Tracing 30 years of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on our own Australian adventure

Composite of the Coober Pedy sign and four drag queens by a watering hole
Attitude travels to Australia to celebrate Priscilla's anniversary with (L-R) Uticah, Joey Jay, Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

With news of a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert sequel landing in the year of the movie’s 30th anniversary, what better time to travel the tracks of the movie’s three drag performers on an adventure of our own?

Join Attitude’s Dale Fox as he traces the trail of some of the movie’s most iconic locations courtesy of Tourism Australia, the South Australian Tourism Commission and Tourism Northern Territory from Adelaide to Uluru.

Accompanying him on his Aussie adventure are RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Sister Sister, Ginny Lemon, Joey Jay and Utica Queen, as the group travel to the most memorable Priscilla spots, including King’s Canyon, Coober Pedy, and Alice Springs.

Like many LGBTQ+ people born in the 1980s, my first inklings of self-discovery as a pre-adolescent came from the telly. Early-90s RuPaul was in her ‘Supermodel’ era and on practically every TV show, Eurotrash was offering much-appreciated glimpses of the male human form, and then one night this little movie about three drag performers in Australia popped up on a cable movie channel. Little did nine-year-old me know that 30 years later, I would be treading the path of Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette for myself on an epic adventure across Australia, complete with a troupe of drag queens — RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Sister Sister, Ginny Lemon, Joey Jay and Utica Queen — in our very own (not quite ‘lavender’) bus, all five of us sharing a sisterhood as Oz first-timers.

Exploring Adelaide

Our adventure begins amid the glitz and glamour of Adelaide Fringe, the second-largest fringe festival after Edinburgh, in South Australia’s coastal metropolis. As the indigo dusk descends over the iconic outdoor venue Gluttony, we are treated to a dazzling lineup of jaw-dropping shows, with raucous revellers and twinkling lanterns casting a glow amid the warm mid-summer night air. The energy and audacity on display turns the atmosphere electric.

The next day, we explore Adelaide’s vibrant street art scene, our expert guide leading us down laneway after laneway adorned with the vivid works of international artist Jimmy C. The tour culminates in the charming Victorian-era Adelaide Arcade, where our guide regales us with deliciously salacious tales of ghostly sightings and ill-fated lovers.

Taking in South Australia’s wineries

Of course, no jaunt through South Australia would be complete without a visit to its famed beaches and world-class wineries. We begin with a languorous afternoon at the chic HNLY at Henley Beach, indulging in platters of fresh oysters and crisp local wines on the veranda as the sapphire waters glisten close by.

Two drag queens drink wine on a green lawn
Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister enjoy the serenity of Down The Rabbit Hole Wines (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

From there, it’s on to the ultra-charming Down The Rabbit Hole Wines, where influencer owners Domenic and Elise — an enviably attractive husband-and-wife duo — welcome us into their Insta-perfect world of undulating vineyards and curated rustic-chic bliss. We while away some time sipping their blends while admiring the lush landscaping and the stylised surroundings that seem plucked from the pages of a Kinfolk magazine editorial.

A Dali clock in front of the d'Arenberg Cube
The d’Arenberg Cube is home to a collection of original Dali works (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

The surreal d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale proves a fitting finale to our winery daytrip. This iconic architectural marvel houses an array of Salvador Dali’s trippy surrealist works alongside the famous “Alternate Realities” museum exhibit — even the toilets are photo-worthy.

Priscilla adventure begins in Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy drive-in sign
The drive-in where Bernadette gives a homophobe a knee to the groin still stands today (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

But the real journey is just beginning as we land in the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, where Priscilla’s Felicia infamously gets into hot water with the local miners. Much of this otherworldly locale remains frozen in time, with most residents residing underground in cool dugout ‘caves’ to escape the scorching Outback heat.

A smartphone being held showing a scene from Priscilla against the actual location
We even find time to visit the spot where Priscilla breaks down in the desert before getting her iconic paint job (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

Our guide, Aaron of Nobel Tours Australia, is a tall and rugged local with a distinct Aussie drawl and Crocodile Dundee’s almost-exact wardrobe. He proudly shows us the sights of his humble hometown, including his own huge underground opal dugout, sharing tales of the town’s 100-year opal-prospecting history, from life-changing finds to unrequited dreams. We even find time to visit the spot where Priscilla breaks down in the desert before getting her iconic paint job and see for ourselves the still-standing drive-in cinema where Bernadette gives a homophobe a well-deserved knee in the nether region.

fabALICE festival serves in Alice Springs

From the rustic charms of Coober Pedy, our adventure continues with a private charter flight to the Northern Territory. Our first stop is Alice Springs, where the annual fabALICE festival is in full swing. I shriek with delight as my fierce travelling companions work the stage alongside local queer performers at the iconic Lasseters resort (better known to Priscilla fans as the site of the trio’s ill-fated desert show, though Bernadette and Bob are nowhere to be seen). Not to be outdone on their home turf, Drag Race Down Under’s Hannah Conda and Kween Kong also take a turn entertaining the screaming crowds.

Watering hole with some people swimming in it
Cooling down in one of the many watering holes of the West MacDonnell National Park (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

The next morning, we venture out to soak up the splendour of the West MacDonnell National Park, cooling off in its crystalline watering holes amid the heat.

On our final morning, we’re up before dawn to witness the majestic sandstone formation of Kings Canyon (officially rechristened “Queens Canyon” for the occasion of the movie’s anniversary) bathed in the ethereal rose-gold light of sunrise. The sheer, towering cliffs seem to radiate a power that leaves us all humbled.

Queens Canyon sign against the backdrop of Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon is renamed Queens Canyon for Priscilla’s anniversary (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

Coming face-to-rockface with Uluru

But for me, the most transcendent moment of our adventure comes with our encounter with the mighty, mystic heart of the Outback itself: Uluru. First, we take in its majesty during a bespoke dinner at the stunning open-air Tali Wiru restaurant, dining on opulent bush tucker-inspired fare as the setting sun renders the colossal sandstone monolith a kaleidoscope of burnt orange and fiery crimson hues. As night falls, the velvety indigo sky gives way to a dazzling canopy of stars so bright and brilliant it allows me to see the Milky Way in all its glory for the first (and probably last) time in my life. I’m awestruck and moved to tears.

On our last day, we’re treated to an intimate guided tour that brings us face-to-rockface with Uluru’s ancient, weathered surface. As I reach out and place my hand flat on the warm, craggy sandstone that has witnessed over 30,000 years of indigenous history and spirituality, I feel a profound sense of wonder and connection to this sacred, magical land as I close my eyes. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

A man stands in front of Uluru smiling
Attitude’s Dale Fox enjoys the majestic backdrop of Uluru (Image: Dale Fox/Attitude)

My Australian adventure has been so much more than just a campy homage to an iconic queer film; it’s been a vibrant tapestry woven together from threads of wine and indulgence, mesmerising natural splendour, unbreakable sisterly bonds, and flashes of transcendent spirituality. I came for the adventure but leave utterly transformed, humbled to have traced the trail of three characters who helped me and so many others realise who we are today.

This feature was taken from issue 358 of Attitude magazine, available to order here or to read on the Attitude app alongside 15 years of back issues.

Ncuti Gatwa on the cover of Attitude magazine issue 358
Ncuti Gatwa on the cover of Attitude magazine issue 358 (Image: Attitude/Melanie Lehmann)

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