Lesbian Adventure Travellers Explore New Zealand

When lesbian adventure travellers Stephanie and Ziadee contacted us, they’d already planned a lot of their 9 day trip around New Zealand. They only wanted help with two days when Ziadee would be on her own while Stephanie jetted off to Australia to catch a concert.

“You’re going to Australia overnight to see a band, while you’re touring New Zealand?” I clarified. “Yes, it’s my all-time favourite band,” Stephanie explained, “I need to know Ziadee is well taken care of in New Zealand on her own while I’m gone,” she added. “And I’m feeling a little guilty ditching her to go to Australia for two days on our vacation,” she fessed up. This was a first for us!

Their fights were booked, as well as 4 night’s lodgings. And their list of ‘NZMustDo’ included hiking, swimming, kayaking, white water sledging, glowworm caving, bird watching, and wineries – impressive, to say the least. They also wanted to explore only our North Island – very cool! With so much on offer in the North Island, we were excited to work with them. Like many independent adventurous travellers, their research on New Zealand was extensive, and they’d created an excellent itinerary. Although knowing our roads and travel time, I was more than a little concerned that they’d be too busy every day to really enjoy themselves.

A chat

So we started, as we always do, with a frank discussion. What do you typically do on holiday? How long do you like to drive? What does a slow day look like? How fit are you, really? How far do you typically hike? … and so the questions went. At the end of our chat, they emailed me an itinerary they’d planned and completed in Scotland. It was just as packed with physical activities and driving as their desired New Zealand itinerary. And they’d wanted to do more on some days. “Ok, I get it” I responded, “You two are truly active travellers. Let’s see what else we can squeeze into this already awesome adventure you’ve planned.”

If you’re a lesbian adventure traveller yourself, take a look at their trip and see what you think. For Stephanie and Ziadee, it was perfect. Well almost… more on that below.

Day 1 – Auckland – Coromandel Peninsula:
Swimming & Walking 

On arrival in Auckland, they grabbed their rental car and headed to to Cook’s Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. They’d hardly been in the country half an hour when they texted to say their kayaking trip at Cathedral Cove the next day had been cancelled due to high seas that wouldn’t be settled in time. ”We don’t care it’s raining and windy, we still want to get out on the water tomorrow,” they texted.  I wasn’t surprised. While most on the Coromandel hunkered down in this weather, these two wanted to get out and feel the full force of nature. I worked on an alternative while they spent the afternoon swimming at Flaxmill Bay and exploring the Shakespeare Cliff trail.

Day 2 – Coromandel Peninsula:
Kayaking, SUPping & Wines

With raging seas and no chance of kayaking gorgeous Cathedral Cove, Stephanie and Ziadee drove south, to my absolute favourite Coromandel beach, Whangamata. I grew up going to this beach as a kid, and still holiday there now. With 5 miles of white sand beach, a tranquil harbour, and a gentle estuary and tidal river, Whangamata offers all weather paddling that the other Coro beaches can’t beat. It’s also not highly touristed yet, which adds to its appeal.

Whangamata
A beach of your own (photo New Zealand Awaits)

With the winds at their backs, Stephanie and Ziadee had an invigorating kayak and SUP up the Otahu Estuary enjoying the rural views. They said their fantastic guide Pete, from our partners SurfSup, made the trip even better. Sipping local wine and munching on Italian appetizers at Mercury Bay Estate Vineyard to end their day, they kicked back and drank in the amazing views over Cooks Beach.

Day 3 – Coromandel Peninsula – Te Aroha:
Biking

Stephanie and Ziadee had planned to hike today, but after letting them know their chosen hike (the 6 hour Pinnacles Track near Thames) was closed for maintenance, we switched things around. They travelled from the Coro Peninsula through to Waihi to bike into the Karangahake Gorge. We booked them onto the most interesting and scenic section that meanders along the river and through the gorge. While many choose to bike in one direction, an out and back from Waihi offers a more flexible relaxed ride with no shuttles to meet, and the option of a unique steam train ride for the return if you’re feeling pooped!

Hauraki Rail Trail
Ziadee and Stephanie riding the scenic Hauraki Rail Trail (photo Ziadee Cambier)

Day 4 – Te Aroha:
Hiking

Knowing Stephanie and Ziadee wanted a good climb with views, our alternative hike to the Pinnacles was the Wairere Falls in the Kaimai Ranges. With a stunning waterfall and great views over the plains of the Waikato, this shorter hike is a fantastic option.

Wairere Falls
Lookout point half way up the Wairere Falls (photo New Zealand Awaits)

 

Wairere Falls
Top of Wairere Falls (photo Ziadee Cambier)

Their nearby lodging was also tucked away in a town very few tourists visit, Te Aroha, ‘Mountain of Love’ in Maori. Appropriate for these lovers! A stroll across the parking lot from the lodging takes you to the Te Aroha mineral spas – perfect for an evening relaxation after hiking the falls.

