A Solo Lesbian Traveller in New Zealand

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If you’re a solo lesbian traveller who travels to immerse yourself in stunning natural landscapes, meet warm and interesting people, explore new cultures, and feel truly alive, then New Zealand is a fantastic lesbian travel destination for you. It’s safe, LGBTQ-welcoming, culturally rich, offers thrilling adventures in spectacular scenery… and has loads of local lesbians who want to make your trip truly special. 

Mary, a solo lesbian traveller, wanted to spend three weeks in New Zealand. As a huge Lord of the Rings fan, her “NZMust-Dos” included Hobbiton and other Lord of the Rings sites, time in nature, some unique and fun experiences, as well as connecting with as many lesbian locals as possible. This is her trip photo journal and her voice when in quotations.

First stop, Auckland: Staying in the gay enclave of Ponsonby gave Mary easy walking access to the city. It’s a funky local neighbourhood, and is also home to the Women’s Bookstore down the road. A room in an historical villa with a view over the city and the Sky Tower is a perfect introduction to New Zealand.

A view of Auckland City from villa room

A room with a view

With two days in Auckland, Mary caught the ferry across the harbour to Rangitoto, an extinct volcano. The return climb to the top of the volcano can easily be accomplished in 3 hours, and passes through lush native bush.

Rangitoto Island track through native bush

Bush track on Rangitoto Island

Even on cloudy days the views back to Auckland city are worth the effort.

View from Rangitoto Island to Auckland City

City views from Rangitoto

Day 3 saw Mary picking up her rental car and venturing south. Mary commented that, “Driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road is challenging for American drivers, but it quickly becomes just another part of the adventure with a little focus and effort.” It’s also a good idea to start your driving in a town or city where you have other drivers to follow! It’s the country roads with no other traffic that require full concentration and awareness of which side you’re meant to be on. With focus and effort, self-driving allows for a lot of freedom. Mary explored the Hunua Falls, Karanaghake Gorge with its historic gold mining tunnels, and the white sand beach of Waihi on her travels south. 

Mary, solo lesbian traveller, in front of Hunua Falls

Hunau Falls all to herself!

Lone surfer walking along Waihi Beach

Waihi Beach in September, a solo surfer’s dream

A short climb up Mount Maunganui on the east coast always rewards with outstanding views, and a chance to meet some locals!

Mary’s accommodation for the next two nights was with lesbian hosts, Susanna and Karen in Tauranga on the east coast of the North Island. They have a lovely studio apartment with ensuite in their home near Mount Maunganui, and they love taking care of our travellers.

Mary with Suzanna in front of vines

Time with Susanna to experience the local food scene

Susanna and Karen are also passionate foodies, so Mary spent a day with Suzanna meandering along the coast meeting local producers and sampling their exquisite cheeses, olive oils, kiwi fruit, Manuka honey, seasonal fruits, and fresh seafood. Yummm…

As a huge Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fan, Mary had timed her visit to New Zealand beautifully to coincide with International Hobbit Day! Her stay in Matamata was even more thrilling when she learned on arrival that the lodging we’d selected was the very same that Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) stayed in during filming! A 5 hour banquet at Hobbiton was to be the perfect way to celebrate, and Mary was tickled pink!

Her facebook comments for today read, “Have you ever dreamed of entering your favorite fictional world for real? I did that today on Bilbo’s birthday in Hobbiton in New Zealand for International Hobbit Day.”

Mary at International Hobbits Day

International Hobbit’s Day!

Mary in front of Bag End at Hobbiton

Fiction becomes reality!

With one trip highlight behind her, more adventure awaited. Te Waihou walkway on the way from Hobbiton to Rotorua offered Mary a short walk into a unique natural phenomenon – the blue springs – bubbling up from underground and creating a stream so clear and blue, especially on sunny days. 

Crystal clear water of Te Waihou Springs

Te Waihou Springs

Track along the river at Te Waihou walkway

Oh so green!

Because of Mary’s enthusiasm for authentic connections with locals, we’d arranged for Mary to spend time with Laurie in her Maori village and home  in Rotorua for the evening. A walk through the village with Laurie allows guests to learn about Maori culture from an up close and personal perspective.

Mary at the marae meeting house

Appreciating Maori culture with insights from Laurie

Laurie and her partner Heather are also wonderful cooks and delightful company. Laurie has a wicked sense of humour and our travellers love this evening with her and Heather. She readily shares her stories of growing up as a lesbian in New Zealand at a time when it wasn’t easy. Her stories of the lesbian scene and now-closed lesbian bars are fascinating, enlightening, and quite entertaining!

Mary enjoying dinner with Maureen in her home

Appreciating Laurie!

Onwards to Wellington, at the southernmost tip of the North Island, and on to a city walking tour with Sue, another of our lesbian partners, Mary met Steph Lusted, a renowned New Zealand jeweller who worked for two years in the props department for ‘The Hobbit’. Sue is our Wellington insider! Tell her your interests and she’ll steer to you to the right people!

