South Australia's premier queer cultural festival, Feast takes place over about two weeks in November in the state's capital and largest city, charming Adelaide (population 1.3 million). The dates this year are October 21 through November 6, 2016.
Like other major LGBT arts festivals around Australia, such as January's Midsumma Melbourne and February Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, Feast - which was begun in 1997 - is focused strongly on arts, culture, history, and community, and it consists of a wide range of inclusive, festive, and often provocative events, including sunset soirees and club nights, the Adelaide Pride March (which helps to kick things off), a picnic in the park, comedy shows, theatrical performances, cabaret, concerts, the "legendary drag-centric extravaganza" Mega Drag, Aerobics '80s style, literary readings, discussions on everything from trans identity to same-sex marriage, and much more.
It's pretty incredible just how much first-rate, thoughtful, diverse, and compelling programming the organizers cram into this festival - it really rivals some of the world's top fringe and cultural fests, and it's a bit less about partying than Sydney Mardi Gras (although the latter has upped its cultural chops in recent years).
Of course, all of this good fun takes place in artistically rich and sophisticated yet unpretentious Adelaide, the heart of South Australia's impressive wine region (don't miss the many wineries and fine boutique hotels in the Barossa Valley, which is about an hour's drive northeast of the city), and a quick jumping-off point for visits to beautiful Kangaroo Island, which you can reach by ferry or a short flight from Adelaide. It's a lovely part of the country that international visitors focused on Australia's eastern shores tend to miss. But it's well worth exploring, especially while Feast is taking place.
What to See and Do in Adelaide
Adelaide has a large and visible LGBT population, although not too many bars. That said, there's one terrific gay nightclub, the Mars Bar (120 Gouger St.), which is right on the edge of city's bustling Chinatown and the famed Adelaide Central Market, a foodie favorite filled with more than 80 stalls proffering every type of food imaginable.
Other draws in this leafy city known for its beautiful parks include and countless festivals (Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Tasting Australia) are the National Wine Centre of Australia, a stunningly designed contemporary building fringing the Adelaide Botanic Gardens that's dedicated to the nation's world-renowned wine culture, and the imposing Art Gallery of South Australia, which contains nearly 40,000 works from throughout the world.
Also well worth a visit is the coastal beach community of Glenelg, which has a lovely pier and beachfront and is home to the engaging Bay Discovery Centre. It's also easily reached from Adelaide city center via the Glenelg tram, a 15-kilometer light rail service. There are several good restaurants near the waterfront in Glenelg, including some excellent Asian eateries.
Where to Stay During Feast Adelaide
The organizers of Feast produce an extremely helpful travel section that includes a page detailing some of the top LGBT-supportive places to stay in the city during Feast, from upscale properties like the hip and elegant Chifley on South Terrace (226 South Terrace, 61-8-8223-4355) to mid-priced residential-style accommodations like the Breakfree Directors Studios (259 Gouger St., 132-007) and Breakfree Adelaide (255 Hindley St., 132-007) to budget-friendly options like Adelaide Central YHA (135 Waymouth St., 08-8414-3010), which is a favorite of queer backpackers.
Adelaide Gay Resources
You can learn more about Adelaide's friendly and approachable gay scene by consulting local LGBT media like Blaze, Rainbow Tourism's Adelaide Gay Guide, and SameSame.com's Adelaide section. Also have a look at the city's excellent Adelaide section of the South Australia official tourism website.