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New Zealand gay travel guide

New Zealand gay travel guide

Our detailed gay travel guide to New Zealand following our big road trip through the land that formed the backdrops of the Lord of the Rings movies!

“Seby, one day we’re going to go to New Zealand and will run through the Shire in Hobbiton just like Frodo and Sam!”

The Lord of the Rings gave us our first flavor of New Zealand. The rolling green hills and breathtaking landscapes provided LOTR Director Peter Jackson with the ideal backdrop to recreate Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Gay couple travel book Nomadic Boys Out in the World

However, there is so much more to New Zealand than Hobbits, elves, orcs, and Gandalf. Those rugged landscapes that inspired so many movies are also prime for ‘tramping’ (the New Zealand word for ‘hiking’). And if it’s wild adrenaline adventures you seek, well, it was literally invented by a Kiwi, in Queenstown!

New Zealand is also very gay friendly. We found Kiwis to be relaxed and accepting. Not once did we experience any issues. When it comes to gay parties, New Zealand is not as internationally renowned as its big Aussie sister. However, it still has a small LGBTQ scene in Auckland and has its fair share of queer annual events including Queenstown’s Winter Pride and the Auckland Pride Festival.

Our advice, don’t come here expecting wild gay parties. Instead, be prepared to be blown away by Mother Nature, whilst living out your Middle Earth fantasy!

Heads up: We just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links. That means if you book something through one of those links, we'll get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. It helps us keep our blog going – so thank you in advance for your support! ♥

Gay rights in New Zealand

The LGBTQ+ laws of New Zealand are one of the most progressive in the world!

For years New Zealand has been a trailblazer of LGBTQ rights. In 2013, it became the first nation in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize gay marriage. With anti-discrimination laws and the right to change legal gender, New Zealand had this all in place as far back as 1993 – years before many Western European countries!

In addition, New Zealand has had openly gay politicians in active service for years, the most prominent being Georgina Beyer who in 1995 became the world’s first openly transgender mayor (of Carterton), as well as the world’s first openly transgender Member of Parliament. This is why we rate New Zealand as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world.

Seby and Stefan exploring The Shire at the Hobbiton Movie Set in New Zealand.
Even in The Shire New Zealand leads the way with LGBTQ+ rights!

Is New Zealand safe for gay travelers?


We found that being openly gay anywhere in New Zealand was not a problem at all. Diversity and acceptance are both part of the fabric of New Zealand society. We didn't have any problems booking a double bed in hotels/guesthouses we stayed at and no one batted an eyelid at any form of public displays of affection.

Gay couple kissing at Mount Cook on the Hooker Valley Track.
We had no issues with PDAs anywhere in New Zealand!

Gay tours of New Zealand

Gay tours are some of the most rewarding ways to experience a new destination, especially for solo gay travelers. It's an awesome way to quickly make new squirrel friends. Here are some of the best ones to check out for exploring New Zealand:

1. New Zealand North Island Cultural Adventure with Out Adventures: every Jan/Feb

Staring in wonder gay couple on gay tour of New Zealand.

Discover the North Island on this signature gay New Zealand tour that includes Hobbiton. Beginning in Auckland, this all-gay New Zealand tour will leisurely guide you around the North Island. You’ll walk in the footsteps of the Māori, appreciating their sacred groves, kauri forests, and geothermal pools. Over a traditional hāngi meal, you’ll break bread with a village elder and learn the traditional haka dance. You’ll visit Hobbiton and also stroll suspension bridges dangling from ancient redwoods. If you’re feeling brave, optional skydiving and bungee jumping activities are available, but so are massage treatments and spa packages…

OutAdventures is offering our readers an exclusive $150 discount valid for any tour booked on their website. Just use coupon code: NOMADICOA

2. New Zealand South Island Gay Expedition with Out Adventures: every Jan/Feb

Out Adventures gay tour in South Island in New Zealand with trekking adventures.

It should come as no surprise Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to ever surmount Everest, was a proud Kiwi. On this LGBTQ New Zealand South Island adventure you’ll explore Hillary’s very own backyard, hiking the same mountains, gorges, and temperate rainforests the famous mountaineer did.

And for the real adrenaline junkies, you’ll have the opportunity to bungee jump and/or hang glide in Queenstown, aka The Adventure Capital of the World. Now what’s the Māori word for “yeehaw”?