Day 5 – Te Aroha – Rotorua:
Ziadee to Rotorua, Steph to Aussie!

With Stephanie jetting off to Australia for the night, Ziadee made the most of her time alone. She jumped on a local shuttle service and headed south to Rotorua. Te Puia, with its bubbling mud pools, steaming fumaroles, Pohutu geyser, and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, is easy to spent few hours wandering, as Ziadee did. The schools of carving, weaving, and other traditional arts are open to visitors and you can watch and chat with the students learning the crafts of their culture.

Te Puia
Obligatory selfie at Te Puia (photo Ziadee Cambier)

Literally around the corner is The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest, a 5600 hectare forest with walking and mountain biking trails. Hiking amidst these magnificent giant redwoods is just the ticket to stretch your legs if needed. Ziadee’s hotel for the night was a quick 5 minute walk to  Rotorua’s Eat Street – filled with numerous restaurants and bars where the choices are endless.

Day 6 – Rotorua – Tongariro:
Sledging & Ziplining

While Stephanie, sleep deprived and exhausted, boarded a plane in Sydney,  Ziadee was whizzing her way over white water rapids in New Zealand’s lush native bush. Yeah, this rocks!

Sledging
Yeeehaaa! (photo Ziadee Cambier)

After a quick bite for lunch, Ziadee was off to meet some of our most passionate conservationists who combine adventure and conservation in one exciting native bush* ziplining experience. (*yes, we do call our forest ‘bush’). Ziadee listed this experience as one of her top three highlights in New Zealand.

Energy to burn! (photo Ziadee Cambier)

Meanwhile Stephanie was driving from Auckland airport to pick Ziadee up in Rotorua and continue through to Tongariro. The less than perfect part of their trip was this drive. As Ziadee wrote to me after the trip, “Our pace worked well for us except Saturday night – Steph’s travel plans back from Auckland were a bit too ambitious. We both got cranky driving to Tongariro and missed seeing Taupo in the dark!” Ah well.. the band was still worth it, right Steph?

Day 7 – Tongariro:
Hiking

Everyone wants to hike the Tongariro Crossing. It’s commonly referred to as ‘the best one day walk in New Zealand’. However, like many iconic experiences around the world, with every man and his donkey doing them, it’s not necessarily the experience many want anymore. I’d warned Steph and Ziadee that it would be crowded. I’d talked with their lodging host about alternatives prior to their arrival since they only had one day to do it, and the weather can often cancel the best laid plans. “Don’t worry”, she assured me, “there are many other walks here just as phenomenal as the crossing and they can be done in all weather.” Well, as it turned out, the weather was fine, but Steph and Ziadee chose to follow the advice of their local host. “SO glad our host knew how crowded Tongariro crossing is…” Ziadee wrote to me after (apparently there were 2000 hikers that day), “…we would have been miserable if we’d done it.” She also added, “And don’t tell EVERYONE about the hike we did – our hosts don’t want that one to get overrun, too.” Don’t worry Ziadee, we promise, we won’t!

Tongariro National Park
Tongariro secret trail (photo Ziadee Cambier)

Day 8 – Tongariro – Pukeatua:
Glowworm Caving & Nighttime Kiwi Calling

Steph and Ziadee’s second to last day looped them back from Tongariro to Waitomo, famous for its glowworm caves. There are many cave tours on offer in this area, from 45 minutes to 7 hours, from dry to wet, walking, in a boat, ziplining, rafting… choosing what is best for you can be a challenge. If you appreciate nature, want to get up close and personal with the glowworms, and stay dry, then you’ll want to experience this magical wonder with Spellbound, which is what Steph and Ziadee ultimately chose. Spellbound makes sure you have the time, group size, silence, and a knowledgeable guide, to really appreciate these unique creatures. (If you’re heading to the South Island, talk with us about a great glowworm trip there too).

Cave exploring (photo Ziadee Cambier)

For their last night in New Zealand, Steph and Ziadee wanted to explore our native bush at night. It’s hard to describe what this experience is like. Think Jurassic Park-like primordial rainforest, the sounds of teeming insects, bugs, and nocturnal birds… in darkness so absolute you can’t see your hands. Most New Zealanders have never seen a Kiwi (our native bird, not a New Zealander!) in its natural environment, but Steph and Ziadee had the privilege of spotting one this night. They rated this experience as one of their highlights.

Day 9 Pukeatua – Auckland:
Birdwatching & Wines

Experiencing our native bush at night is one thing, but Steph and Ziadee returned to the eco-sanctuary this morning to hear the morning birdsong and experience the bush in daylight. We’re so proud of Sanctuary Mountain, a world class conservation project on our back doorstep. And we love to share it with our guests. In addition to doing important conservation and restoration work, their vision is to inspire environmental and wildlife conservation in others. We hope Steph and Ziadee returned  home inspired.

