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Russian badboy heads west
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Enjoying more than just Kiwi fruits!
NOTE: This is an archive article. For updated and expanded articles click Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington
New Zealand lies in the southwest Pacific Ocean, nearly 800 miles from Australia (to the east) and 6500 miles from LA. The capital city is Wellington, near the southern tip of the
North Island, with a population of approximately 400,000. Wellington's central geographical position was the major deciding factor in the transfer of the seat of government from Auckland,
in 1865. Auckland is the largest city with a population having just reached one million. Over 200,000 inhabitants of Auckland are from the Pacific islands, which makes it the largest
Polynesian city in the world. The three main islands are the North Island, the South Island, and Stewart Island.
Maori make up about 15 percent of New Zealand's four million population and are indigenous people of New Zealand. Most Maori live in the North Island, but the South Island population is increasing. In pre-European Maori society there was no particular taboo about homosexuality. The Maori word for "intimate partner of the same sex" Takatapui has been adopted by many in the New Zealand LGBT community.
New Zealand is a very mountainous country. It lies on a fault line which forms part of the Pacific "Rim of Fire," though there have been only two major volcanic eruptions in
the last 600 years. In the South Island, the Southern Alps run its length.
Out of all of my travels, New Zealand tops the list for beauty. Since the filming of
Lord of the Rings, New Zealand has been added to many people's lists of places to visit. Take
the scenery from the movie and multiply it by the hundreds and you may get close to New Zealand's beauty. With the exception of airfare from North America, your trip will be
relatively inexpensive with the US dollar worth about 1.60 New Zealand dollars.
I stayed at the Great Ponsonby Bed & Breakfast (30 Ponsonby Terrace, 9 376-5989) in the heart of Ponsonby, a suburb of Auckland. The B&B is a chic, yet small, hotel in a quiet
cul-de-sac minutes from the many bars and cafes on Ponsonby Road. Rooms start at NZ$200, or about US$120 a night. That includes a choice of one of four our five freshly
cooked breakfasts, such as smoked salmon scrambled eggs or a Greek omelet with feta cheese.
Aspen House Bed & Breakfast Hotel (62 Emily Place, 9 379-6633) offers the budget-minded traveler a great downtown alternative for as little as NZ$69 for rooms with shared bathrooms, or NZ$129 for a private bathroom. They have guest laundry service, luggage storage and
are served by all airport shuttles.
Other lodgings options include:
Quest Ponsonby (68 Ponsonby Rd, 9 360-4240) near to many gay venues and many restaurants and shops; Moana Vista B&B (60 Hamilton Rd, 021-376-150) near both nightlife action and beaches; Palm Beach Bungalows (Waiheke Island, 9 372 5146) with seven romantic beachside bungalows and cottages; and Umoya Lodge (30 Rataroa Rd, Pokeno; 9 232-7636) for tranquility and stunning views from atop Mount Rataroa, an hour south of Auckland.
Much of gay nightlife in Auckland, from neighborhood bars and dance clubs to dinner-and-a-drag-show venues, is in the Newton neighborhood around Karangahape (locally known as "K' Road") and Ponsonby Road.
Some popular spots include Dot's (233 Symonds St) neighborhood cocktail bar and gaming lounge with entertainment, bear nights, uniform nights, art exhibits, and drag shows,
Urge (490 Karangahape Rd),
the cruisiest men's nightspot on K' Road, Family Bar (270 Karangahape Rd) with karaoke and drag shows, Kamo (382 Karangahape Rd) a gay friendly bar and restaurant known for their brunch, and Caluzzi Cabaret & Restaurant (461 Karangahape). Finale Restaurant & Cabaret (350 Karangahape Rd) has dinner theater buffet meals and drag cabaret.
The Den opened first in 1985 in Sydney, Australia, on the famous Oxford Street strip. Originally the club was associated with the renowned Numbers bookshop, the first gay
bookshop in Sydney. Since then The Den has extended to Brisbane, Queensland, in the busy Fortitude Valley, and more recently the Gold Coast at Mermaid Beach. Besides their Australia locations,
The Den has also branched out to New Zealand, with retail and cruise club facilities on K' Road (348 Karangahape Road), in Auckland City (16 Wyndham Street), and the megastore at New Market
(440 Khyber Pass). Their retail stores are stocked with the highest quality adult products, sourced from all around the world. They pride themselves on their friendly and helpful staff.
"Your pleasure," they say, "is our business."
Saunas for men in Auckland include: Centurian Sauna (18 Beresford Sq) with spa pool, steam and dry sauna, videos, maze, sling room, snacks and drinks. Club Westside (45 Anzac Ave, Upstairs), also with steam and dry saunas, plunge pool, cruising maze, bunks, and simple snacks. The Wingate Club (76 Wingate St) is another men's sauna .