OutAdventures is offering our readers an exclusive $150 discount valid for any tour booked on their website. Just use coupon code: NOMADICOA

3. New Zealand Gay Vineyards & Vistas Tour with He Travel: every February/March

Rows of grapevines in a vineyard leading towards a blue bay.

If you want to explore the cultural side of New Zealand and also love a tipple, then check out this gay 10-day tour. You'll spend time on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, visiting vineyards all over the country. You'll also have ample opportunities for kayaking, sailing among stunning vistas, spotting wildlife, and visiting cute villages filled with friendly locals. This tour is a lovely blend of culture, sightseeing, exciting activities, and cultural experiences.

HeTravel is offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount valid for any tour booked on their website. Just use coupon code: NOMADICGHe5

4. The Wild Kiwi: Gay Travel New Zealand Adventure Tour with He Travel: every March

Gay couple using taking a photo with a selfie stick as they paraglide over Queenstown in New Zealand.

Adrenaline junkies unite! If you like your holidays to be filled with heart-thumping excitement then you're going to love this awesome gay tour with He Travel. This epic experience will provide you with plenty of opportunities to get the (ahem!) blood flowing…with hiking, kayaking, biking, canyoning, rafting, and bungy jumping in the gorgeous scenery of New Zealand's South Island. And it's not only about exciting activities, as you'll also be able to learn about New Zealand's history and culture while enjoying delicious food and wine.

HeTravel is offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount valid for any tour booked on their website. Just use coupon code: NOMADICGHe5

Top experiences in New Zealand for gay travelers

The best way to get the most out of your trip to New Zealand is to rent a car and just hit the road. That's a highlight in itself. In terms of no-to-miss top experiences, there are tons. We could write a book on it. Sadly we're limited with space and have therefore only selected a slice of our favorites.

Our advice, don't get overwhelmed with it all, trying to pack in as much as you can as you'll only end up running around and not taking it all in. We were guilty of this at first then quickly mellowed out as our road trip progressed, cutting back on a few highlights so we could max out our time on the ones we really wanted to hit up.

1. An EPIC road trip!

Road trip in New Zealand mountain backdrop and Stefan taking a photo.

Drive through epic landscapes: Whether it’s by car or campervan, driving through the North and South islands is the most rewarding way to explore the country. Roads are well maintained and drivers are very careful, which makes driving in New Zealand super safe. We passed some spectacular scenery on our road trip, which reminded us a lot of our road trip in Iceland and also exploring Scotland. The stand-out highlight from our road trip in New Zealand was the scenic drive between Te Anau to Milford Sound on South Island.

Room with a view offers a great base in centre of Reykjavik town

Gay accommodation in New Zealand

For LGBTQ-owned and managed accommodation in New Zealand, we recommend checking out Gay Stay. It’s the most comprehensive directory we’ve found listing all LGBTQ options across New Zealand including clothing optional and men-only.

Find out more

2. High adrenaline adventure in Queenstown

Gravity is a toy come out to play sign in Queenstown!

Get your shot of adrenaline in Queenstown: nicknamed ‘the adventure capital of the world’. Queenstown is a paradise for thrill seekers. There are many different bungy jumps and swings to try. The ‘Nevis Swing’ is famous for being the world’s biggest swing so most will book this one. But after lots of research, we opted for the ‘Shotover Canyon’ because you can choose your jump style – like on a chair, upside down, or even backward! Their staff are a lot of fun: it was their TikTok video antics that won us over.

Stefan and Seby sitting on the floor of a hotel room sharing glasses of champagne with a view of a cloudy bay out the open door behind them.

Stay at QT Queenstown

We loved staying at QT Queenstown while we were in the city, not least because of the incredible Lake Wakatipu views right from our bed! It offers luxury with a bit of a quirk and we are so here for it! It's a leisurely walk along the lakeside to reach the city center of Queenstown from the hotel, but plenty of drinking and dining options on-site particularly the Bazaar Restaurant. Oh, and they make their own honey from the beehives they keep on their terrace…I mean!

Find out more

3. Tramping in New Zealand!

Gay couple tramping in New Zealand.

