New Zealand is particularly suited to nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Sailing, swimming and surfing are popular on the smaller North Island, where you’ll find the capital city of Wellington.
Wellington’s geographical position was the major deciding factor in the transfer of the seat of government from Auckland in 1865. But Wellington isn’t just the political capital — it’s the cultural capital as well. It has a sophisticated and stylish population that rivals that of any major city. It’s also known for its outlandish art galleries and its outstanding restaurants.
The gay community is part of the social fabric here, and people's views on sexual orientation and gender diversity owe a lot to traditional Maori norms. With growing interest in the early history of the islands, a Maori name originally referring only to North Island, Aotearoa, is now widely used for the whole country; and seen in the names of national organizations such as Uniq Aotearoa, the association of queer student groups.
Takatāpui (intimate partner of the same sex) relationships between men had been a familiar part of life before the arrival of the Europeans. In 1840, when New Zealand became a colony, 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.
Out in the Park opens two weeks of Wellington Pride with a day of onstage entertainment of talented local singers, drag queens and kings, comedians, and circus performers, plus food vendors and community organizations.
The Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival has been inactive since their screenings in Auckland and Wellington in 2014, but the July-August New Zealand International Film Festival includes some films of LGBTQ interest each year in Auckland.
The compact Wellington International Airport is about 5 miles from the city. A taxi will take you to your hotel in no time flat.
The Airport Flyer express bus service operates between the southern end of the airport Level 0, to Wellington Railway station, every 10 minutes at prime times daily, otherwise every 20 minutes. The fare is $9 each way (as of Sept 2017).
This is an incredibly walkable city, with pedestrian-only streets everywhere. Rent a car only if you are exploring the countryside or headed to the beach -- this is a left-side of the road driving country. Wellington public transportation includes buses, trains and ferries - for information see the Metlink website.
What to do
One of the must-see sights is Te Papa Tongarewa, known in English as the Museum of New Zealand. It tells the history of the island, its diverse peoples, and the historic connections to other Pacific islands, all the way to Hawaii.
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 & Resources
The gay magazine Express has a news and cultural coverage. Gay NZ had up-to-date listings, but closed on May 31, 2017. Their archive of over 18,000 news stories and features have been captured by LAGANZ, the Lesbian And Gay Archives of New Zealand. Rainbow Wellington has information about local events.
The guys at the popular Aaron & Andy blog decided to close in 2012, but archives can be seen for a short time.
Te Ara is building a comprehensive guide to the peoples, natural environment, history, culture economy and society of these islands.
NZine, a queer-friendly e-zine about New Zealand life, travel, business, politics, history, geography and culture, hasn't been updated for awhile now.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Wellington listings pages.
Most of the gay-popular clubs and restaurants are in the central Te Aro district by the harbor.
Fringe Bar (26 Allen St), mixed crowd karaoke and stand up comedy club, open mic, theater, poetry, film screenings, Fringe Festival theatre events. Recently moved from Cuba St.
Hawthorn Lounge (82 Tory St), mixed gay-friendly upscale bar, open until 3am Friday/Saturday.
Ivy Bar & Cabaret (49 Lower Cuba St), mixed/gay lounge, cabaret shows, quiz games, karaoke, drag shows; theme nights include Queertastic Quiz Thurdays, Best Bum, and Wild Jungle, "the biggest queer party of the year!"
Motel Bar (4 Forresters Lane), quality cocktails, upscale bar, meals and snacks.
S&M's (176 Cuba St), popular mixed cocktail and lounge bar, plush cedar walls/ Egyptian chandeliers, pool games, DJs; Queers Gone Kiwi social group, comedy nights, karaoke, burlesque, weekend dancing, Fringe Festival theatre events.
CLOSED: Mighty Mighty (104 Cuba St), alternative bar, live music, plays, dance/performances; Rush Bar and Steamworx (5 Wigan St), bar and sauna events moved to Ivy and Fringe.
Checkmate (15 Tory St), open every day at city center, sauna, Jacuzzi, dark room cruising, glory holes, men of all ages and size.
CLOSED: Steamworx Sauna.
Hotels and Guesthouses
Abel Tasman Hotel (169 Willis St, Te Aro; 64-4-385-1304), 73 rooms, Corner Bistro 169 restaurant/bar, SKY TV, laundry, WiFi
Bay Plaza Hotel (40 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay; 64-4-385-7799), city center rooms, brasserie-style restaurant breakkfast and dinner.
Comfort & Quality Hotels (223 Cuba St, Te Aro; 64-4-385-2156), 3 & 4-star rooms, fitness, pool & spa, CQ Restaurant and bar.
Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay (100 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay; 64-4-385-0279), harbour-view rooms and suites, concierge, Sky TV, WiFi, One80 restaurant.
Distinction Wellington (70 Tory St, Te Aro; 64-4-801-0780), 89 rooms, studios, suites; kitchens, laundry, gym, pool.
Koromiko Homestay (11 Koromiko Rd, Highbury; 64-4-938 6539), two double guest room B&B for gay men and their friends; harbor views, all day sun, hot garden baths, decks and lawn.
Museum Art Hotel (90 Cable St, Te Aro; 64-4-802-8900), central 165-room luxury boutique hotel, restaurant/bar, pool, spa.
Richmond Guest House (116 Brougham St, Mount Victoria; 64-4-939-4567), clean, comfortable, affordable singles/dbls/triples, a five minute walk to the city, kitchen.
The Cambridge Hotel | Backpacker Hostel (28 Cambridge Ter, Te Aro; 64-4-385-8829), inexpensive single, double and private rooms, dorm beds; WiFi, laundry.
Victoria Court Motor Lodge (201 Victoria St, Te Aro; 64-4-385-7102), kitchenette, restaurant, laundry services, spa/Jacuzzi, WiFi.
Wellington City Accommodation B&B (11 Lawson Pl, Mount Victoria; 64-210-739-232), private queen bedroom, shared kitchen, lounge, self-contained cottages in Cuba Quarter, WiFi.