For cruising opportunities, besides the two locations of the Den, there's: Lateshift (25 Dundonald St) with maze, bunk rooms, video lounge and special play rooms for rent, two minutes south of the Karangahape Road; and Basement (34 Norwich St) multi-level complex with maze, glory holes, playrooms, sling, porno, a pool table, and snacks. Open daily they have fetish, piss, naked, rubber and leather and uniform events too.
For a night at the cinema The Gecko (23b Wallace St, Motueka) screens independent and international art films.
A little to the south of Auckland there are two more popular gay nightclubs: Shine (161 Victoria St) in Hamilton, and Shampers (1207 Eruera St) in Rotorua.
Things to do
For a day in paradise, take a 45 minute ferry to Waiheke Island, which is full of nature and wineries. I'd recommend a stop at the Te Whau Vineyard, located on a bluff overlooking
one of the most beautiful sites imaginable. Give a call to the folks at
Waiheke Art & Vineyard Tours (0800-529-252) to take a look around for a very reasonable price.
The Waiheke Winegrowners Association website waihekewine.co.nz has more information.
Around New Zealand
New Zealand's various cities each have their own beauty. Wellington, the capital, is an hour from Auckland by plane, or nine hours by car. I rented a car and found
myself comfortably driving in a short time -on the left side of the road. I also found this great little airline called,
Soundsair, based at Picton Airport, in Marlborough. Soundsair links the North and
South Islands with around a dozen flights per day between Picton and Wellington. The flight time is just 25 minutes, and it's a fast and scenic way to cross Cook Strait. In addition, they
operate scenic flights and "Fly In" adventure packages. Check out the magnificent Marlborough Sounds from the air, on one of their scenic flights, or fly to the start of the Heaphy Track and let
them pick you up at the end-- a great time saver and a very affordable travel option.
Places to check out in Wellington include: Club Ivy (13 Dixon St) nightclub with various party nights; Fringe Bar (Cuba at Vivian Streets) gay-friendly with live entertainment and open until 6am weekends; Scotty & Mal's (176 Cuba St) cocktail bar and lounge; and the sauna Checkmate (15 Tory St).
Also in the North Island-- although barely a third the size of Auckland-- Wellington offers a sophisticated downtown. A tour of Parliament is edifying, along with the city art museum.
The South Island has a cooler climate yet the landscape seemed greener and the water even clearer than that of the North Island. For a stop in Christchurch you might stay
at Beaufort House (2 Latimer Square, 3 365-8847) which takes the place of the old Dorothy's, opening this summer 2009.
Christchurch is home to one of New Zealand's casinos, the Christchurch Casino. Although the drinking age of was lowered to 18, you have to be at least 20 to enter the casino. Smart casual attire is required at all times; no blue or black jeans, sweat pants or tank tops allowed. Their Grand Cafe offers the best buffet I found in New
Zealand. The casino is open 24-7.
Cruz (90 Lichfield St) is a bay nightclub above Propaganda Bar.
The Box (146a Lichfield St) is a Christchurch gay cruise facility with bar, porn videos, orgy and sling rooms, maze, showers, refreshments and retail shop. Menfriends (83 Lichfield St) is a cruise spot and sauna with nude, sleaze, underwear sessions (phone ahead) and retail store for porn videos, magazines, and sex toys.
The Christchurch Arts Festival will take place next year, August 4-21, 2011.
Take a trip across the island to Queenstown and you'll see the area where Frodo fords the river pursued by the Riders in the
Lord of the Rings. Queenstown has a lot of nice cafes,
and is great for skiing and golfing.
Also in Queenstown, the Bathhouse (28 Marine Parade) is an upscale lounge, and fine restaurant. The Historic Stone House (47 Hallenstein St; 64 3 442 9812) is one of several local good lodging options. For more Queenstown gay info see Gayqueenstown.com.
South Island is also where you'll find the city of Dunedin, home to Larnach Castle, privately owned by the Barker family, who spent years restoring it. Accommodations are available in the lodge, set in the Castle garden on the seaward side, and there's a dining room. All rooms have sea views and
en suite bathrooms. Plan on spending an afternoon at
Natures Wonders, where they'll take you into the wood to see yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, sea lions, and
other natural beauties.
The gay newspaper Express has a website at Expresstoday.co.nz with news and events information. Another informative website, GayNZ.com has up-to-date listings of gay bars, hotels, community organzations and events all over New Zealand. The capital city's website Rainbowwellington.org.nz has updates on all the local color for Wellington.
Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival is an annual event with screenings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. See Outtakes.org.nz for more details.
See Newzealand.com for general information. For great reviews on life around Wellington see Texture.co.nz -particularly for the Sarah Bennett restaurant reviews.