“Who you calling a tramp Seby?!” Before I had the chance to retaliate, he explained to me that tramping is the Kiwi word for going on a long-distance walk aka hiking! And in a country filled with jaw-dropping mountain scenery, you just know that tramping is going to dominate your trip. Whether it’s one of the longer 2-6 day ‘Great Walks’ or a shorter hike, this will be one of your most rewarding travel memories ever. It sure was for us: the 360-degree mountaintop views during our trek to Ben Lomond Summit in Queenstown – our personal favorite!

4. Overnight cruise in the Fiordland

Gay couple kayaking in Doubtful Sound in the Fiordland of New Zealand

The Fiordland in South Island is breathtaking! Such dramatic, raw vistas everywhere you look, particularly Milford Sound. It is framed by kilometer-high cliffs that have been carved by rock and ice over millennia. However, the only way to see it is on one of the many cruises that leave hourly and are usually filled to the brim with package tour groups. For a more peaceful and serene experience in the Fjordlands, we recommend an overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound, which also includes kayaking. It’s just as impressive but far less hectic: at one point the captain stopped the boat, turned off the engine, and invited us all to join in on a 1-minute silence to appreciate the tranquility of the area.

5. Discover Māori culture in Rotorua

Gay couple at the Geothermal Mudbaths of Hells Gate.

This is the place to learn more about New Zealand’s indigenous people, particularly the 3-hour experience at ‘Te Puia’ which includes a cultural show and a ‘hāngi’ (earth-cooked banquet). Rotorua is also famous for its geothermal activity. The hot springs, mud pools, and geysers were considered sacred sites by the Māori. The best place to experience it is at ‘Hells Gate' where you'll be given a choice of the Mudbath Experience and the Geothermal Walk in addition to it. We recommend booking both, it's worth the extra expense.

HOT TIP: remove all jewelry and store it safely in your car before you enter Hells Gate. The sulfur prevalent in the steam all around you will cause it to tarnish, which although easy to remove with baking soda/hot water, is a pain in the backside to do!

6. Gay scene of Auckland

Seby having a drink at the Eagle gay bar in Auckland.

With the largest LGBTQ community in New Zealand, Auckland is the best place to let your hair down. The gay hangouts are concentrated along the gritty Karangahape Road (nicknamed ‘K-Road’) and include Eagle, GAY Auckland, Caluzzi Cabaret, Family, and Centurian Sauna. There are also a few unofficial gay/nude beaches in Auckland like Ladies Bay and Pohutukawa Bay. Our honest advice: don't come here expecting wild parties on par with the gay scene of Sydney. It's more low-key here, but still fun.

An airy white hotel room at the Cordis in Auckland with a view of the city skyline from the huge window.

Stay at the Cordis Auckland

Our pick of luxurious accommodation in Auckland is the Cordis Auckland Hotel located a short walk from the K-Road gay scene of Auckland. It's also stunning! Highlights include a heated rooftop pool, a gorgeous gym, and a spacious beautiful room! Heads up, if you also have an AMEX Platinum card, we recommend booking with that: we used ours and managed to get a free upgrade, late check-out, and breakfast all included.

Find out more

7. Explore the Shire in Hobbiton

The Shire at the Hobbiton Movie Set on North Island in New Zealand.

If you love LOTR as much as we do, then you’ll need to head here! Whilst filming of these iconic movies took place all around the country, the Hobbiton Movie Set is the actual location of the Shire, where you can see Bag’s End up close. However, this is private property and can only be visited as part of a guided tour. These tours get booked out in advance so make sure you book your slot in advance. Tours take place every 20 minutes and groups are quite large so you can imagine it gets pretty busy! Therefore, we recommend booking the first or last tour of the day to avoid crowds.

8. See kiwi birds in the wild on Stewart Island / Rakiura

Cute kiwi bird cuddly toy.

Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third largest island, located 18.5 miles (30 km) south of South Island. Its Mãori name is ‘Rakiura', which means ‘glowing skies' – a nod to the southern lights, the Aurora Australis. Nature is in charge on Stewart Island! With a mere 450 residents, it has been relatively untouched by humans. Instead, the island is dominated by birds, in particular the small indigenous kiwi birds that New Zealanders are named after, with an estimated 20,000.

9. Romantic stargazing in Mount Cook

Romantic gay couple kiss in hotel room mirror.

