There was a time when I did not give a second thought to how I spent my pink dollars, but now I am much more aware of whether or not I spend my money with gay or gay-friendly businesses.
Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to travel.
I had a long-term partner who had an aversion to staying anywhere described as gay accommodation, so only recently have I consciously started to look out for gay places to stay when travelling. What a relief it is no longer having to explain to some bemused (or hostile) proprietor that I really do want to share a bed with the guy that I’ve arrived at the counter with!
If there is one place that sets the standard for gay travel it may be Bayview91 in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. My travelling companion had not stayed in many gay-run places before and was fearful that gay accommodation might be on the sleazy side. The Bayview91 bed and breakfast quickly dispelled any such illusions. The hospitality was welcoming and attentive without being over-bearing and the quality of everything, from the fresh-produce based breakfast (with home made breads) to the bedding and hair products was of the highest order, without being ostentatious.
One of the wonderful discoveries associated with staying with David and Dimitri at their elevated Whitianga home was hearing about the network of high quality gay accommodation around the whole country. Some of New Zealand’s best accommodation is gay owned and operated; yet another illustration of the unrecognised gay contribution to New Zealand and critical areas of the economy such as quality tourism.
Anecdotally David reported that some of his visitors – the majority of whom are straight – reported that their meal at Stuart Manor (a gay-run establishment just out of Christchurch) was the best meal they’d had on their entire stay in New Zealand, for example. My partner and I recently stayed at the gay-run Chalets in Queenstown and had a wonderful experience there too, including a beautifully presented cooked breakfast. We also had the pleasure of staying at the Desert Heart vineyard near Cromwell, where a former packing shed has been tastefully transformed by its lesbian owners into accommodation in the middle of this award winning Central Otago vineyard. In Nelson, Te Puna Wai, run by James and Richard (who converses in five languages apart from English) has a reputation as an outstanding place to stay for gays and straights. Gay-run accommodation is making a remarkable contribution to the quality end of the tourism market in New Zealand.
Perhaps the disappointing thing is how few of the clients of some of these gay-run examples of New Zealand’s best accommodation are gay. If it were not for the superb experiences that gay-owned accommodation offered to their straight clients, then many of these places would not be sustainable. Places like Autumn Farm in Takaka (near Nelson) cater for gay clientele, but by far the greatest number of gay owned premises cater for gays and straights because they can not depend on gay clients alone.
A quick internet search will return a remarkable list of gay-owned premises across the entire country. Everywhere from Kerikeri to Balclutha has gay-owned and run places to stay. My understanding is that there is no national certification of these premises but the fact that you can be hosted by “Craig and Brad” in Christchurch means a lot to me as a gay traveller!
Certainly David and Dimitri went out of their way to ensure an enjoyable Coromandel experience. We headed out from Bayview91 loaded with a professionally prepared itinerary which saw us (complete with a spade they had loaned us) visit Hot Water Beach, where people from around the world joined together in digging hot pools in the sand, a truly wonderful experience that saw us stay at the beach for several hours. We visited the majestic Cathedral Cove – a stunning natural site – and afterwards we had dinner at the Mill Road Bistro which specialised in local produce and where the tasting menu was outstanding (enhanced further because they served my favourite wine, Neudorf chardonnay from Nelson).
In future, then, I will be ensuring that when we travel we seek out gay owned and operated premises. Not only will we be supporting and meeting other gay people, but chances are we will be experiencing some of the best accommodation New Zealand has to offer.
| Stephen Rainbow