With time to kill before their flight for the U.S. they stopped by Villa Maria vineyards near the airport. It was a perfect end to their adventure-filled, nature focused trip around our North Island.

Working with Stephanie and Ziadee was a blast. They know how they travel, their energy levels, and what they want to experience. We know what’s on offer in New Zealand, and the best places and people to do it with. They were really open to listening to our suggestions, tweaks, and ideas for better routes, activities, and new ideas, like the ziplining and sanctuary mountain night tour. It’s exactly how we love to work, helping you make the most of your time and money in our great little country. Stephanie and Ziadee were also awesome in the feedback they gave us after their trip. They gave concrete suggestions that we’re totally incorporating into the next Lesbian adventure trip we plan. Thanks ladies, you rock!

Are you a Lesbian Adventure Traveller?

If so, contact us now. We’d love to help you plan an adventure filled trip in New Zealand.

Kim and Karenza Win a New Zealand Honeymoon

Join us in congratulating Kim and Karenza on their New Zealand Honeymoon win! As nature, food, and wine lovers, this honeymoon is a perfect fit for them. We’re so thrilled they’ve won our honeymoon package. They will travel to New Zealand in September to enjoy all the special features of this prize giveaway. Kim and Karenza have been together 5 years and are planning a wedding in Melbourne. Surrounded by their friends and family, they’ll marry to celebrate their love and commitment to each other. Their two children will be there to join in the festivities.  We’re so honoured to be taking care of them on the honeymoon of their dreams.

Massage in Marlborough Sounds
Be pampered in the wilderness at Bay of Many Coves Resort

Kim and Karenza will spend 5 days in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds and Nelson Tasman regions. These two regions offer some of the best romantic nature escapes and wining and dining experiences in New Zealand. Whether it’s the breathtaking vistas in every direction, the star-filled nights, the mystique of the Marlborough Sounds, or the European flavoured vineyards, Marlborough has romance written all over it. Couple that with sun filled days and the golden sand beaches of Nelson Tasman, and you’ve discovered the perfect honeymoon escape. Our valued partners are eager to pamper Kim and Karenza and all of our LGBTQ honeymoon couples.

The Honeymoon Giveaway:

See what Kim and Karenza will be doing on their honeymoon in New Zealand.

Day 1. Marlborough Sounds (2 nights)

  • Start the day with a Marlborough Icons Tour. Enjoy a wine tour in the morning, a delicious waterfront lunch, and a relaxing seafood cruise for the afternoon. Sample fresh local seafood and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc as you cruise the Marlborough Sounds.
  • Arrive at the remote Bay of Many Coves Resorta luxury five star resort tucked into a tranquil bay in the sounds, and home for the next two nights.
  • Indulge in a 3 course dinner that captures the art of culinary freshness and creativity and sip on your complimentary world-class Sauvignon Blanc.
mussels and wine
Fresh local seafood and world class wine

Day 2. Marlborough Sounds

  • Relax and enjoy the many activities on offer at this romantic sanctuary: spa treatments, walking or hiking, kayaking, SUPing, wildlife cruises, and bird watching to name a few.
  • Marvel at this tranquil paradise over another sumptuous 3 course dinner.
Bay of Many Coves Resort
Luxurious five star Bay of Many Coves Resort surrounded by nature

 Day 3. Abel Tasman National Park (2 nights) 

  • Travel through to Moutere to meet Nicki and Lisa from Wheelie Fantastic, who will set you up on your self-guided Moutere Wine and Artisans Bike Tour. Pedal through the scenic boutique wineries of Nelson, visit artisan’s studios, and appreciate the stunning vistas of the Moutere area.
  • Cruise across the turquoise waters of Abel Tasman National Park with Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles to your next remote hideaway lodging for the next two nights, Awaroa Lodge.
  • Appreciate the culinary creations from the lodge’s organic garden for dinner, paired with your complimentary wine. The chocolate truffles will be a perfect after dinner treat.
Awaroa Lodge in Abel Tasman National Park
Romantic Superior Suite at Awaroa Lodge

Day 4. Abel Tasman National Park

  • Surrounded by golden sand beaches and gorgeous waters, you have full day to hike, kayak, cruise or sail in Abel Tasman National Park. We’ll help you choose a day filled with romance, fun and excitement.
Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle
Water Taxi to remote locations in Abel Tasman National Park with Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle

Day 5. Cherished Memories

  • Begin your journey home via Nelson or Blenheim and cherish the memories you’ve created during this celebration of your love.

