Which Australian Cities Have the Best Nightlife?

Which Australian Cities Have the Best Nightlife? Image | East Coast Tours Australia

The nightlife scene down under is a sweet sweet combination of late-night clubbing, awesome local artists and beachside beers to wrap it all up! With a shade of entertainment for any traveller, tourist or local alike, the arts, music and waves collide along the East Coast! So, check out our favourite Aussie cities for hitting the town, or as the locals say, "going out"!

Melbourne, Victoria

If you’re looking for quantity and quality in nightlife, Melbourne is your capital. Whether you’re looking for a local indie-punk band, a late-night queer dance party or a jazz jam in the back of a vegan cafe, this grungy city literally has it all. From headlining artists to funky local bands, discover the bright lights and shadows of Melbourne’s happening nightlife scene.

If you’re in Victoria and have a weekend, don’t miss the chance to add a road trip along the Twelve Apostles coastline, for some stunning views and a breath of fresh air. For more ideas, check out our backpacker guide to Melbourne.

Top places to go out in Melbourne

  • Live Music: Corner Hotel 

  • DJs: Sub Club

  • For a beer: The Victoria Hotel

  • Hidden gem: The Nightcat

Flinder St Station at night

Airlie Beach, Queensland

The heart of the Whitsundays undeniably turns it up once the sun goes down and the sailboats return to the harbour. Renowned for its lively backpacker scene seven days a week, it always feels like a Saturday night in Airlie Beach! Whether you’re shacking up at Beaches for a game of pool, hitting Mama Africa’s for an all-night dance party or soaking up some essential live music at Paddy’s, there are always new mates to make in this tropical town!

And, while you’re in town, nurse your hangover, snorkel the Great Barrier, glide through the Whitsunday Islands and sunbake on Whitehaven Beach with an unmissable sailing experience!

Top places to go out in Airlie Beach

  • Live Music: Magnums

  • DJs: Boom Nightclub

  • For a beer: Beaches

  • Hidden gem: Paradiso & Coral Sea Resort (hello poolside luxury!)

A woman with a cocktail by the pool

Gold Coast, Queensland

The glittering lights of Surfers Paradise beckon backpackers and locals alike with the fun, beachy vibes that carry on way into the wee hours. The Gold Coast is the best East Coast town for beach days and nights in the club, so swap your swimmers for a nice shirt and hit the dance floor! The main strip of Surfers Paradise is bustling with nightlife, and there are also some funky tropical pubs, bars and music venues in surrounding towns and suburbs.

Top places to go out in Surfers Paradise

  • Live Music: Miami Marketta

  • DJs: Boom Elsewhere Bar

  • For a beer: Melbas

  • Hidden gem: Holy Moly

Two people playing pool at Holy Moly

Byron Bay

Byron Bay’s infamy is both due to its natural beauty and vivid music and artist scene! The streets of this once-locally-kept-secret are now laden with beachfront bars, boutique pubs, bohemian live music venues and even a few nightclubs. While it’s no longer a “hidden gem,” it does have a pretty big nightlife scene due to tourism! Start the night with mates and beers on the beach, and end it getting down to some reggae beats!

Spend your days in Byron Bay kayaking with turtles and surfing the beginner-friendly waves amongst stunning marine life and natural ecosystems at every turn!

Top places to go out in Byron Bay

  • Live music: Beach Hotel

  • DJs: Woody’s Surf Shack

  • For a beer: The Northern

  • Hidden gem: Saltwater Social Club

Two girls in front of the Welcome to Byron Bay sign


While Brisbane (meanjin) may seem like an unassuming destination, this smaller yet colourful city boasts a thriving local music scene! With plenty of gorgeous venues that give off that casual backyard gig to grand venues with river-front views, hit the town in Brisbane. If a classic boogey to pop-tunes is your poison, hit Fortitude Valley. This is quite literally a strip of the most popular clubs in Brisbane. If you’re looking for a cocktail with a view as pre-drinks, head to the nearby Howard Smith Wharves for an exceptional river sunset. If low-key local music is more your scene, West End is a sweet pocket of community initiatives, local backroom gigs and great alternative dining options (we recommend The Burrow!).

