A gorgeous resort town set amongst the soaring Southern Alps celebrated as adrenaline junkies mecca – but don’t pigeonhole Gay Queenstown just yet!
While backpackers and adventure tourists might have helped establish the ‘adventure capital of the world’, there is another side to this town: one fuelled by luxury hotels, fine dining, day spa’s, distinguished nightlife and picturesque wineries.
Not surprisingly really, given its setting of unparalleled natural beauty that draws in the international jet-set.
With a small local population far outnumbered by the annual throngs of domestic and international visitors, a gay scene in Queenstown has not really established itself – even though the town becomes increasingly gay-popular.
Much like the rest of progressive New Zealand, gay travelers to Queenstown will be welcomed everywhere they go and they no longer need to feel the need to segregate themselves to specific bars or ‘gay places’.
To truly experience Gay Queenstown however, you should plan a pilgrimage to the annual Winter Pride / Gay Ski Week Queenstown – one of the biggest winter prides in the world. Taking place annually in September the town is practically dripping with rainbows as thousands of gay boys and girls fly into party all night and ski all day. Theta Events even hosts an annual White Party to close the festival.
Even If you have zero interest in the snow, there is plenty of off-mountain exploits and events planned to make sure you don’t miss out on the revelries.
New Zealand was the first country in Oceania to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2013, renewed interest has come from gay travelers who sought to find what this progressive South Pacific nation was all about.
Kiwis might be shy – who would have figured in a country known for dare-devil sports, testosterone-fuelled DIY attitudes and hulking rugby players? – but once you start chatting they are generally very open and dying to show their city and country off. So why not let them?
Gay Queenstown Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Queenstown New Zealand
In this article we will cover...
Highlights of Gay Queenstown
New Zealand’s adventure capital is the perfect blend of thrilling adventure, refined living, and picturesque landscapes and your only challenge will be fitting everything in one visit. Just don’t forget to allow time for rest, relaxation and taking in the scenery. There are no specifically gay things to do in Queenstown, and the entire city is popular with gay travelers who jet in from Auckland or Australia for the weekend!
We have put together a few of our favorite things to do in Queenstown, but if you’re the make-your-own adventure type travel then just hire a car and discover the dramatic Southern Alps for yourself! We promise there is more than enough trails, vineyards and historic mining towns for everyone!
Things To Do In And Around Queenstown City
- Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Restaurant – Get the best view of Queenstown from this almost stratospheric location perched above it all. Take the gondola up – or make use of the almost vertical free walking track – and enjoy magnificent lake and mountain views over lunch or dinner.
- Queenstown Gardens – A tranquil botanical garden filled with native trees, a large pond, gorgeous views and plenty of spots to sit and contemplate. You can also play a game of frisbee-golf here, but we never quite figured out the rules…
- Fergburger – Seriously, this is the first thing many people tell us to go when going to New Zealand. Fergburger is a Queenstown institution known for high-end, inventive burgers that are famed to be among the best in the world. The lines can be insanely long, but it is worth the wait – but the Ferg Empire is expanding in Queenstown so you could also try Fergbaker and Mrs. Ferg Gelateria. Seriously, how a non-chain restaurant has gotten this famous we will never know!
- Cardrona Skiing – If you are coming to Queenstown in the winter you will obviously want to investigate some of New Zealand’s best skiing & snowboarding terrain. Cardrona has gentle beginner slopes, terrain parks & halfpipes, wide open groomers or challenging steeps & powder stashes… the choice is yours. There are of course other ski-fields here and you could also consider something closer like Coronet Peak (approx 20 mins away) or the Remarkables (approx 40 mins away)
- Milford Sound – One of the most breathtaking destinations in New Zealand and a must-see for any traveler. You can either make the long drive yourself to take a tour which takes you along the side of the amazing “Remarkables” mountain range to Te Anau, where the scenery gets even more breathtaking. The highlight at the end of the journey, however, is the Milford Sound fiord with the towering Mitre Peak, rainforests, waterfalls, fur seals, penguins, and dolphins. If heaven is a place on Earth, this is it!
