Is New Zealand a Gay Friendly Travel Destination?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m planning a trip anywhere, it’s the first question I ask. Is the destination gay friendly? Will we be welcome there? It’s also the question I always get from LGBTQ travellers considering a trip to New Zealand. “Is New Zealand a gay friendly travel destination?”

Absolutely, I tell them! We’ve met almost all the LGBTQ milestones in New Zealand, making it a great place for LGBTQ people to live. Rather than just give my opinion, I interviewed several of our friends in the LGBT community, getting their thoughts about life in New Zealand for LGBTQ people.

Scotty and Mal

New Zealand gay heroes
Scotty & Mal

Scotty and Mal are two our our LGBTQ Heroes! They’ve been part of the fight for LGBTQ rights from the start. They own and run S&M’s Cocktail and Lounge Bar in Wellington.

Mals recalls that during the fight to decriminalise homosexual activity 30 years ago, the so-called Christians were chanting, “Kick them back to the gutters and sewers where they came from.” Sadly, it’s the same hate we’re seeing raise it’s head again now in Australia with the marriage equality vote. In New Zealand, the “Normal Joe Blogs on the street were horrified that these people were meant to be Christians and were saying those things about us. It helped our cause. Society has moved on and the ‘old watch’ is slowly dying out. Society has become so progressive. New Zealanders think that as long as you don’t upset me or hurt me, then you’re fine.”

Read more of Scotty and Mal‘s fight for LGBTQ rights in New Zealand.

Tom & Brian

Tom and Brian, who think New Zealand is very gay friendly.
Tom & Brian

Brian is an old swimming buddy of mine and he and his partner Tom live in an Auckland suburb noted for its artists, writers and musicians. “New Zealand is so gay friendly,” Brian notes, “that we forget that it’s not the norm everywhere.” He recounts, “A nice example of how we are treated, goes like this: We are regulars at a busy restaurant and bar up in the village and most of the staff, including management, know us well and will always spend time with us. I was waiting in the bar one evening for Tom to arrive and was chatting to one of the barmen. Even though he knows and uses our names, he casually but loudly called out from across the other side of the bar, “Where’s hubby?” In that simple question for all to hear, and without intending to, he showed respect, made me feel equal and put a big smile on my face. For him, it was just a perfectly normal question to ask. And, yes, he’s very straight :)”

Caroline and Suzie

lesbian friendly new zealand
Caroline & Suzie

Caroline and Suzie own and manage Criffel Peak, a lovely B&B in Wanaka, a small South Island town of around 9,000 residents. “Kiwis are very laid back. They judge you on your personality and if you don’t moan, but get stuck in and contribute.” Suzie says when locals learn she has a wife not a husband, they typically respond with, “Oh right, that’s lovely.” She was particularly touched after she and Caroline married in 2014. “Many of the husbands of the women I golf with made a point of congratulating me the next time they saw me. It was so lovely! And the local B&B owners group we belong to were so excited to throw us a ‘Hen’s night’ before our wedding, with a chauffeur, gifts, drinks and food, just as any couple would receive.”

Read more about Suzie and Caroline and why Wanaka is a must visit destination if you love the mountains, hiking, and stunning scenery. 

Nicky and Lisa

Lesbian owned bike tour operator, Wheelie Fantastic
Nicky & Lisa

Nicky and Lisa are originally from Northern Ireland.  They have relocated to the small village of Mapua, a pocket of paradise at the top of the South Island. Their business, Wheelie Fantastic, is the result of their mutual passion for cycling. I asked them what it was like here for them moving here. “New Zealand is gay friendly! You will be welcomed into Aotearoa with a genuine warm reception no matter where you are from and you will be treated with respect and equality regardless of your sexuality.” “Nicky and I have travelled to other parts of the world where we felt it was impossible to act as anything but friends. But here in New Zealand we are proud to live our life as we are and never hide our sexuality. In New Zealand, we have truly found a liberal minded country and we are now proudly Kiwis. We are proud to be lesbian kiwis. Just make sure you are an All Blacks supporter (That’s our national rugby team). That’s all Kiwis really want to know about you. Whether you’re LGBTQ or not they don’t care, but just shout loudly for the ALL Blacks.”

Read why Nicky and Lisa moved to New Zealand and how they can create a cycling trip just right for you!

Pete & Steve

gay traveller paradise
Steve & Pete

Pete and Steve own and operate Ratanui Lodge, in rural Golden Bay at the top of the South Island. Steve, American born, is now a New Zealand citizen. “New Zealanders in general are less concerned about who you love than how you interact with the community as a human being. New Zealand is a remote destination with a small population…there is still an ‘end of road’ feel where everyone relies on each other and depends on each other. The conservative Churches that preach separation don’t have a strong influence in New Zealand culture. New Zealand offers a different experience than say Fire Island, Key West, or Mykonos.  It’s not a huge party/nightlife scene.  It’s an opportunity to see the most beautiful country in the world, with a stunning variety of scenery, in a safe, welcoming environment.

