Sydney Mardi Gras 2021: Here's how to celebrate on Sydney Harbour.

By Adam Bub | Posted 18 February, 2021

One of the biggest highlights of the Sydney festival calendar is undoubtedly the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Personally it's been a part of my life since I first attended the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade with friends when I was 16. I’m now somewhere in my 30s (ha) and still look forward to those weeks in February and early March when Sydney comes alive with culture, pride and diversity celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and friends.

This year, we get to have the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras all to ourselves. In a perfect non-COVID world, we'd have thousands of international visitors flocking to Sydney for the festivities. So, we're lucky to have the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival going ahead with a huge roster of events from
Friday February 19 to Sunday March 7, 2021 (see the full festival guide here).

If you're anything like me, you’ll want to take full advantage of the festive spirit and plan a few occasions of your own with your closest mates. With the backdrop of Sydney Harbour at our disposal, you can't go wrong with these boating ideas this Mardi Gras.

Have a daytime kiki from beach to bay.

So you’re hiring a boat for the day and the captain asks where you want to go? Sydney has a bunch of LGBT-friendly beaches worth checking out, from popular spots like Redleaf Beach and Milk Beach to the more private, nudist-friendly beaches like Obelisk, Little Congwong and Lady Jane Beach (also known as Lady Bay Beach).

But let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re with the best crowd. Grab a couple of friends, bring some delicious food platters and bottles of champagne (or book a food and drinks package in advance), pick a chillout house Spotify playlist to play on the boat’s BlueTooth speakers and jump on an inflatable unicorn – and your day is made (this writer knows from experience).

Can’t make the parade? Hold your own 'float'.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade will be different this year. Instead of being in the streets, it'll be a sit-down stadium spectacular at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday, March 6.

If you haven't been able to get a ticket to the parade or just want to do something special with a close group of friends, why not hire a boat on the harbour for your own celebration?

Dress up (or down, your choice), pop the champers and watch the live broadcast of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on SBS from 6pm (AEDT) from your own ‘float’ space. Yep, there are some pretty impressive yachts you can hire with their own big screens - check out Element, Ghost II and Mohasuwei for some inspiration.

All of these boats have bars on board, so you can stock with your own drinks or order a food or drinks package in advance, with crew to serve you and your friends. No waiting in line for drinks… phew.

This year, the live broadcast of the parade will be hosted by Courtney Act, Joel Creasey, Narelda Jacobs and Zoë Coombs Marr, with performances, interviews, celebrity guests and more than 100 floats with costumes, puppetry, props and protest. UK pop star Rita Ora will be one of the parade's key performers.

Busy on Mardi Gras night? You might want to hire a boat for a cruisy Sunday session afterwards.

Pre-drinks on the harbour, theatre, film and talks at night.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago Sydney couldn’t hold events due to COVID restrictions. Thankfully, the Sydney Mardi Gras has a wide range of events including Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival, Queer Thinking, After Dark at the Hyde Park Barracks, and An Evening with 500 Queer Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

For performing arts, there’s Beautiful Thing at Newtown’s New Theatre, The Pass at Seymour Centre, and a first-time-ever event called In Bed @ Home. Home Nightclub in Darling Harbour will be converted into a giant ‘slumber party’ with Queen-sized beds for guests to enjoy during an immersive night of live cabaret, comedy and burlesque shows.

Want to make a day of it? Pick what you’re keen to attend from the festival guide, and make a full day of it with champagne drinks on your own private boat.

Fly the rainbow flag high, and we’ll see you on the water.