- Routeburn Valley Walk – If you don’t fancy doing one of the New Zealand’s Great Walks – which generally take three days, this is an easy one day option which explores the world-renowned Routeburn Track – yet allows you to return home to your comfortable accommodation at the end of it all! Expect plenty of birds, vegetation, gorges, valleys, and wilderness. Exactly what you came to New Zealand to see!
- Arrowtown – A quirky historic mining town just outside of Queenstown now famous for its tree-lined streets of restored cottages, now converted to coffee-shops, boutiques and restaurants.
- The Lord of the Rings Movie Locations – Any fano of the film won’t want to pass up the opportunity to visit the real Middle Earth and see where the Fortress of Isengard, Forest of Lothlorien and other famous Peter Jackson scenes were filmed. Trust us, if anything the films undersold the sheer scale of this dramatic locations.
- Walter Peak High Country Farm – Take a charming cruise to Walter Peak on board the classic steamship TSS Earnslaw. Upon arriving you will get to experience rural New Zealand at it’s best with a walking tour of the working farm, see traditional farming practices in action, watch sheep dogs work or maybe attend a sheep shearing demonstration. Complete the day with a traditional afternoon tea and meander through the lakeside gardens before completing the return journey across Lake Wakatipu.
- The Wine Trail Tour – Drink as much as you like and don’t worry about drinking by taking a wine sampling tour around vineyards outside of Queenstown. Get dropped straight at the cellar door, including many smaller boutique wineries that are off the beaten path – and sample all of the delicious quality wines New Zealand has to offer!
- Dart River Jet Boat Ride – Head out on an expedition deep into the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mt Aspiring National Park for this 6-hour wilderness adventure tour, combine the thrill of an adrenaline-charged jet-boat ride down the Dart River with a serene forest walk and backcountry safari. Everywhere you look there are awe-inspiring peaks and enigmatic hidden valleys, giving you a taste of the exceptional natural beauty New Zealand possesses.
Queenstown Adrenaline Activites
- Queenstown Quad Bike Explorer – Exciting tracks and trails with exclusive access to over 11,000 stunning acres of terrain including hill climbs, creek crossings, and dirt bike tracks.
- Zipline (with Wine Tasting) – A popular ‘zip and sip’ tour giving you splendid alpine scenery accessed by fun-fuelled zip-lining combined with a relaxing afternoon sampling some of New Zealand’s most famous exports.
- Remarkables Alpine Rock Climbing – New Zealand is famed for its alpine climbing and the Southern Alps provide the ideal backdrop for both newbies and advanced climbers. There are climbing based adventures departing Queenstown daily with something to suit every ability.
- Coronet Peak Tandem Paragliding – A thrilling small group paragliding experience from the highest commercial take-off point for Queenstown.
- Kawarau Canyoning – Get your daily adrenaline injection as you scale cliffs, abseil down waterfalls and tackle water slides on a thrilling canyoning adventure in the Kawarau Canyon. There’s no experience necessary so why not give it a go!
- Queenstown Nevis Highwire Bungy Jump – Take your Queenstown escapade to new heights with the Nevis Highwire Bungy jump — the third highest bungy jumping platform in the world. We were way too chicken to try it out but feel free to test your nerves with an 8.5 second, an adrenaline-packed drop of 440-foot (134-meters).
- Skydive Queenstown – Still not enough? Then why not just throw yourself out of a plane, this is New Zealand’s outdoor adventure capital after all! Choose from 9,000, 12,000 or 15,000 feet where you will free-falling at terminal velocity reaching speeds of up to 124 mph (200 kph). If your not too busy screaming, you can take in otherworldy views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountains while you’re at it!