Read why Golden Bay is a great destination for the gay travellers who seeks to get off the beaten path. 

Mark

Gay Friendly Wanaka High Country
Mark

OK, so Mark’s not gay, but I wanted to include the voice of a typical straight Kiwi bloke who grew up on a sheep farm in the South Island. He is doggedly passionate about his region, Wanaka, and his desire to earn our business and take care of our LGBTQ guests has blown me away. Mark owns Ridgeline Adventures, and he’ll take you where no one else goes. Seriously!

Mark didn’t say much, but he didn’t need to. “New Zealand is about nature and and how people connect with it.  Nature never judges.”  Imagine a world where everyone thought this way. New Zealand comes pretty close.

He added, “You’ll find great friends in New Zealanders. We accept everyone with open arms, a big smile and if you’re lucky a hot cuppa and a biscuit!!”

It’s what we all want, right? To know be welcomed with open arms, regardless of who we are.

So where’s your next gaycation?

Try New Zealand. It’s not only stunningly beautiful, it’s an absolutely gay-friendly destination perfect for any LGBTQ traveller seeking something different.  Whether you want to travel in a small group LGBTQ tour, semi-independently, or with a private guide, we’ll take care of you and connect you with our fabulous locals.

Wanaka Wows LGBTQ Travellers

Caroline and Suzie in Wanaka
Caroline & Suzie

Meet Caroline and Suzie, our trusted LGBT locals in Wanaka.  They own and run Criffel Peak, a lovely B&B, a few minutes walk from the pubs, cafes, restaurants and waterfront of vibrant Wanaka. This South Island town of around 9,000 residents is funky, hip, and surrounded by incredible vistas. Caroline and Suzie are wonderful locals who will share all the great local secrets when you stay with them in Wanaka. I chatted with Suzie about how LGBTQ folks are treated in New Zealand and also why Wanaka is so appealing to LGBTQ travellers.

How is New Zealand in general for LGBTQ folks?

I think we’re more gay friendly here than most other countries. We have a lot more presence in the media with really good role models like Louisa May, our lesbian MP, and Tamati Coffey, the weather man – he’s a politician too now.  And Rainbow Youth is helping younger people too. There’s just more visibility. We used to live in Auckland, and it is very open, with pride, gay clubs and bars, so it’s more noticeable there.  When we moved to small town Wanaka we were warned that it would be different, but we were still very easily accepted even though there is not the same visibility.

Relaxing in Wanaka
Chillin’ in Wanaka

Why do you think New Zealand is so LGBTQ friendly?

Kiwis are very laid back. They judge you on your personality, if you don’t moan, but get stuck in and contribute. When people I meet for the first time ask about my husband, and I tell them I have a wife, they typically respond with, “Oh right, that’s lovely.” After we got married in 2014, many of the husbands of the women I golf with made a point of congratulating me the next time they saw me. It was so lovely! And the local B&B owners group we belong to were so excited to throw us a ‘Hen’s night’ before our wedding, with a chauffeur, gifts, drinks and food, just as any couple would receive.

Why Wanaka? What makes it a great destination for LGBTQ travellers?

For anyone who loves the outdoors, Wanaka is a fantastic destination. It has everything here. You can enjoy both soft and hard adventure, from easy activities up to everything adrenaline. Kayaking on the lake, climbing, the national park on our doorstep, vineyards, golf, skiing, hot and dry in summer, and cold and dry in winter. We both love the outdoors, we go skiing, hiking, golfing. We feel very fortunate to live here, it’s paradise. And we love sharing this paradise with our guests.

wanaka jet boat
Jetboat through remote wilderness valleys

There are several LGBT owned businesses here as well as an active lesbian community.  We get the local girls together for drinks and gatherings on a regular basis.

Also our food and vineyards are popular and world class. Wanaka, and New Zealand as a country, is hands down fantastic, because of our environment. Don’t wait! Come now and come as many times as you can while you’re able to make the most of it, as there is so much to do and you won’t be able to fit it all in.

wanaka vineyard
Vineyard bliss

Whenever we’re in Wanaka with our group trips, we try to hook up with Caroline and Suzie and their friends for a night with the locals. Come and hang out with us!

A Gay Traveller’s Off The Beaten Path Paradise

Meet two more of our trusted LGBT locals, Steve and Pete. Hear their thoughts on why Golden Bay is such a great destination for gay travellers.

gay traveller paradise
Pete and Steve lovin’ life in Golden Bay

Pete and Steve own and operate gorgeous Ratanui Lodge at the top of the South Island,  and they are phenomenal hosts! I adore spending time with them in their slice of paradise. If you’re a gay traveller who seeks a more remote experience immersed in nature, Golden Bay is where it’s at!