Thanks to our fantastic LGBTQ friendly partners in Marlborough and Nelson Tasman for their contributions to this honeymoon giveaway:

Honeymoon Giveaway Value: NZ$4,200

Kim and Karenza, we can’t wait to take care of you in New Zealand. The countdown is on.

Want to honeymoon like Kim and Karenza?

Talk with us about this honeymoon package, or let us create one just for you based on your desires, time, and budget. We’d be honoured to take care of you for such a special occasion.

 

10 New Zealand Honeymoon Tips for LGBT Australians

Well Aussie, it’s been a long time coming. Congratulations. We’re over the moon that your friends, colleagues and family said YES! We know many of you have come to New Zealand in the past to marry, and of course you’re still welcome to, but as a happily legally married lesbian of 9 years myself, I get it. There’s nothing better than having all your family and friends gathered around as you commit to your soulmate. Especially if you’ve been waiting a long time for this. But we hope you’ll still think of us for your honeymoon! We’d love to celebrate with you, and you’ll just love it here! To  help you create the perfect honeymoon, here’s our list of New Zealand honeymoon tips for LGBT Australians.

1. Know your lodging is LGBT friendly.

I’d like to say all lodging in New Zealand is, but unfortunately that is just not the case. However, there are many lodging providers who do want to spoil you, celebrate with you, and pamper you at this important time in your relationship. If you want to cuddle and kiss your sweetheart, then you want people around who will love seeing you do that, and support your right to do so. If you want to stay in LGBT owned lodging, then GayStay is an excellent resource!

New Zealand Gay Honeymoon
Stay with Gary and Robert in their lovely Ribbonwood Country House.

2. Connect with the LGBT Community.

This is a monumental time in your history as a country, and as a couple. There is nothing quite like sharing this enormous milestone with people who have experienced the same struggles to get the same rights and really understand how it feels. Check out some of our LGBT locals who would love to make your honeymoon extra special.

We welcome LGBT travellers
Scotty and Mal want to celebrate with you!

 3. Avoid the crowds and travel off season.

October to mid-December and then from mid-March till end of April are great times to visit. The temperatures can still be mild, accommodation rates are often less, and the crowds haven’t yet arrived, or have departed. Flights are often less too.

Uncrowded New Zealand
Escape the crowds.

4. Focus on only one or two areas to visit and stay.

I know you think we’re small, and we are compared to Aussie, but our roads are winding and slow to drive. This is your honeymoon, not the time to see all of New Zealand in 5 days! We’re so close, you can always pop back to explore other areas another time.

Winding New Zealand Road
Don’t sit behind the wheel of a car all day. (Credit: Sam Mahayni)

5. Choose an area or regions that offer a variety of experiences.

On honeymoon, you want to share different activities together, but you don’t want to spend all day, every day in the car getting there. For example, if you want a blend of gorgeous wines, fresh seafood, local art, and luxury in remote wilderness, then Marlborough with the Marlborough Sounds is a perfect choice.

New Zealand Honeymoon
Marlborough Sounds has it all. (Credit: Rob Suisted)

6. Create space and down time.

Sleep in, lie around, swing in a hammock together. Don’t feel compelled to rush around and see everything just because you’re in a new place. Make time to just be with each other.

New Zealand Lesbian Honeymoon
Alone time together

7. Set your budget.

We have a huge range of accommodations, from moderately priced, self-catering cabins to ultra-luxury lodges. If you can go 5 star all the way – do it! if you can’t, no worries. It’s quite possible to have a spectacular honeymoon in New Zealand without breaking the bank.

Luxury New Zealand LGBT Honeymoon
Soak in luxury at Bay of Many Coves, a gorgeous LGBT friendly 5 star resort

8. Do something Unique.

Sharing a once in a life time experience, or something thrilling and special, creates memories that you’ll treasure forever. So whether it’s a heli-picnic to a remote mountain setting, or sleeping in a luxury glass Purepod under the stars, find that special experience to share together.

New Zealand Honeymoon
Dare to try something different, like Little River PurePod. (Credit: Johneey Hoek)

9. Book Ahead.

Don’t think you can just rent a car, drive, and be spontaneous about accommodation. Your honeymoon is not the time to end up sleeping in the car because you thought New Zealand in February is a good time to wing it! It’s not. Things get booked up here, especially in the summer months, so plan and book ahead.

Lesbian Honeymoon
Suzie and Caroline’s Criffel Peak View B&B, is a wonderful, moderately priced choice.

10. Tailor-make YOUR OWN honeymoon.

If you’re a young millennial couple, then chances are you will want something different than an older couple who has been waiting generations for this moment. Our LGBTQ community is SO diverse! What we each want from a honeymoon differs. Don’t just buy a ‘NZ Honeymoon Itinerary’ off the shelf. Create something special that is a perfect match for who you are as a couple.

We’d be honoured to help you do that. Contact us now.

 

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.

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.

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
donut_island_view
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!