Gay Ski Week Queenstown / Winter Pride
The largest gay ski festival in the Southern Hemisphere with more than 60 events spread over 8 days and 7 epic nights. Taking place in annually in September the Gay Ski Week Queenstown draws thousands of gay boys (and girls) from across New Zealand, Australia and the world for dance parties, foam parties, apres ski, cabaret, comedy and more! And that’s just at night!
During the day the major ski fields around Queenstown through open their doors and help the LGBT community celebrate in style. Whether you’re a seasoned pro ala Gus Kenworthy or a novice beginner looking to flit with a cute ski instructor there is something for everyone. Dress to impress if you really want to stand out, category is: Priscilla, Queen Of The Alps! There is also a daily pride bus heading to the ski fields meaning you be part of Winter Pride from dawn to dusk, and never miss a moment of socialising or being surrounded by all the good vibes!
Easily the best time to visit Gay Queenstown, this outrageous fun festival has been running for 7 years and continues to go from strength-to-strength as it celebrated diversity in all its forms. This year there is a shift towards a broader festival called Winter Pride, which is even more fabulous as those who aren’t in interested in the mountains have more activity options during the day, but with the idea that everyone still gathers at the end of the day for the legendary pride parties.
Packages and tickets frequently sell out in advance – as does the best accommodation in Queenstown – so be sure to book early. Trust us when we say that Gay Ski Week Queenstown is one event you will not want to miss!
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in Queenstown
Every hotel and hostel in Queenstown can be considered gay-friendly – after all being gay-friendly is not all about upscale luxury, but about providing friendly and open service and welcoming everyone with open arms! There are no exclusively gay hotels in Queenstown, however, a few fabulous and inclusive hotels in Queenstown are well known hot spots for gay travelers to stay – thanks to largely to their location and style!
Many new hotels have opened in New Zealand bringing a breath of fresh air into an otherwise tired sector – expect better amenities, international design and more competition, although there is still a hotel room shortage in Queenstown and across New Zealand resulting in relatively high prices and limited supply in the peak period.
The following gay-friendly hotels and accommodations in Queenstown are only the most popular with gay travelers but there are also hundreds of other hotels in Queenstown if you don’t find quite what you are looking for. You can frequently get better deals bu staying further out of town and then getting in with either public transport or around the wider region by hiring a car. Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying or a designer option to sip chic cocktails and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Queenstown as something for everyone!
- Azur Lodge ☆☆☆☆☆ – For a blissful stay in contemporary luxury you can’t go back to the nine private villas of Azur offering incredible views, total privacy, and chic decor. Enjoy your own lounge, dining room, private sun deck and spectacular unobstructed views from the bathtub. Only 5 minutes uphill from the downtown, you are rewarded with raw, panoramic views of the lake and mountains. Finally, accommodation that truly lives up to all the hype!
- Eichardt’s Private Hotel ☆☆☆☆☆ – A Queenstown icon with boutique suites, apartments, and one opulent Penthouse, on nestled on a premium lakeside position in the center of Queenstown. Synonymous with exclusivity, this divine hotel does not come cheap but its old-world Victorian atmosphere is perfectly suited to Queenstown and is simply perfect for soaking in between exploring this remarkable destination.
- Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa ☆☆☆☆☆ – A tranquil lakeside retreat from the international Hilton Chain, known worldwide for their LGBT marketing campaigns. This location boasts a unique location on the scenic blue shores of Lake Wakatipu, away from the hustle and bustle of central Queenstown. Don’t want to leave? No worries the signature on-site restaurant, cocktail bar and soothing spa treatments will keep you from ever getting bored.
- Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa ☆☆☆☆☆ – A French inspired luxury hotel which complements the pure dramatic natures of New Zealand which surrounds it. Walking distance from all the main attractions of Queenstown, this refined retreat is the perfect place to unwind after a long day with upscale rooms with rainfall shower and soaking tubs. On-site there is also a Parisian-inspired bistro, gym, spa and sophisticated cocktail lounge.