Located at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, and over the infamous Takaka Hill, Golden Bay is often skipped by travellers who think it’s too far away. It’s exactly that ‘end of the road’ location that makes Golden Bay so idyllic.

What makes Golden Bay so special?

Golden Bay: Where if you are normal you are weird.  The small community here thrives on diversity and acceptance, and is full of such a range of people from dairy farmers to retirees to old hippies living off the grid to amazing artists.  Golden Bay is warm and sunny in summer, with 17 beaches. It has easy access to the Northern Abel Tasman National Park, and is an end of the road destination free of tour buses and mass tourism.  The people here make the experience; the beaches and scenery make tourists want to linger.  There is more to explore here than most expect.  As access to the southern Abel Tasman National Park is at capacity over the summer months, the Northern Abel Tasman offers a wilderness feel where you can still have a golden sand beach all to yourselves!

new zealand beaches
A scenic flight from Golden bay, takes in mountains, rugged coastlines and deserted beaches

How is the Golden Bay area for LGBTQ people?

Very open and accepting.  LGBTQ people are an important part of the community and are celebrated. We have lived together in Golden Bay for 11 years as an out couple, and have been treated with acceptance and respect.

Gay traveller paradise
Gay Owned Ratanui Lodge in off-the-beaten-path Golden Bay offers exceptional customer service and local knowledge, tips, and advice.

Why do you think NZ is so gay friendly compared to many other countries in the world?

New Zealand is a remote destination with a small population, and is a young country by European standards.  There is still an “end of road” feel where everyone relies on each other and depends on each other.  New Zealand is a small community relatively speaking as well and there is a need to get on with your neighbours.  The conservative Churches that preach separation don’t have a strong influence in New Zealand culture.  It seems that New Zealanders in general are less concerned about who you love than how you interact with the community as a human being.

Why did you move to NZ permanently Steve? Was our gay-friendly attitude part of the decision?

Steve and Paul at beach
A Beach of their own

I moved here because I met Pete here on my travels in 2006.  When we decided we were going to live together as a gay couple, the immigration standards here were much more friendly toward a gay couple than if we had tried to settle in the States.  I was able to obtain a temporary work visa very quickly as a result of my relationship with Pete, and over time that led to temporary residency, followed by permanent residency, and last year to citizenship.  The Immigration New Zealand family track is inclusive of gay couples.  At the time we were starting out together, that wasn’t the case in the States and it would have been virtually impossible for Pete to join me in the US on a permanent basis.  Also, I fell in love with New Zealand anyway, so it was an easy decision for us to make our home in New Zealand.

What makes NZ a great destination for gay travellers?

As a gay traveller, New Zealand offers a different experience than say Fire Island, Key West, or Mikanos.  It’s not a huge party/nightlife scene.  It’s an opportunity to see the most beautiful country in the world, with a stunning variety of scenery, in a safe, welcoming environment.  As the gay Traveller matures and looks for experiences that are beyond gay-centric, but still gay-friendly, New Zealand offers warm welcomes, little judgement, and a chance to explore remote places away from the crowds.  Basically as a gay traveller you can experience all the adventures that the rest of the tourists to New Zealand are here for, but without any threat or bias.

New Zealand remote beach
Deserted Beaches

Golden Bay is a truly unique place with so much to do. It’s a perfect destination for semi-independent gay travellers who have time to get off the beaten path and explore.

 

Nicky and Lisa Discover LGBTQ Friendly New Zealand

For the second of our interviews with our trusted LGBT locals, we chatted with Nicky and Lisa. These Irish gals found LGBTQ friendly paradise in New Zealand, have made it their home, started their own cycle tour business, and become Kiwis!

Biking New Zealand back roads
Biking New Zealand’s back roads

How did you end up in New Zealand?

Nicky and I first set foot on the land of the Long White Cloud in December 2009. We were in New Zealand to have a holiday of a lifetime. We did some extensive research into what we wanted to do once we got here but hadn’t thought about whether or not it was a country where LGBTQ travellers would be welcomed or shunned. To be honest we were just prepared to roll with whatever attitude was put forward, after all we were living in Northern Ireland at the time, a country that was and still isn’t LGBTQ friendly in many ways.

The first stop on our holiday was a sailing trip at the Bay of Islands. We met the couple of guys who were running the trip and to our delight we realised that they weren’t just business partners but life partners as well. So just by sheer luck the first Kiwis we met were gay! This really set up the rest of our holiday. Our next stop was back to Auckland to a B&B in Ponsonby. We were greeted by our host who, without any questions to us, said that he had a great film for us to watch about New Zealand’s first transgender Member of Parliament. Immediately this easy attitude towards LGBTQ issues put us at ease in this fabulous country.

