ride which begins about an hour south of Melbourne and loops in iconic scenery (like the 12 Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks that are now down to 8), coastal inns and charming small towns along the way.

Top of Mt.Wellington in Hobart city, Tasmania island, Australia.

Tasmania
“Tassie,” as its affectionately referred to, was long considered a backwater compared to its mainland counterparts. But the island is a happening place these days; its residents even gave the YES campaign an impressive 63.6% vote. The port city of Hobart is a charmer (although gay nightlife is admittedly sparse) while outside the capital the island boasts nature-oriented jaw droppers like Wineglass Bay, the Bay of Fires and an ebullient wine country.

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Tagged: Australia

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.

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