The darkness of the night sky and minimal light pollution around Aoraki/Mount Cook make it one of the best places in the country for Stargazing. We recommend a stargazing tour (all hotels in the area offer it). If, like me, you want to fully geek out, download one of the star gazing apps (like ‘Stellarium’ or ‘Star Chart’) so you can hold your phone up at the night sky and identify each planet/star formation. The area also offers some impressive hikes, in particular the Hooker Valley Track. It's an easy hike which makes it a popular stopover with large tour groups, so we recommend doing this one as early as possible.

A blue-grey hotel building nestled within mountains and bushes on a sunny day.

Stay at The Hermitage Hotel

In the heart of the Mount Cook Village is The Hermitage Hotel, a delightful spot to base yourself while exploring Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Whilst the corridor leading to our rooms reminded us of being in a hospital ward(!) once inside, our room was super cozy. The highlight was the stunning mountain views. Sadly, food options in the Mount Cook area are pretty dismal and overpriced, so either bite the bullet for a few days or bring a stash from a supermarket on your drive over here from Queenstown.

Find out more

10. The glow worm caves of Waitomo

The glowworms of Waitomo cave light up the darkness.

The first thing to note is that glow worms are the larvae of the fungus gnat and not actual worms! They hang from the roof of dark, damp caves, suspended in their cocoons, producing a soft greenish light to attract and ensnare smaller insects for food. It's an impressive sight to behold once your eyes have adapted to the darkness of the cave. For us, the highlight was gliding on a raft through the Mangawhitiakau cave system in pitch black with just the Milky-Way-like greenish glow of the glowworms lighting up our path!

Heads up: this is the place to geek out on your iPhone's Night Mode and learn how to activate/use the 30-second exposure.


Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.

Pride and gay events in New Zealand

The main gay events in New Zealand are Auckland Pride and Queenstown's Winter Pride. Other notable Pride events include Christchurch and Wellington. They are usually spaced out so they don't clash, for example, Auckland Pride is in February, Wellington's in early March, and Christchurch's in late March.

Auckland Pride Festival in February

February is Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community of Auckland and includes the grand Auckland Pride. This is the largest gay event in New Zealand. The month includes a festival opening, eclectic art exhibitions, parties, film festivals, and the Auckland Rainbow Parade.

Big Gay Out in February

This big gay one-day open-air event takes place in Coyle Park every February for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Come rain or high water, Big Gay Out will still go ahead. Our heads up is mobile phone coverage in Coyle Park is a bit limited – so be warned!

Wellington Pride Festival in March

The nation's capital city has hosted its own Pride event every March since its humble beginnings in 1986. Each year the festival features some of the best art shows, exhibitions, and performances we've ever seen. The festival culminates with an epic parade along the inner-city streets of Wellington.

Christchurch Pride Week in March

Christchurch's Pride offering takes place over 1 week, usually in March. It features epic parties, the closing festival being the most popular. The Drag Bingo is another popular event that gets the tongues wagging in New Zealand's second-largest city.

Winter Pride and Ski Festival in Queenstown in Aug/Sept

The Winter Pride and Ski Festival of Queenstown is the biggest and most exciting queer event on South Island. It takes place annually over 10 days in August/September. As well as skiing it also includes themed party nights, shows, meal events, and a Pride Ski Flag Parade.

Stefan shirtless in Mount Cook celebrating gay Pride in New Zealand.
Now that's one way to celebrate Winter Pride in New Zealand, eh?!

Our safety tips for gay travelers to New Zealand

Without sounding like your overbearing Mom, here are some practical quick-fire safety tips from our experience:

  • Customs is strict! New Zealanders love their environment and birds and fight hard to protect them. As such all food and drink in the country is banned and customs officers will want to inspect things like your walking shoes and medication. Our advice for your landing card, if in doubt about anything you have, just declare it to be on the safe side.
  • Don’t bother bringing a drone. They were banned in almost every place we visited during our trip to New Zealand. Just leave it at home, it's more hassle than anything else.
  • Don’t underestimate the weather. The New Zealand weather changes dramatically every day and can be quite unpredictable. As a result, some activities will be cancelled so make sure you’re flexible with last-minute cancellations and have adequate travel insurance.
  • Translate your driving license: if there is anything non-English on your driving license, car rental companies may refuse to rent you a car unless you have a translation. We were recommended this efficient translation service which can translate your license within 24 hours electronically for a fee of around £30.
  • Do not break speed limits: even by 5/10 kilometers above the limit, the police will stop you and will likely give you a fine! Police cameras and cars are hidden everywhere to ensure people obey the speed limit, so take extra care, especially when trying to overtake other vehicles. If you do get a fine, do yourself a favor and pay it ASAP online. Overzealous police? Maybe, but this is what makes driving in New Zealand such a breeze!
Gay couple embracing at the Deer Park Heights in Queenstown in New Zealand.
New Zealand: a very rewarding destination for gay couples!