Upon our return to Northern Ireland, we both realised that New Zealand felt more like home than Northern Ireland did. It was hardly surprising that very quickly we made the biggest decision of our lives. We decided to emigrate to New Zealand.

Mapua Beach
Biker’s Paradise

A year later we had our visas, sold our house, packed up our belongings and placed them in the shipping container. Flights were booked, and we and the cat returned to New Zealand as residents.

Where are you living now and is it LGBTQ friendly?

We settled in the top of South Island in a small village called Mapua, about 30 mins drive out of Nelson. We bought a house out in the rural area just outside the village itself. As we started to settle into our new surroundings and life, it quickly became apparent that we were not the only lesbians in the village. In fact, we were not the only lesbians on our road! There were at least 2 LGBTQ couples within 4km stretch of road.

The more we became integrated into our local society the more LGBTQ couples we met. Mapua has a population of around 3,000 and with the amount LGBTQ families in the area we could probably run our own Pride March.

As Mapua/Nelson region has so many out-LGBTQ families it has never been an issue for us to live in any way that is not honest. We live our lives quite openly and are fully accepted as a couple both in social circles and business.

Bikers at beach
Soak in the views

Tell us about your cycle tour business.

Cycling is a passion of ours and our region lends itself so well to be explored by bike so in 2011 we set up our cycle tour business, Wheelie Fantastic. One of our first group bookings that year was from a company in America that caters for gay men. They booked a group of 14 with us and have been returning each year since. Many of them talk to us about how refreshing it is to be in a country where sexuality is not an issue.

New Zealand road cycling
From trail riders to road cyclists, Wheelie Fantastic has a ride for you!

Our local knowledge allows us to create a wide range of cycling experiences in the Nelson Tasman area. We create rides to suit your budget, length of time you have, and your riding ability, from trail riders to road bike enthusiasts. Tours can be self-guided, guided and/or vehicle supported. Most importantly, we help you discover the hidden gems of our area.

New Zealand biking
Mapua’s diverse landscape makes for fun rides

What would you tell LGBTQ travellers considering New Zealand?

We believe you will be welcomed into Aotearoa with a genuine warm reception no matter where you are from and secondly you will be treated with respect and equality regardless of your sexuality.

Nicky and I have travelled to other parts of the world where we have felt it to be impossible to act as anything but friends. But here in New Zealand we are proud to live our life as we are and never hide our sexuality. In New Zealand, we have found a truly liberal minded country and we are now proudly Kiwis. We are proud to be lesbian Kiwis. Just make sure you are an All Blacks supporter (That’s our national rugby team). That’s all Kiwis really want to know about you. Whether you’re LGBTQ or not they don’t care, but just shout loudly for the ALL Blacks.

Nicky and Lisa take care of every last detail to create the perfect ride for you and their outstanding level of service is second to none!  Join us on our  South Island Sojourn in March 2018 to meet Nicky and Lisa and ride the gorgeous Mapua region with them. You won’t regret it!

Scotty & Mal – New Zealand LGBT Heroes and Activists

Scotty and Mal in their bar
Scotty and Mal – “Mein Hosts!”

Scotty and Mal own Scotty & Mal’s Cocktail and Lounge Bar in Wellington. They’ve been out for decades and so have an interesting historical perspective on what makes New Zealand LGBT friendly. For the first of our interviews with our trusted LGBT locals,  I sat down with Mal for a chat to learn more.

How is Wellington for LGBT people? 

Wellington is probably the best city in the country for LGBT people. Cuba Street, where our bar is located, is famous for being bohemian, hippie, a little like the Castro in San Francisco on a much smaller scale. Men can walk down the street arm and arm and no one bats an eyelid. Gay people are integrated everywhere. Even the drag queens are in various bars in Wellington, not just our bar.

Are you out in your daily life?

We’re well known in Wellington, and nationally actually, as fighters for LGBT rights. I’ve worked in every gay bar in Wellington for the last 40 years, and Scotty and I have been together 26 years. We won our wedding in a radio marketing campaign to raise awareness for marriage equality, so we are known throughout the country. We’re also very well respected in the hospitality industry throughout New Zealand.

Scotty and Mal interviewed when same-sex marriage legalised
Interview by national TV news when same-sex marriage became legal in 2013

In general, is New Zealand LGBT friendly?