- Hulbert House ☆☆☆☆ – A resorted Victorian Villa offering 6 suite boutique rooms. While it might not have the exhausting amenities of the big hotels, Hulbert House brings a distinctive combination of historic elegance and contemporary service. For a discerning gay looking for a completely different type of stay.
- Swiss-Belsuites Pounamu Queenstown ☆☆☆☆ – Modern apartments with panoramic views and all only a 15-minute walk to the city center. There is also a hot tub for guest use and free passes to an off-site gym. A beautiful mid-range option to indulge without breaking the bank – and if you’re considering hosting it offers more privacy than other options.
- Ramada Queenstown ☆☆☆ – A modern hotel which boasts spectacular views, clean rooms, and affordable prices. Sure, its a bit out of town but the bus makes it easy to get in and its one of the most affordable hotels in town.
- JUCY Snooze Queenstown ☆☆ – A new concept offering double or quad dorms or pod private spaces. There is a fun rooftop pizzeria, self-check-in, and super-clean facilities. If funky, fresh and cheap is more your style then this is a good place to look!
- Autoline Queenstown Motel ☆☆☆– A cheap-and-cheerful motor lodge if all you need is a comfy bed, clean bathroom, and kitchenette. Basic, but the location is great and some rooms have stunning views if you get lucky.
- Absoloot Value Accommodation ☆☆ – One of our favorite hostel in the world, in the middle of Queenstown with a mix of dorms and private rooms. The views from the common area and kitchen are crazy and Absoloot Value Accommodation is always impeccably clean. If you want to save your dollars, make new friends to explore the nightlife with and don’t mind sharing a dorm you should 100% stay here!
For something a bit different considering indulging at Blanket Bay, a gay-popular uber-luxurious lodge set on a 10,000-acre high country farm in Glenorchy. Get a taste of Kiwiana just a 50 minute trip from Gay Queenstown and yet an entire world away. Quintessential South Island mountain and lake views and old-world design combine to create the ultimate alpine experience and one of the world top lodges. Even if it is out of your price range, dreams are free right!
Queenstown Gay Nightlife Scene
While Queenstown might be one of our favorite gay travel destination in the world, currently it does not have any ‘exclusively gay’ bars. Much like the rest of Gay New Zealand, LGBT people in Queenstown don’t feel the need to segregate themselves and practically all bars in Queenstown are mixed and very gay-friendly. If you are desperate to get other gays, you can use gay hookup apps, attend one of the infrequent gay parties organized by the Gay Queenstown Facebook page, or just try your luck at our favorite watering holes in Queenstown …
- Bardeaux – A up-market bar with huge open fire, great music, and an extensive wine collection. This iconic Queenstown venue is more sultry and seductive than dance all night, which is probably why we are such a big fan. The cocktails are delicious, the crowd a mix of everyone and you can actually enjoy your conversation without screaming at each other!
- Cowboys – If your hopping to snatch yourself a sexy cowboy…Your better off heading to Austin, Nashville or Denver, but if you want a fun night out in Queenstown then cowboys is the place to go! A bar for everybody with a bucking bull, fun music, dancing and an extensive collection of tequilas!
- Blue Kanu – A fun and frivolous fusion that is as if Honolulu and Taipei had a lovechild that was raised by hipsters in Auckland. Confused? We were too! But seriously, this ‘Polynesia’ tapas style bar is a must-visit with delicious cocktails, exotic cuisine and plenty of local artwork, Try the cozy chai wazza, with heated chai, Jack Daniels, and coconut cream and you might just find this place floats your boat too!
- Rhinos’s Ski Shack – A lively all-day, all-night kind of place perfect for the European Après lifestyle with a kiwi twist. and dancing until the wee hours! Tucked away in a basement, this local popular secret maintains a loyal following that’s to its cheap all-day everyday $5 beers and hip-hop music with DJ’s on deck.