Plan Your Trip To New Zealand

We've put together all our practical advice from our New Zealand trip that we think every gay traveler should know before they go.

Travel insurance: If it can happen in our home country, it can happen in New Zealand. Lost luggage, canceled/delayed flights, or injuries that need medical treatment, can always occur. Make sure you arrange travel insurance before traveling anywhere. We've been using Heymondo Travel Insurance for years and never have any problems making an online claim if something does go pear-shaped. Their cover is very affordable and extensive.

How to get there: You'll most likely be flying to New Zealand (unless you're on a cruise) and while there are five different international airports in New Zealand the busiest and most likely arrival will be Auckland Airport on the North Island. If you are only planning to visit the South Island then you might fly into Christchurch Airport, which is the second busiest in the country. Each of the major airports has good public transport links to the city center, as well as taxis or Uber to get to your accommodation.

Visa requirements: If you are from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, or an EU country, you won’t need a visa to visit if you are staying for less than 90 days. However, many countries outside of these territories require one. We recommend double-checking your visa requirements before you head off to New Zealand.

Getting around: Most of the major cities (like Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown) are well served by public transport, if you want to explore further out (or both islands) then we recommend hiring a car to drive yourself wherever you want to go or joining a tour (see our picks earlier in this guide).

Vaccinations: The CDC recommends that all travelers to New Zealand should be up to date with routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, etc., and, of course, COVID-19. You may also need vaccinations for Hepatitis A, B, and rabies (if you're going into the wilderness), so make sure you do your research, and speak to your travel nurse or doctor before heading to New Zealand.

Currency:The currency used in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, which is usually just written using the normal dollar sign and uses the code NZD. $1 converts to around NZD $1.60 and £1 is worth around NZD $2.04.

Tipping culture: Tipping is not expected in New Zealand – in fact, it’s rather unexpected as most restaurants will include a service charge in their bill. If you want to leave a tip for exceptional service you can leave around 10% or just round up for taxi drivers etc. But don't feel obliged to tip as you would in North America.

Accommodation: We love They always have a variety of choices that come at a great price and often with free cancellation, especially in New Zealand. Plans can change, so having the option for free cancellation means you can change your mind as you please. They also have excellent online customer support available 24/7.

Sightseeing and adventure: We get many of our travel ideas from Viator and New Zealand was no exception. There are always plenty of tours, experiences, and activities for all tastes and interests. It’s also super easy to book and they have fantastic 24/7 customer support.

When to visit: Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere the best time to visit is during the summer, which corresponds to winter in North America and Europe. However, if you're looking to experience any snowy activities (New Zealand has some great skiing resorts) then you might prefer to visit during winter. It may also be more affordable in the shoulder seasons and New Zealand is stunning all year round, there just may be more unpredictable wet weather when it's not summer!

Gay couple on Ben Lomond trek in South Island in New Zealand.
Trekking in New Zealand was awesome!

Read more travel adventures like this in our book!

We've published our very own gay travel book called, ‘Out in the World'. It has all our practical safety tips, first-hand advice, and travel stories from some of our favorite destinations.

We hope it inspires you to have a fun and safe trip!

Click on the book to order:

Gay couple travel book Nomadic Boys Out in the World

For more inspiration:

Stefan Arestis

Hey everyone, I'm Stefan, the curly-haired Greek flavor behind the gay travel blog Nomadic Boys. Together with my other half, I have explored more than 90 countries across 5 continents. What I love most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, learning new cultures. I've written about LGBTQ travel in numerous online publications such as Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times and Pink News as well as for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Check my full bio here.


Wednesday 7th of February 2024

I would recommend using www.gaystaynz .com for accommodations throughout the country. I stayed with numerous gay couples throughout the country.

Stefan Arestis

Thursday 8th of February 2024

Good heads up. We second that.