LGBT friendly Wellington during pride
Hosting “Pooches in the Park” at Out In The Park, part of Wellington Pride

For a small country we’ve got so much.  We’ve decriminalized homosexuality, we’ve got the human rights amendment act that prevents discrimination, we’ve legalised prostitution to assist getting the girls off the streets, as long as they’re registered with local police station then they can advertise in papers. It is still harder for the trans community in New Zealand. Because the LGBT community is so inclusive now it’s getting better, most companies have very open attitudes, most venues have unisex toilets, but there are still some loop holes in the laws that are not equal that we need to work on. But some of our bus drivers in the city are transgender, and it’s their personality that outweighs their gender. No one cares. We’ve also got Drag Queen Story Hour in our local libraries, so we’re making progress. Scotty and I have celebrated all the people who have made our community better and stronger by creating a honorary wall of our heroes in our bar. We want everyone to come in and see it and celebrate our history!

Is there still a need for LGBT spaces?

People say we don’t need gay spaces anymore, but there is always going to be a need for gay spaces… the bi-curious, people who may want to come out, people who don’t feel comfortable cuddling in a straight bar, that’s why we’re still here for them.

Performance night with Miss Pollyfilla
Performance night with Wellington Legend “Miss Pollyfilla”

Compared to other countries, what makes New Zealand LGBT friendly?

Really because we’re such a small nation and have had such a long battle and long hard fight for our rights. During the fight to decriminalise homosexual activity 30 years ago, the so-called Christians were chanting, “Kick them back to the gutters and sewers where they came from.” Normal Joe Blogs on the street were horrified that these people were meant to be Christians and were saying those things about us. It helped our cause. Society has moved on and the ‘old watch’ is slowly dying out. Society has become so progressive. New Zealanders think that as long as you don’t upset me or hurt me, then you’re fine.

What makes New Zealand a great destination for LGBT travellers?

It’s the country, the scenery is so spectacular. We’ve got everything, the mountains, lakes, great destination all with incredible activities, jet boating, bungee jumping, everything. And New Zealanders are so sociable, so friendly. Tourists who come into our bar say they absolutely love Wellington, it’s such a great walkable city with fantastic museums, galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars. And we’ve got so many American friends who are moving here!

 

Attending a same-sex wedding
Attending a Same Sex wedding

 

We agree! It’s the country. And it’s thanks to people like Scotty and Mal who have made New Zealand lgbt friendly. They are heroes in our eyes for their long-standing involvement in the fight for LGBT rights in New Zealand. Their delightful personalities and genuine Kiwi warmth also makes Scotty & Mal’s Cocktail and Lounge Bar a must visit when you’re visiting Wellington.

Marriage Equality: Our Story

This Saturday, July 22, 2017, is Bride Pride Provincetown 2017. Come and join in the celebration of 100 couples (we hope) trying to get into the Guinness book of records. As Karen and I are preparing to renew our vows, I wanted to share our marriage history, and why this Saturday will be an equally important day in the story of our life together.

celebrating our mock gay wedding at the Millenium march in 2000.
The first of our weddings!

April 29, 2000: Surrounded by thousands of other gay and lesbian couples participating in a mock marriage ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the Millennium March on Washington, and four years into our relationship, we realized we needed to say our vows for real! The ceremony was extremely emotional for all the couples present, we hugged and shared tears at the reality that we couldn’t marry the loves of our lives. However, we were so lucky to be living in Vermont at the time, and civil unions was about to come into effect on July 1st.  We were leaving to live in London in August, so we had to move quickly.

We got home from Washington, and with bags hardly unpacked, we started planning our civil union ceremony and wedding.

gay wedding invitation to our civil union in Vermont 2000
How do you write a marriage invitation when it’s not a marriage?

 

There was much ugly debate leading up to the passage of the bill, of course, but the strong voices of straight friends and allies helped to buffer the hate.

article written about our 2000 civil union in Vermont and marriage equality
Opinion column in local paper by one of our guests

We were delighted to learn that we were the first same-sex couple to apply for (and get) a civil union licence in our town, Chester, Vermont.

July 22, 2000: 21 days after the Vermont Civil Unions law went into effect, Karen and I got married. Well, ‘civilly unionised’… that is. We committed our lives and love to each other in front of friends and family who had flown in from all over the world (we’d both lived international lives and had friends from all over) – pretty impressive considering we only gave them 7 weeks notice!

our fabulous lesbian wedding down by the river
Riverside ceremony – in true lesbian style!

We’ll never forget the love that was showered on us that day. We know many others are not so lucky and we value this day and our loved ones deeply.

gay wedding guest album
Notes of love and best wishes from our friends and family
our gay rainbow wedding cake
Rainbow cake!

 

May 17, 2004: Marriage Equality in Massachusetts, finally! We had planned to participate in a group wedding with 7 other couples from our U.U. church in Northboro, MA on May 29, 2004, just days after the law came into effect, but it wasn’t to be. I was living in the U.S. on an H1B work visa, and my immigration attorney advised that if my green card application was not successful, and I was trying to enter the U.S at some future time on a tourist visa and didn’t have any legal right to stay, but was married to a U.S. citizen, I would be perceived as a threat to overstay and may be denied entry. Convoluted, but true. This was all thanks to DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act)! Pretty messed up when you think about it! The group wedding was such a joyous day.  However it was also completely heartbreaking for us not to be wedding with our friends on such a special occasion.