For more ideas on what to do while you're in meanjin, check out our backpacker things to do guide!

Top places to go in Brisbane

  • Live Music: The Zoo

  • DJs: The Met

  • For a beer: Felons Brewing Co

  • Hidden gem: The Bearded Lady

A woman in a hat at the Brisbane river


A must-see if you’re craving a dose of rooftop bars and bougie nightclubbing, Sydney City is an established centre for nightlife. Chuck on your heels, and enjoy some fine dining before queuing up for an exclusive club experience. Or, if you need a bit more grunge on the side of your night out, Sydney also has an excellent live music scene with international and Australian headliners always announcing Sydney on their tours. 

After a night of partying, make the most of your Sydney days and explore this gorgeous region! From the Harbour to neighbouring surf beaches and the tranquil Blue Mountains, get your dose of nature and city life in Sydney.

Two people in Bondi Beach


After a day of surfing, sun baking and swimming, there is no better feeling than having a cool shower, throwing on a light (dare I say, linen?) shirt, a pair of sandals and hitting the town for a cold one with your mates! While the nightlife scene in Noosa and the Sunshine Coast is certainly humbler than its neighbours Brisbane and the Gold Coast, there is a special charm in the fairy-light-lit Hasting Street after dark!

Check out our guide to the Sunshine Coast to fill your days with awesome beachside sessions and local secret things to do! Or, book a surf lesson or a kayak to the Everglades with our awesome Noosa day trips!

Top places to go out in Noosa

  • Live Music: Solbar

  • DJs: Koala Bar (KBs)

  • For a beer: One of the many surf clubs along the coast (Sunshine Beach is my fave!)

  • Hidden gem: Largarto Lounge

Two women drinking cokctails by the pool


The heart of tropical North Queensland, Cairns is a gem known for the Daintree Rainforest and scuba diving through the Great Barrier Reef. However, when the families head home and the backpackers come out to play, Cairns comes alive with cocktails, live music and nightclubs taking over the streets! Meet new mates, chill out at tropical bars, soak up some acoustic sounds before turning it up a notch and hitting the clubs. 

Spend your time in Cairns snorkelling the Reef, discovering hidden islands and sailing in style with the many awesome day trips to experience in FNQ!

Top places to go out in Cairns

  • Live Music: Elixir Music Bar
  • DJs: The Woolshed
  • For a beer: PJ O’Briens or Hemmingways
  • Hidden gem: The Pier Bar

A tap head in Hemmingways Brewery in Cairns

Magnetic Island

There’s nothing like a tropical cocktail to get in the mood to party, so sail away from the mainland and forget your worries on Magnetic Island! I can’t write about Maggie Island’s nightlife scene without mentioning the infamous Full Moon Parties, which really bring together the backpackers and holidayers for a night of debauchery and fun on the beach. If you’re heading to Magnetic Island during one of these parties (happening literally during the full moon, you can check the astrological calender), expect DJs, glowsticks, starlit partying and sand in your toes! 

During the day, reload your dopamine after a big night out with a koala cuddle, a swim in the bay and a snorkel through crystal clear water, followed by a snack at one of the many restaurants - there are so many things to do on Magnetic Island

A woman in a bikini and a man in a 4WD


Another awesome seaside town that oozes chilled-out vibes during the day only to turn up the volume at night, Wollongong really does come alive with live music and DJ beats. With less of a nightclub atmosphere and more of a boutique-brewery-in-a-rennovated-warehouse scene, Wollongong has a seriously relaxed vibe, which is utterly perfect for a Sunday sesh. Wind down with a beer at North Gong after a day of coastal hiking, before venturing to some of the more popular live music venues and ending up watching the sun come up over the horizon! 

Top places to go out in Wollongong

  • Live Music: The Imperial

  • DJs: The Little Prince

  • For a beer: North Gong Hotel

  • Hidden gem: His Boy Elroy

A cocktail with a glass of ice next to it on a table in a bar

Ready to dance the nights into a starlit memory in the gorgeous corners of the East Coast? Check out our jam-packed itineraries which stop in the nightlife hubs of Australia! 

Or, build your own itinerary with our customised itinerary builder - hit all of the party towns like a local! 

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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