Locals call it the “City of Sails,” and you’ll know why before your plane even touches down in Auckland. From the air you can see many of the city’s 70,000 boats bobbing in the crystal-clear waters of Waitemata Harbour. If you want to meet locals, your best bet it to profess a love of sailing. And you'd better have a thing for beautiful beaches, as there are dozens within a short drive.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of just over 1 million. Over 200,000 inhabitants of Auckland are Pacific Islanders, which makes it the largest Polynesian city in the world. Maori make up about 15 percent of New Zealand's population. Before the arrival of Europeans, Maori society had no particular taboo about homosexuality. The Maori word for “intimate partner of the same sex” is Takatapui, a term that has been adopted by many in the gay community.
Relationships between men had been a familiar part of life before the arrival of the Europeans. When New Zealand became a colony in 1840, British law made sex between men illegal. In 1986 gay sex was decriminalised. Same-sex civil union laws came into effect in 2005, and in 2013 this became the fifteenth country to allow same-sex couples to marry. Members of parliament are now openly gay.
Auckland’s gay community here is incredibly welcoming to newcomers. In February, thousands of gay boys and girls turn out for the annual Big Gay Out, held in Auckland’s Coyle Park. The Auckland Pride Festival each February includes a Saturday parade down Ponsonby Road and Sunday Big Gay Out festivities in Coyle Park. The annual Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival, normally with screenings in Auckland and Wellington in May and June, plus events throughout the year skipped 2015 - look for possible 2016 program updates. Bear New Zealand Week takes place each February, hosted by Bear New Zealand.
Auckland International Airport is about 13 mils southwest of the city. Several shuttle bus companies get you downtown for around NZ$33. Taxis cost NZ$75-90. SkyBus, Auckland’s airport transfer service from Auckland City and Auckland Airport, operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with departures every 10-15 minutes during prime hours. Tickets, available online, from the bus driver (cash only), or airport ticket machines, start from NZ$16 each way for an adult.
Some locals complain that Auckland isn’t as friendly to pedestrians as it could be. True, but it still has many cities beat by a mile. One good way to see downtown is the red City Circuit bus, which loops around the area. The best part: it’s free! See Auckland Transit aka AT, for train, bus and ferry information. If you're thinking of renting a car, remember they drive on the left side here.
Much of gay nightlife in Auckland, from neighborhood bars to dance clubs to dinner-and-a-drag-show venues, is in the Newton neighborhood around Karangahape Road (locally known as K’ Road) and Ponsonby Road.
What to do
Currency and Money
The local currency is the New Zealand dollar, known colloquially as the kiwi because there’s an image of the bird on the coins. ATMs are easy to find in the downtown area.
Media and Resources
Pride NZ website explores the voices of past and present queer New Zealand through hundreds of audio interviews, archival footage and sound recordings of local LBGTI events.
Bears NZ have ongoing events throughout the year, including their big Bear NZ Week in February, the same week as the Auckland Pride Festival, with parade down Ponsonby Road and Big Gay Out celebrations in Coyle Park.
For general news and information see the NZ Herald.
For map locations, phone numbers and website links for the businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Auckland listings tab.
Caluzzi Cabaret Restaurant (461 Karangahape Road), interactive, award-winning drag caberet show and dinner club, dazzling costumes, DJ and disco.
Eagle Bar (259 Karangahape Rd), mixed gay bar/lounge, entertainment, games, bears nights.
Encore Entertainment (350 Karangahape Rd), dining, cabaret entertainment, comedy and dinner theater occasions; occasional gay nights.
Family Bar (270 Karangahape Rd), popular drag show bar, diva stars and Nancy Boys Dance Company, DJ music, karaoke, open nightly until 5am, next door Saloon Bar.
Garnet Station (85 Garnet Rd, Westmere) women's espresso bar and queer sanctuary, open daily 7:30am to midnight, internet radio station. Serves organic Chiasso coffee and gluten free cakes.100% organic coffee and milk
Grand Central (126 Ponsonby Rd), general-public bar, live bands, smokers' alley, dancing until 5am.