July 11, 2008: After a lengthy immigration process, and with green card securely in hand, we legally married in a small ceremony in our garden in Massachusetts. Gaining the legal rights and protections not afforded by our civil union was our main motivation for getting married, as we considered our civil union our true wedding – a huge lovefest that we celebrate every year.

our legal gay wedding in Massachusetts
Finally legally married! Yahoo!

 

And so that brings us to this Saturday… it seems we are fortunate enough to always be in the right place at the right time!

July 22, 2017: Bride Pride! When we learned that Bride Pride fell on our anniversary, we knew we had to participate. To be surrounded by countless other lesbian couples expressing their commitment to each other for the first time, or renewing their vows as we will be doing, will not only be an incredibly emotional and moving experience, but it’s still a political statement as it was 17 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

As Bride Pride organisers Ilene Mitnick and Alli Baldwin have expressed, now more than ever it’s time we all come together, to stand up, and to keep moving LGBTQ rights forward. While both New Zealand and the U.S. have marriage equality, it’s still a basic civil right not afforded in many other countries. To think that our Australian brothers and sisters still don’t have marriage equality, and have to fly across to NZ to tie the knot, it is antiquated and unjust! While we celebrate the rights we now enjoy, and thank those who paved the way before us, we must also stay vigilant and continue to fight for those who do not share these rights.

So thank you Ilene and Alli. This lesbian couple is so excited be part of Bride Pride 2017, to renew our vows, and to celebrate that no matter what, love is love. And with Kate Clinton officiating! Does it get any better?

Best wishes to all the other brides who will be saying their vows on Saturday, whether it be the first time, or the third. May your lives be filled with happiness and love, and may you appreciate each other every day.

We’d love to hear your story, so please, share in the comments section below.

Stay tuned for Bride Pride pics!  It’s going to be a blast.

 

A self drive discovery of New Zealand

By Deb B.

Have you ever thought to yourself, I just need to get away, clear the head and immerse myself in nature’s beauty? I am sure that you have at one stage or another. After a long three years without much self time out, I decided on the spur of the moment to contact Debbie at New Zealand Awaits to plan my get away from the day to day monotony, and Australian heat J

With the kids settled into school and a plethora of relatives on hand to help out, Debbie and I planned an incredible trip to the North and South islands. Debbie was on hand with helpful tips and must-see places, as well as reality checking about what exactly I might be able to achieve in the thirteen days spent traversing this glorious country. This is very helpful if you don’t know the country, or if you do and don’t have a lot of time to plan the arrangements yourself.

So many people asked me, why did you do a self drive of New Zealand? I am very quick to point out the obvious benefits of my self-drive tour:

  1. You wake up when you want, and go to bed when you want, in what can only be described as fantastic, and often unique accommodation – a mix of B&Bs and luxury hotels.
  2. You go to places you want to see without distractions– you see exactly what you want to see, and when – important on a time limited trip
  3. You have great conversations and meet amazing people, and you don’t have conversations when you don’t want to
  4. You can play YOUR songs in the car, and leave Justin Bieber for the school run when you get home
  5. You can stop anywhere you want to and B-R-E-A-T-H-E it all in, it is hard not to come away from such a trip without knowing more about yourself and with clarity about your future direction.
  6. You have to problem solve issues that arise – the benefit of course when you have an amazing travel agent such as Debbie, is that you are never really facing any tough issues by yourself.

And that is exactly what I did.

For anyone considering a self drive holiday and wanting a level of comfort, having a credible travel agent who has checked out the places, has the business relationships for great deals and knows the country, is a big relief.   Debbie is incredibly professional and knows her content. She had me on the plane in less than two weeks in peak season, with a planned holiday that allowed a mix of fun and rest – no easy feat!

And I had a ball!

White Island, active volcano
White Island, active volcano

The highlights of the self drive tour in the North would be White Island at Rotorua, where I took a helicopter ride directly from my accommodation at the Black Swan Resort to the island and back, with lovely companions from the hotel. The resort is incredible and the hospitality endless at the Black Swan, thanks to Arthur and staff.

white-island-helicopter
Enjoying the helicopter ride to White Island

The highlights from the South Island would have to include the fly over Milford Sound with Fly Fiordland and also the self drive through Arthur’s Pass and Haast Pass.

Milford Sound from the air
Milford Sound from the air
By the river in Haast Pass
By the Haast River

Both were equally as stunning, with dramatic scenery that took my breath away and in moments brought tears to my eyes. Nature certainly puts on a show in New Zealand.

