So, you’re looking for the best party destinations in Australia, eh? The good news is that the Land Down Under really does know how to let loose. From east coast to west coast, there are stacks of cities and surf towns that offer no-holes-barred nightlife for all sorts of hedonists.
Yep, from the rambunctious backpacker quarters of Sydney to the hipster areas of Melbourne, all the way to the wave-bashed beaches of the Gold Coast and beyond, there are oodles of destinations primed for the nightlife lovers in the home of BBQ shrimp and South Hemisphere surf culture.
This guide to the best party destinations in Australia will focus in on what we consider to be seven of the most happening of the lot. It’s got towns suited to jet-setters looking for stylo cocktail lounges by the Tasman Sea. It’s got metropolises that pack in more rock bars and sports pubs than you can shake an AFL jersey at. Let’s get started…
No list of the best party destinations in Australia could possibly miss out on Melbourne. Even bias folks that hail from up in the Northern Territories admit that the capital of Victoria state is the country’s most hedonistic hotspot. It’s just got something for everyone. Chic clubs that serve highballs? Check. Gritty rock bars? Check. Salt-washed ocean bars? Check.
Let’s take it neighborhood by neighborhood. Starting the ball rolling is the edgy district of St Kilda. This is like Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s Bondi (see below). Head there to sample fine Aussie wines at Dog’s Bar or glug craft Antipodean ales at the Dick Whittington Tavern. Beach lovers might prefer Republica, an open-air events space where the beers flow until past 11pm.
Back in the heart of Melbourne, the CBD has perhaps the most stylo venues of the bunch. The Toff is a neon-hued retro throwback to the 30s that’s cool as. Tramp Bar is a roughed-up live music dive that draws in big DJs and jazz trios alike. Nearby, between Smith Street and the Melbourne Gardens, you get Fitzroy’s endless pubs and drinking holes, capped off by the hipster haunts of next-door Collingwood. There’s loads and loads and loads!
The name of Bondi is synonymous with Aussie surf culture. In fact, that very name, which is thought to have originated from the Aboriginal word “boondi,” meaning “waves breaking on the shoreline,” literally means surf. It’s very much a salt-in-the-hair, wax-under-the-fingers, tanned-face place to be; good vibes, good swell, happy people.
But Bondi has also emerged as Australia’s backpacker enclave extraordinaire. Less than 30 minutes outside of the Sydney CBD, it’s home to oodles of hostels, posh-tels, and surf schools. Naturally, there’s a nightlife scene to match all that. Come to find everything from edgy speakeasies with retro vibes to rambunctious nightclubs that party past midnight.
Start while the sun is shining with a few cold ones at the Icebergs Club. It claims to be the only licensed swimming club in the world. True or not, it’s a corker of a spot for brews right by the roaring Bondi waves. Later on, make time for masterfully mixed tequilas at Don Pedros or negronis on ice at Rosenbaum & Fuller. For music, be sure to sample the late-night jazz at The Eastern.
We’ve already cased out the surfer hangouts of Sydney’s eastern beaches by dropping in on the nightlife of Bondi Beach. But there’s more in this sprawling city, and it comes in the form of the CBD and inner town districts, which have oodles in the way of vintage pubs and clubs for those looking to smash the beers in Oz.
The Rocks takes center stage for fly-in backpackers on a mission. George Street has old-school taverns that hearken back to the 1800s and serve cold craft beers. From there, it’s an easy hop to Darling Harbour, where waterside clubs and rooftop venues abound, some of which offer views across the skyline of the NSW capital.
Locals will probably point you in the direction of more secret boroughs. There’s Surry Hills, where hip drinking holes serve barista coffees and independent brews. There’s Kings Cross, which has umpteen pubs stringing up Darlinghurst Road. You’ll love it!
The Gold Coast is a region but it’s also a city. Sat smack dab on the New South Wales-Queensland border, the town rises like a UFO from the edge of the QLD coast. It’s all steel-clad skyscrapers and great shards of glass, as if someone went and dropped a segment of New York on the side of the Tasman Sea.
