In New Zealand it became illegal to engage in gay sex in 1840, after the country became part of the British Empire and adopted British law. This law made gay sex punishable by death, although nobody was ever punished in this way and capital punishment for any crime was abolished in 1961. It would take until 1986 and the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act for same-sex sexual acts to be decriminalised and for an equal age of consent of 16 to apply to gay couples as well as straight couples. New Zealand is fairly progressive when it comes to gay rights, as there are anti-discrimination laws in place; the recognition of same-sex couples in civil unions; the ability for gay couples to get married; and the ability for gay individuals to adopt.

To sample gay culture and the LGBT scene in New Zealand, you really have to head to the nation’s largest city of Auckland, as this is where there is the most significant gay presence. The area around Ponsonby and Karangahape Road is particularly worth a visit, as this is where you will find the majority of gay-owned bars, clubs, saunas, cafés and restaurants. Popular cafés, bars and clubs in the area include Garnet Station; Lolabar; the Family Bar; the Eagle Bar; Urge; and Gay Republic. Popular restaurants include the Kamo Bar & Restaurant; the Caluzzi Cabaret & Restaurant; and the Finale cabaret restaurant. For saunas and cruising you could try Basement; the Centurian Sauna for Men; Eroxxx Adult Stores Ltd; Lateshift; the Den; and the Wingate Club.

It is in Auckland’s gay village where the festivities of the Auckland Gay Pride Festival take place. You can enjoy the parties, gala and parade that take place throughout the two weeks, listen to the music, dance and socialise with like-minded people. The city also plays host to the Out Takes: A Reel Queer Film Festival, a LGBT film festival that takes place in two other cities including Wellington and Christchurch at the same time.

The nation’s capital, Wellington, has a number of gay bars and clubs in the area, including S&M's Cocktail Bar and Lounge; Club Ivy; Mighty Mighty; the Hawthorn Lounge; Motel; and the Rush Bar. If you intend to cruise for men, you could try paying a visit to Checkmate or Emperor’s Bathhouse, as these are two popular saunas.

Christchurch may be the largest island in the South Island of New Zealand, but it does not have a massive gay presence. However, you will find a number of gay establishments, including Cruz Bar and Nightclub as well as Menfriends, a sauna popular for cruising. The city also hosts Christchurch Pride, which is held over three weeks and includes events such as the Queer Fair, a fantasy ball, bowling, bingo, movies, and coffee nights, amongst others.

Queenstown is a resort located in the in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island. Gay Ski Week is held in the area and there are a number of gay bars, clubs and other establishments where you will be made to feel welcome. The Bathhouse; Bardeaux; Debajo; and Minibar are all popular gay-friendly bars and clubs.

Unsurprisingly, the most notable gay community in New Zealand can be found in the city with the largest population, Auckland. However, the nation is tolerant and welcoming, so that wherever you choose to go in New Zealand you will feel at home. There are gay-friendly establishments in various cities across the nation and events aimed specifically at members of the LGBT community. Plus, there is plenty of stunning scenery to appreciate, activities to do and places to visit. The nation has a fascinating history which very much shapes its present-day identity. Thus, a trip to New Zealand is bound to be full of adventure, learning and fun.

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