Arthur's Pass scenery
Arthur’s Pass scenery
Wanaka view
Wanaka view

As a vegan (yes one of those), it is always hard to travel. However, John’s three course vegan meal at Kapitea Lodge, Hokitika was incredible and he made every effort to accommodate the diet, taking it to another level with his scrumptious dishes that other guest were envious about at the end of the night.

The days went quickly, and all too soon the holiday was over. I can say that I will be back again, as this trip opened up my imagination to the possibilities and gave me a new lease on life. New Zealand is an incredible country, with so much diversity of landscape and interesting history. There is still so much of it to explore.

LGBT Americans – Move to New Zealand!

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Good morning America. As a New Zealand born naturalized American, I’ve woken up this morning wanting to believe it was all just a nightmare. But it’s not, so rather than tell you how I’m feeling about this devastating election outcome (because if you’re reading this blog on moving from the U.S., then we share the same feelings) I thought I’d give you some uplifting news.

New Zealand welcomes you! If you’re Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender, New Zealand is a great country to live in. Ok, we’re not perfect, nowhere is, but the majority of New Zealanders believe in our basic human and civil rights. They believe we deserve equal rights and protections under the law. We were the first country to have women vote, in 1893! First to have a transgender mayor and member of parliament. We have gay marriage and no one is trying to take it away! And we’ve had two female Prime Ministers. We’ve been ranked best country in the world to live in, four years in a row!

Wide open spaces
Wide open spaces

In addition to civil rights for LGBT people, what else makes us best? Obviously our scenery and natural landscapes – just stunning. Which makes our lifestyle pretty awesome – we love being outdoors and enjoying our own back yard. Our economy is strong and there are plenty of work opportunities. As a Kiwi, I’m probably biased, but here are my reasons why I think New Zealand is a pretty fantastic place to live. But don’t just take my word for it, ‘New Zealand Now’ has a page just for American’s who are considering moving here.

Beauty and Serenity
Beauty and Serenity

I’m by no means an immigration expert, but already many LGBT and straight friends have contacted me asking how they can move to New Zealand. So here are a few links that can get you on your way.

First off you can visit us to check us out without a visa under our visa waiver program. You may also be able to stay up to 9 months as a visitor if you can prove you have the money to support yourself. It’s a great way to be in New Zealand to see if our little piece of paradise at the bottom of the world is for you.

Escape to peace
Escape to peace

If you think you’re ready to make the leap without visiting first, here are the options for working in New Zealand. Click on the number ‘2: Explore Visa Options to Work’ link and enter details of your own circumstances and it will lead you through your options.

Younger Americans (18 -30yrs) with NZ $4,200 in your pocket can pretty easily get a working holiday visa and under certain circumstances if can even be extended once you’re here.

Those of you in the 30 – 55 yr age range need to look at other visas. The skilled migrant category is one option, and it can lead to permanent residence here. Check out our skilled shortage list to see if your skills are needed here. If so, getting a work or residence visa may be easier. Securing a visa to work in New Zealand is a complex process, so you’re best to work with an immigration advisor to ensure you greatest chance of success.

If money is no obstacle, then age isn’t either, and you may want to consider an investor visa.  Entrepreneurs and successful business people also have visa options for starting of buying a business in New Zealand.

Of course, if you have a Kiwi partner, regardless of gender (yep, hetero or same-sex) then that’s a much easier way to go. If you don’t, maybe it’s time to visit and charm the pants off (figuratively or literally) some Kiwi guy or girl!

These options above are not the only options. New Zealand immigration has an excellent, easy to use website that can guide you through all the various visa options.

So if you’re seriously considering living in a more welcoming and safe country, consider us! New Zealand Awaits!

 

 

Doubtful Sound Wilderness – Rain or Shine

There are few places on earth that are so easily accessible, yet so wild, as Doubtful Sound. Rugged, remote, and lush with rainforest, this sound will take your breath away. Whether it’s pouring rain, or brilliant sunshine, Doubtful Sound never fails to deliver.

Spending an overnight in Doubtful Sound with Chris from Deep Cove Charters, a local who has spent his whole life in the sound, is an experience every visitor to New Zealand should not miss!  Completely disconnected from the rest of the world, the power and solitude of Fiordland enveloped us. Rather than dampening our trip, the rain added to the awe of this moody sound and provided a spectacular display of hundreds of waterfalls. We saw dophins, fur seals, penguins, and albatross. We fished, kayaked, and just breathed in the serenity and peacefulness of this exquisite wilderness. Chris pulled up crayfish for lunch, and we fished for dinner to accompany the venison previously hunted by Chris. At dusk We enjoyed a drink with new friends, discussed the privilege of being where we were, and were lulled to sleep by the sound of silence.
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The day after we left Doubttul Sound, my sister, her husband, and another couple spent three days kayaking and camping in the sound. Their weather couldn’t have been more different.

