Okay. I’ll admit it. New Zealand was never at the top
of my places to see list, writes OutUK correspondent Ed Walsh.
But a good friend went
recently and couldn’t stop talking about it. So I
looked into visiting and finally arrived recently for
a ten-day whirlwind tour.
New Zealand may never achieve the party-central status
of its massive neighbour, Australia, but what it lacks
in gay venues it more than makes up in spectacular
scenery, climate and a distinctively different
gay/lesbian scene. What’s unique about the gay/lesbian community in New
Zealand? I first put that question to Peter Graczer, a
bartender at Hydrant, Auckland’s popular gay bar.
“Here, read my column,” he responded.
Downtown Auckland at night.
In his spare time, Graczer writes for Express, New
Zealand’s gay newspaper. As he explained in his
opinion piece, some gay and lesbian tourists to
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, are quick to
point out the lack of the numerous gay venues found in
other cities such as Sydney and San Francisco.
“For all the lack of thrills, we instead enjoy an
enviable position as citizens,” Graczer wrote. “Yes,
I’ll admit it doesn’t have the same sell as cheap sex
and drugs, but why aren’t we a little prouder about
this? In Australia, a Holy Grail of hedonism to many
gay New Zealanders, the state has actively moved to
curtail or preclude adoption and marriage for same sex
couples. In the USA, the situation is even more dire,
with reform that will permanently entrench a lower
civil status for gay men and lesbians.”
Graczer’s opinion was echoed by dozens of gay men and
lesbians, including the two openly gay members of
Parliament, with whom I spoke during my tour.
The gay and lesbian communities are integrated into the fabric of the
country’s population of nearly 3.5 million. It’s not
uncommon to see groups of gays and lesbians gathering
at predominately “straight” clubs.
Out gay MP Tim Barnett (right) with his partner Ramon Maniapoto.
Auckland is the stopping off point for most people who
visit New Zealand. The Auckland area is home to 1.1
million people, about a third of the population of New
Zealand. It also boasts that it has the largest
Polynesian population of any city in the world.
Auckland is very walkable and is best explored on
The city’s crown jewel is its Sky Tower, the tallest
structure in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a great
landmark that will help you get your bearings if you
get lost. The Link bus is a great way to get around to
see all the wonderful sites in Auckland. The fare is
only $1.20 NZ, or about a half-pound. You can take it
to Auckland’s wharf to take a number of harbour
cruises. I took the bus to the Pride of Auckland
cruise on my first day for a spectacular view of the
land and sea.
The bus will also take you to the Auckland War
Memorial Museum for some great exhibitions on New
Zealand history, including the rich history of its
native inhabitants, the Maori Indians.
The Sky Tower.
There are a number of wineries in the Auckland area
and throughout New Zealand. I took the Fine Wine Tour
and took in three wineries, lunch, and some
spectacular scenery along the way.|
BARS & CLUBBING
As I've said, the gay scene in New Zealand is
integrated in the mainstream throughout the city. That
said, there are a number of gay/lesbian venues.
The Hydrant bar on 1 Williamson Avenue, is on the site
of a former firehouse. It draws a small neighborhood
crowd during the week and is packed on weekends. Urge
is popular with the leather crowd and is on 382-386
Karangahape Road (K-Road). The Flesh Nightclub draws a
big weekend dance crowd. By the way, Flesh was
firebombed late last year. Fortunately, there were no
injuries. No one was ever arrested and the word on the
street is that the club’s orientation had nothing to
do with the crime. Flesh is temporarily operating out
of the Strand Hotel, at the end of Parnell Road.
Auckland’s most popular gay/lesbian friendly
restaurant is SPQR. It’s on 150 Ponsonby Road, a short
walk from Hydrant, in the Ponsonby neighborhood. The
café-laden Ponsonby is probably Auckland’s gayest
section, although there is no definable gay
neighbourhood. Auckland is also home to a popular sauna, the
Centurion, and at least three “cruise clubs,” their
term for sex clubs.
The San Francisco Cafe on gay-friendly Ponsonby Road.
Some of the more popular gay-welcoming accommodations
include Moana Vista Bed & Breakfast in the upscale
Herne Bay neighbourhood, a short walk to Ponsonby Road.
It’s owned by a young gay couple. The Hastings House
is another popular B&B and is owned by a gay man. For
those on a budget, Brown Kiwi Travelers Hostel, in the
Ponsonby neighborhood, is a good choice. A private
room there will run you about 22 GBP.
Wellington Queenstown & Nelson