In 2021, Lonely Planet listed New Zealand as one of the world’s most gay-friendly destination for travellers – and, 12 months on, the bookings are rolling in.
The original article praised us for adopting the “gay/lesbian friendly” tag for businesses and accommodation way back in 1998, pointed out the “brilliant network” of homestays throughout both the North and South Islands, highlighted Queenstown’s Gay Ski Week and our promotion of same-sex marriage tourism.
All of which is fine if you’re travelling to Aotearoa with your partner or in a group, and of course it’s great to know you’re going to be welcomed with open arms as soon as you step off the plane – but how about if you’re coming on your own? How do you hook up in NZ?
The first step is getting tech-savvy.
New Zealand’s got great mobile networks, meaning that you can use all your favourite dating apps like Grindr, GROWLr, Jack’d, Hornet and Scruff. While Grindr is set up so you can see only people nearby, other apps allow you to lay down some of the groundwork, so you can reach out for travel tips for where you’re heading before you land.
Hornet, for example, has an “Explore” tab which lets you chat up locals in New Zealand and get the inside word on where to visit, which hotels to stay in, gay clubs and cruising joints. The distance indicator will show you’re not in New Zealand already but there’s sure to be people out there ready to fill you in on what’s hot and what’s not – and even show you the ropes once you arrive.
Inspired by Tinder’s passport feature, Scruff has also created its Venture feature which means that as well as seeing the profiles of locals (which, let’s face it, has always been easy to do with any of the apps), you’ll also see the profiles of other visitors and those who will be coming soon – there’s even news of interesting events. You can even herald your arrival well in advance so others know when you’re coming – and there’s even a way to include Airbnb listings, so you can arrange to share accommodation.
Once you’re on the ground, though, it’s just a matter of using your favourite app. Just make sure you get some of your basics right – we know these sound boring, but what’s the point of delaying your launch on to the local dating scene while you hunt down the right adapter to charge your phone?
- Don’t limit your search because of your roaming data charges – get a local Kiwi SIM card and know where you can get hold of free WiFi. Remember functions such as GROWLr’s “nearby” tab work only when you’ve been active in the past three hours so you’re going to want to keep on refreshing… and for that you’re going to need to keep an eye on your data levels. Keep on asking about free WiFi availability, New Zealand has been a bit slow on the uptake but you’ll find it in most accommodation and hangouts.
- Adapting to New Zealand means finding the right plugs for your phone and charger. Get a battery pack and the right adapter and you’ll be hooking up right from day one.
- Put yourself out there. Yes, tell us on your profile that you’re a visitor and we’ll help show you around. Say where you’re from, why you’re here, where you want to visit and what languages you speak. (Oh, and use a photo that shows your face – you’ll get more responses that way for sure.)
The combination of the generally friendly Kiwi outlook on life and having the gay community in the palm of your hand via geo-location apps and social media means that you’re likely to find hook-ups pretty much throughout the whole country.
But if you’re in the major cities, you can always check out the local scene.
Auckland has the largest number of gay bars, saunas and clubs ranging from the likes of the Basement and the Grinder on K' Rd which has a maze, movies, glory holes (and free condoms and lube) and a regular customer-base of older men, through to Lateshift and Centurian, which holds open-door orgy nights and a mix of private rooms, spa pool, steam room and sauna. The Wingate Club in West Auckland boasts an outdoor pool, a large lawn and 5000sq metres of hillside for you play on and explore.
Karangahape Road is the go-to zone for gay clubs and bars - there's the multi-storey Family bar, and keep an eye out for events put on by the guys from Urge.
Auckland's Big Gay Out is a summer highlight and an event you shouldn't miss. The festival, held at Coyle Park with live music, food and drink stalls and all sorts of entertainment for New Zealand's LGBTIQ community.
Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown also have thriving gay scenes with events like Christchurch Pride and Gay Ski Week attracting lots of interest from overseas visitors and providing the perfect mix of festivities and hook-ups.