- Loco Cantina – A vibrant nightlife spot frequently drawing long lines and the backpacker crowd who come to party the night away. Sure it’s most expensive than ca, but the tequila is just as good and that host plenty of Winter Pride parties so you know it’s gay-friendly.
- The Winery – There’s no need for hours of travel to visit a few local wineries – the finest wines from throughout New Zealand are all right here! Bring over 800 boutique wines to you, the winery is an award-winning venue to enjoy fine wine, fine company, and world-class service.
- Little Blackwood – Winning on location alone, this exciting cocktail bar has epic views over Lake Wakatipu and some of the best cocktails in town. We recommend pairing with a decadent cheese platter at night, settling in next to the roaring fire and never, ever leaving. Though the outdoor terrace on a summer day is pretty spectacular too…
Gay Spa in Queenstown
No visit to Gay Queenstown would be complete without a luxurious spa day to relax, rejuvenate and re-energize. Wheater after a long day of skiing, hiking or just a rough night on the town, there are our favorite places to escape into a world of bliss. Even if it is just for a few hours.
There are no explicitly gay spas in Queenstown but much like the bars and hotels, no same-sex couples will experience any discrimination here and everyone is welcomed – as it should be! Just don’t expect any naughty male massages here, this is classy Queenstown, not Pattaya or Bangkok.
- Onsen Hot Pools – An iconic Queenstown experience, perfect for a snowy winter day or magical summer day – or sunset if you can time it! Offer massage services and facials, the clear stand-out feature here is the unique outdoor pools with glorious views out over the surrounding mountainscape and starry night. If you can’t go to Tokyo and experience this traditional Japanese therapy, this is the next best thing. All with a classic kiwi touch of course. The Onsen Hot Pools is one of our favorite things to do in Gay Queenstown, and is sure to be yours as well!
- eforea: spa @ Hilton Queenstown – The Hilton worldwide is always a gay-popular option and their Queenstown spa is no different. This opulent outfit boards a manicure and pedicure suite, ten treatment rooms including two couple’s suites and a presidential spa suite with a private balcony, en-suite bathroom, and large hot tub. Guests are welcome to full use of the spa facilities, which are included in the price of every treatment. There is a 25-meter indoor heated pool, large hot tub, and fitness center, as well as saunas and steam rooms. Choose from three distinct ranges of treatments, all focused on organic, natural products and scientific, results-driven practices, at this popular Queenstown day spa.
- Millbrook Resort Spa – Frequently named New Zealand’s Top Spa Resort, this tranquil escape is found picturesque Arrowtown, only a 15-min trip by car from Queenstown. Visitors can also make use of their free shuttle. A truly indulgent spa treatment menu is available, with something to appeal to everyone. We especially loved their signature male treatments, designed to leave you feeling totally repaired!
- Spa @ Nugget Point Hotel – Hidden in the most glorious alpine setting overlooking the famous Shotover River, the Spa at Nugget Point offers a modern version of the Roman baths experience – except considerably more family-friendly! There is a magnificent mosaic pool under a domed roof, marbled plunge bath, steam room, sauna and rose mosaic showers. Soothing rooms with views await you for the ultimate pampering session using organic treatments that release your inner and outer diva.
- So Spa @ Sofitel Queenstown Spa – A Parisian-style wellbeing spa emphasizing balance and rejuvenation with a fun blend of French and New Zealand products. Professional staff skilfully deliver an extensive, premium range of therapies and invigorating signature treatments, the most popular of which is the traditional Maori Greenstone Massage. There is also a couples’ suite complete with cedar wood Jacuzzi if you want to share the experience with someone special. Afterward, guests can unwind in the unique infra-red room or at the discovery bar with freshly brewed tea and snacks.
Gay Sauna in Queenstown
Sorry boys, there is currently no gay sauna in Queenstown. These are only for the big centers; Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Hamilton – and even there they are increasingly unpopular as gay dating sites take over. Trust us, if you open Grindr in Queenstown you will be spoilt for choice, otherwise trying the bars and clubs.