Limelight Drag Cabaret presents mixed-crowd drag cabaret shows at various venues around town.
Shanghai Lil's (212 Ponsonby Rd), gay-friendly wine bar and lounge, live music bands and piano bar entertainment
SPQR (150 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby), LGBT-friendly restaurant and bar, friendly staff (mostly gay).
Urge former Karangahape Road club, men for men nights now at various venues; leather, bears, cruise, underwear parties.
Varsity Bar (262 Karangahape Rd), Thursday through Saturday gay/mixed student club opened April 2016 at the former Twist Club; young international mixed men/women crowd.
CLOSED: Legend Bar/ Club (373 Karangahape Rd), go-go dancer showers, drag shows, karaoke, DJs, dance floor, cheap drinks.
Besides the bars, Karangahape and Ponsonby Roads are home to a number of casual and inexpensive ethnic restaurants, including Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Lebanese, Italian, Mexican and South Asian regional cuisines, with meat or veggie/vegan options. For some suggestions see our restaurant & cafe map listings.
Sauna and Sex Clubs
Basement (12 Canada St, Newton), men's cruise playground & adult store; porn lounge, douche and showers, TV lounge, free internet, dungeon, bondage bed. Each 2nd Tuesday Leather/Rubber Night.
Centurian Sauna for Men (18 Beresford Sq, off Pitt from K Rd, Center), private rooms, 3-level theater, maze, TV, sunbed, spa pool. dry and steam sauna, internet, open daily, weekends until 6am; events include first Thursday naked "Orgy Night."
The Grinder (348 Karangahape Rd), adult store, magazines, videos, toys, cruising area, open 7 days. Former Den K-Road, rebranded for gay market.
Lateshift (25 Dundonald St, basement, Newton), large cruise club for men, maze, glory holes, amateur video cubicles, pool tables and games, TV and porn videos, internet, orgy area, nude sessions, open weekends all night until 10am.
The Wingate Club (76 Wingate St, Avondale) Sauna, Spa in West Auckland, swimming pool, large grounds to wander naked if you choose. Open 7 days Midday until late.
In Hamilton, south of Auckland, GuyZ men's bathhouse has sauna/steam facilities, Jacuzzi, bunkrooms, porn videos and cruise area/glory-holes, just off Victoria Street.
Aspen House Bed & Breakfast Hotel (62 Emily Place; 64 9 379-6633) budget downtown alternative, rooms with private or shared bathrooms, guest laundry service, luggage storage, airport shuttles.
Great Ponsonby Bed & Breakfast (30 Ponsonby Terrace; 64 9 376-5989), small, chic b&b, on quiet Ponsonby cul-de-sac near bars and cafes. Choice of five cooked breakfasts: from smoked salmon scrambled eggs to Greek omelet with feta cheese.
Moana Vista B&B (60 Hamilton Rd, Waiheke Island; 64 21-376-150), colonial-era self contained cottage with kitchenette, near nightlife action and beaches in hills above Oneroa Bay.
Palm Beach Bungalows (Waiheke Island; 64 9 372 5146), seven romantic beachside bungalows and cottages.
Quest Ponsonby (68 Ponsonby Rd; 64 9 360-4240) near gay venues, restaurants and shops.
See more hotels & guesthouses at our Auckland map & listings pages.
In Rotorua, an hour south of Auckland, in the heart of a thermal area with world-renowned spas, Guysers Gaystay (1406C Pukuatua St), is a gay men's B&B with two stylish rooms, each with bathroom, plus a clothing-optional hot tub, spa pool, and WiFi.
At Mt Rataroa, Rata Lodge (30 Rataroa Road, Pokeno; 9 232-7636), is located on 35 acres of landscaped and native bushand near Miranda, under an hour's drive from Auckland; for tranquility and stunning views from atop Mount Rataroa.