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Sydney is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, and across most of Australia, the gay community has a high profile and lots of support services. There are plenty of gay and lesbian bars, and most Saturday nights see a privately operated gay dance party taking place in an inner-city warehouse somewhere. The cafes and pubs of Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, a short cab ride or long stroll from Sydney's downtown area, are the liveliest gay spots. The annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, culminating in a huge street parade and party in late February or early March, is a high point on the city's calendar.

In rural areas of Australia, you may still encounter a little conservative resistance to gays and lesbians, but Australians everywhere are generally open-minded. Noosa, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, is a favored destination for revelers after Mardi Gras, and a couple of resorts in north Queensland cater to gay and lesbian travelers. One of the best known is Turtle Cove Resort & Spa (tel. 1300/727 979 in Australia, or 07/4059 1800; www.turtlecove.com), on a private beach between Cairns and Port Douglas.

Some services you may find useful are the Gay & Lesbian Counselling and Community Service of NSW (tel. 02/8594 9596), which runs a national hotline (tel. 1800/184 527 in Australia). Its website, www.glccs.org.au, has contact information for each state. In Sydney, the Albion Street Centre (tel. 02/9332 9600 for administration; 1800/451 600 or 02/9332 9700 for the information line) is a HIV clinic and information service.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 954/630-1637 in the U.S.; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators. Gay & Lesbian Tourism Australia (www.galta.com.au) has listings of businesses in each state.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.