 

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doubtfulsound doubtfulreflectionWhether from the comfort of Chris’ boat, or roughing it in a kayak, Doubtful Sound is truly magic.

9 Reasons Why I Love New Zealand

I’ve lived many places around the world, but there is nowhere quite like home: New Zealand. Here’s my 9 reasons why I love New Zealand so much.

1. Our Nature – our wild, rugged, remote, and stunning places.

Whether it’s our pristine beaches, our lush native bush, our glaciers and mountains, or our blue, blue skies, it’s all just so damn spectacular. Ask anyone who has been. I give thanks every day that I was born here.

Wild New Zealand
Wanaka High Country

2. Our laid-back, ‘yeah, whatever’ attitude towards LGBT people

Most kiwis could care less if you’re LGBT or not, making New Zealand a great place for LGBT folks to live and visit. I think this is due to our socially progressive, open-minded attitude about many things. We were the first country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1893, and 34% of our parliament members today are female. We were the first country to have an openly transgender member of parliament, Georgina Beyer, elected in 1999, prior to which she’d been a rural town mayor for five years. Go Georgina! Granted, it took us a little longer to get gay marriage, but that did finally get legalised in 2013.

3. Our sense of humour. We’re irreverent, sarcastic, and tell it like it is.

We make fun of ourselves, and love to kid others too. And we expect to give as good as we get, so let your guard down a little, and don’t be afraid to poke fun when you’re in New Zealand. Don’t be surprised either when we give it right back – it’s a sign of affection and means you’re seen as ‘one of us’.

4. Our connection to nature and the outdoors.

Kiwis love the outdoors. We love our beaches and BBQs in the summer, our ski-fields in the winter, and we love getting out to explore and enjoy our own country. Even our homes are designed with big sliding or bi-fold doors that spill the dining room or living room out onto our decks for outdoor living. We’re also a pretty active nation, and we love to take advantage of our endless hiking trails (we call it tramping – but that doesn’t make us tramps!), our diverse mountain biking and cycling trails, the endless water-sports on offer with our spectacular coastline, lakes, and rivers. And we’re the world leaders when it comes to adventure sports too – bungy jumping, jet boating, zorbing (all invented in New Zealand), caving, ziplining, paragliding, skydiving… we just can’t find enough different ways to walk, paddle, pedal, glide, whizz, and fly though our great outdoors.

New Zealand Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living
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Paddling a favourite spot on the Coromandel Peninsular

5. Our dedicated volunteers who are committed to protecting our unique environment.

When you start learning about the huge number of eco-sanctuaries in New Zealand, and the vast numbers of New Zealanders who are the reason these places exist, you can’t help but be impressed. Many Kiwis understand the fragility and importance of our unique flora and fauna, and that we need to protect and restore it, for our own sake, that of our children, and the many generations to come. It’s something about New Zealand that I’m so proud of.

New Zealand Wildlife
Rare and Endangered Takahe in at Maungatautari Ecosanctuary

6. Our delicious, fresh, seasonal foods, and our world-class wines.

It’s not hard to get excellent quality, fresh, locally produced cuisine here. Even small cafes will often have locally sourced, fresh and seasonal produce. And pair that delicious meal with some local wine from one of our numerous wine growing regions. Our Sauvignon Blancs are well appreciated all over the world now, but we also produce spectacular Pinot Noirs, as well as other varietals. Wine tastings are such a fun way to learn about new wines and support local winemakers.  You’ll love what you discover!

Farm to Table Food
From the farm to the table

7. Our modern banking systems.

When I first returned home a few years ago, my sister repaid me some money via her banking phone app within a few seconds. I couldn’t believe it. “What do you mean you can’t do that in the U.S.?” she asked. “We send cheques,” I explained. “What?” she asked like I was nuts. NO ONE uses cheques here anymore, except our mother, who is 82! EVERYTHING is done electronically in New Zealand, mostly on mobile devices, and has been for years. It’s SO easy. I love it!

Easy Pay Bank App
So easy to pay back your sister!

8. Our All Blacks!

If you don’t know who they are, then you’re missing out. We are a rugby-crazy nation, but then we are the best in the world, so why wouldn’t we be! Everything stops when there are games on. And if it’s the World Cup final (meaning a true ‘world’ cup final… not a ‘World Series’ that involves only one nation), then the whole country comes to a grinding halt. We celebrate, and sometimes mourn, with our boys in black. Check out the haka below. Gives me chills!

9. Last but not least, our electoral campaigns are only about a month long – yes only a month!

Legally, no longer than 40 days. Ok, so I’m really only adding this because Donald Trump is all over our TV, in New Zealand! And has been for months. Ugh!! One month – imagine that? It’s so refreshing!

I may be biased, but it’s the best country in the world. Come home with us to see for yourself!