Mary with Steph Lusted in her studio

What a treat – meeting Steph Lusted

Mary’s lodging in Wellington for 4 nights was a centrally located gay-owned cottage. Perfect for her desire to support her community and be within easy walking distance of all of Wellington’s museums, galleries, cafes and restaurants. The cottage owners, Dean and Scott, make sure you have everything you need for a great city stay.

For Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans, you can’t miss a full tour of Weta Workshop while in Wellington – the studio responsible for the incredible props and special effects in these movies.

Mary at Weta Workshop with Gollum

Meeting Gollum

On to the South Island and Mapua on the northern coast, to meet Yvonne and Suzie, Mary’s B&B hosts for the next two nights. With great conversation over a fabulous lamb shank dinner followed by a good night’s sleep, Mary was ready for a full day hiking with Yvonne in one of our most stunning national parks, Abel Tasman.

Mary on a swing bridge in Abel Tasman National Park

New Zealand’s awesome swing bridges…

 

clear stream in lush native bush in Abel Tasman National Park

lush native bush…

 

walking track in Abel Tasman National Park

excellent hiking tracks…

 

Mary with local Yvonne in front of turquoise waters in Abel Tasman National Park

in the company of a wonderful Kiwi. A stand out day.

“Had a fantastic day hiking 8 miles in the Abel Tasman National Park.” Mary wrote on her facebook page. “Perfect weather, such beauty. My favorite day so far in New Zealand.” She went on to add a personal note to Yvonne,  “It’s hard to express just how special this trip has been for me. The experiences like I had with you are what has made it unforgettable. Thank you Yvonne for helping me and for being real while you were at it. Hope to meet you again some day!” It’s what we all want when we travel isn’t it? Real connections with real people.

And spectacular scenery to boot! Onwards to the mighty west coast of the South Island – a coastal drive that’s hard to beat!

 

 

view of pancake rocks at Punakaiki

Bizarre and fascinating pancake rocks at Punakaiki

Mary in front of pancake rocks at Punakaiki

Dressed for the weather

“Today I drove down the west coast of the South Island in New Zealand. It was cool and rainy but oh so awesome. These photos don’t do justice to the Franz Josef Glacier but, as I walked the trail to the glacier, I was humbled and thrown into a sense of geological time. I grew up in Wisconsin on land flattened by a glacier in the last ice age. It was amazing to see a glacier moving NOW, oh so slowly, and spewing its ground up earth and rocks and melting a little all the time. I’m oh so grateful to be traveling in this land.”

view of Franz Josef glacier

A retreating glacier

 

view of Franz Josef glacier

Still awesome, despite the weather

“The landscape I traveled through today was overwhelming and the photos don’t do justice to the scale. First Mt. Tasman and Mt Cook on a walk to a perfectly reflecting lake, then the Fox Glacier, the Blue Pools and the two incredibly huge lakes on the drive into Wanaka.

view over Lake Matheson to Aoraki Mt. Cook

Moody Mt Tasman and Aoraki Mt Cook

 

Mirror reflection on Lake Matheson of Aoraki Mt. Cook

Perfect reflections on Lake Matheson

 

view of Fox Glacier

Views of Fox Glacier from the track

 

mossy native forest track at Fox Glacier

Lush, mossy, native bush

While many tourists bypass Wanaka en-route to Queenstown, we urge our travellers to stay in Wanaka instead. It’s quieter, has a funky lakeside vibe, is still a town of locals, has endless activities and experiences, and is breathtakingly beautiful. Mary made the most of her three days here, starting with flying into Milford Sound and cruising the fiord on a small boat. Flying from Wanaka with Southern Alps Air, a great family owned and operated business, gives a longer flight over the alps, and crosses through Mt. Aspiring National Park, before cresting the edges of the fiord, and flying down the length of it.

view from airplane over Lake Wanaka on the way to Milford Sound

Flight over Lake Wanaka towards the Southern Alps

 

view from airplane over Lake Wanaka and Southern Alps on the way to Milford Sound

Snow on the Alps – makes September a perfect time to travel

 

view from airplane  of Southern Alps up close on the way to Milford Sound

Touch those peaks!

 

view from airplane of the sheer cliff faces of Milford Sound

Milford Sound from the Air – majestic and magnificent

 

boat and waterfall in Milford Sound

Misty Milford Sound, best during the rain which creates thundering waterfalls

Mary’s last day in New Zealand was equally outstanding; a guided hike and glacier landing with another fantastic locally owned company, Eco Wanaka. Her final words sum up her ‘unexpected journey’ far better than I can:

“Alas, three weeks is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable New Zealanders…Back home, I, uh, I h-have things to do…I regret to announce — this is The End. I am going home now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.”(for the clueless, this is a paraphrase of Bilbo’s speech at his birthday party before he put on the Ring and disappeared.) I head home tomorrow after one last unforgettable day in New Zealand – my first helicopter ride to land on a glacier, then hiking to see the glacier – 21,000 steps, 108 stories climbed, a grand hike and last day. On the way home, the One Ring was found in the van and … I resisted it’s pull, didn’t put it on and remained myself. Madison here I come.

 

Do you love the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings? Would you enjoy meeting local lesbians on your New Zealand trip? If so, contact us about Mary’s itinerary, or let us create one designed on your dreams and passions.

 

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