Goldie, as it’s affectionately known to its regular returnee visitors, was actually developed as an R&R getaway. The promise? Sun, sand, sea, surf, and – you guessed it – pretty wild nightlife. The heart of the action is the oddly named Surfers Paradise beach area. It doesn’t have the best waves in eastern Oz by a long shot. What it does have is nightclubs, endless sports bars, and drinking holes to suit every taste.
The Pink Flamingo Spiegelclub is right there in the mix. It’s been making waves in recent years as one of Australia’s premier cabaret clubs. The Lost Kingdom is also worth a mention – think a Tiki-themed dance hall with jungle-style cocktails. To make the most of it in these parts, check out the Wicked Nightlife tour, which hops several of the most iconic bars in town and includes bouts of beer pong along the way.
Oh, Byron Bay – a mere mention of this surf town at the top end of the New South Wales coast is usually enough to get Aussies of all stripes dreaming of days in the sun and nights on the beers. There are few places in the country that have the charm of this one, and it’s lately been a haunt of jet-setters, A-listers, and celebs to boot.
If you can forget the purring Porsches and Lambos whizzing up and down Shirley Street then there’s a chance you’ll feel the pulse of old Byron. That’s the Byron that pulled in the hippies and the surfers. It’s the Byron of beer-sloshing hostel bars and ramshackle pubs.
All that’s still there but it’s now topped off by a cluster of pretty slick establishments. Head to The Brewery on Skinners to see what we mean. It’s craft Aussie ales but done with real pizzazz. Woody’s Surf Shack is close by, offering retro surf-skate stuff and irresistible happy hours. For cricket and footie showdowns, don’t skip out on The Sticky Wicket.
Just look at where Cairns is on the map: Closer to Papua New Guinea than to New South Wales. Yep, this QLD city is firmly within Australia’s hottest northern climate sector. Its coastline has a fringing of palm trees; its beaches are talcum-powder, Gili Islands-white. And, yep, it’s up there with the best party destinations in Australia.
Cairns has really cut its teeth as a gateway into the Great Barrier Reef. People flock here by the bucket load to hop on boats and explore that UNESCO World Heritage Site. Others come for the lux resorts that pepper the bays north and south of town. Others still come to let loose in the umpteen bars that sit cheek by jowl in the center.
You’re basically looking at the three or so blocks that run from Sheridan Street to the waterside here. That area hosts Celtic-styled Irish pubs, glitzy shot bars, Tiki lounges with cocktail menus, and even wine bars that showcase the best labels east Oz can muster.
A night out in Freo, as it’s known to the locals, is a must for partiers heading to the only major city in Western Australia. Sat a few clicks outside of the Perth CBD, where the Swan River curls neatly into the Indian Ocean, the district has garnered itself a rep as the coolest beach town in WA for a whole host of reasons…
Firstly, the food is cracking. If your idea of a great night out starts with the gastronomy, head to Fremantle and hit up the Manuka Woodfire Kitchen – for griddled steaks and fresh prawns off the BBQ – or Vin Populi – for Chianti reds and tagliatelle that’s straight out of Italy.
For drinks, the Gage Roads Freo Brewery is the starter every beer lover’s been dreaming of. Between racks of surfboards in an industrial-chic depot building, you’ll guzzle IPAs, APAs, and pilsners until midnight. Just down the road, Darling Darling is a characterful pub that’s like some pirate haunt from the 1880s. Further south again is Ball & Chain, a cocktail joint with mixologists on staff.
The best party destinations in Australia – our conclusion
There are plenty of places that could compete for a spot on our list of the best party destinations in Australia. The truth is that this continent-sized country between the Indian Ocean and Tasman Sea really does know how to hit the dancefloor and guzzle beers. Chief among the bunch has to be Melbourne, which is considered to be most happening city in all of Oz. Then come the surf hubs of Bondi and Byron, followed by the buzzing regional capital of Sydney, plus a couple more.