Article Title:Where's Queer for the New Year
Author or Credit:Scott Dunning
Published on:16th December 2008 - 11:47 am
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Story ID:6870
Text:Scott Dunning Looking to escape the big cities for the coming New Year but don't want to lose out on the party atmosphere? Over the years Scott Dunning has done the rounds of the Big Three spots for a Queer New Year, and he was happy to tell us all about them... Vinegar Hill (Putai Ngahere Reserve) I've spent four New Year's Eves at 'The Hill', and have loved every one of them. The Gay tribe first came to inhabit Vinegar Hill 32 years ago. It's located about an hour north of Palmerston North, on the Rangatiki River. Out of the three main Queer New Years spots, the Hill has to be the most intensive experience - it truly is actual camping, with limited facilities (although hot showers are available in Hunterville five minutes drive up the road) so it's best to be prepared for whatever nature, or nurture may throw at you! The campsite stretches down the river from the more party orientated "gay end" to, what was the "straight end" which is generally more relaxed and laidback. (With the increasing number of queer campers, fabulousity creeps a little further into the 'straight end' each year). Camp fees are $9 per night per person, and the number of people within the camp builds from the earlybirds who arrive to spend Christmas Day, which is usually marked by a shared brunch and very much a community atmosphere, to New Years Eve, on which the population usually is well over 1000 gay and lesbian family and friends. Setting up camp at Vinegar Hill During your days at the hill you can go bushwalking, swimming or rafting in the river (there's a cliff you can jump off into the river that's always fun), or laze around on the beach, but the real highlight of the hill is definitely the community. Expect to spend your time mooching from tent to tent getting to know your other campers and generally being social! The glow-worms are an absolute treat if you are sober enough at night to stumble up to them! Events tend to run from the 28th onwards (with the exception of the Vinegar Hill float in the Hunterville Christmas parade on the 24th) and include the Queen's Party, Fashion in the field, an open air movie cinema and a talent quest. New Years Eve is marked with a massive party, stage shows, and a countdown to midnight that has always been at least 10 minutes too late for every year I've attended! Otherwise, the Hill is definitely one of those places where it is what you make of it. If you want to have a laid-back relaxing time, or be a social bunny, or spend your time completely wasted, or even be crowned 'Miss Hospitality,' it's all there for your taking! Uretiti Beach If long sunny beaches and white sand are more your thing, then Uretiti Beach will probably be more of your cup of tea this New Years. Uretiti is about an hour and a half drive (so think two and a half hours in holiday traffic) north of Auckland, and in size for a queer New Year's bash is second only to Vinegar Hill. The main feature of Uretiti would have to be the beach - it's an absolute stunner, and as there are clothing optional areas, some of the local wildlife are absolute stunners as well! There is also usually a Dance Party on New Years Eve, and you can always check out the books in the library. The main place to stay is the DOC Beach Campsite, which has a contracted live-in manager onsite. The Campsite has a fairly mixed composition - with a large contingent of families that tend to camp in one half of the site, the 'Gay' crowd which can number over 500, and also a significant number of Naturist campers who are there to enjoy the extra exposure the clothing optional beach provides. As it draws closer to New Years Eve the campsite also attracts a late teens crowd, and there have been problems with uncontrolled drinking over previous years. In this regard there have been some new bylaws put in place that are applicable to the camp - the first is one to control consumption of alcohol in the public place of the campsite and hence there is a liquor ban from 300 meters up from the high tide line - an area which covers the entire campsite. After visiting the campsite and talking to the new managers in November, it seems that the likely interpretation of this bylaw will mean that it will be permitted to consume alcohol within one's own campsite, but to wander around the campsite or beach while drinking will be prohibited. There is also a general fire ban for the same area. As a general note the campsite operates on a no-booking system and hence if you are planning to head up for the New Year it's best to get in early. The campsite managers also reserve the right to refuse access to the camp, as well as to remove people from the camp that are in breach of any bylaws or socially acceptable behaviour. If you've got any questions in this regard, the camp managers are more than happy to answer any queries. Email if you need more details. The beach isn't the only feature of Uretiti, nor is it the only place to stay. The nearest township to the Beach is Waipu, which features a museum for those that want a touch of history, and some really good restaurants, cafes and a art gallery or two for those that like a touch of culture. There are also local walks, a stunning waterfall, and the Waipu caves to explore. If you're not up to staying at the beach, Uretiti boasts two gay focused accommodations. For those that would like to enjoy their days and evenings socialising at the beach and then retreat to civilisation there is Dragon Tree Lodge. The lodge is situated 10 minutes drive to the beach up in the Hills above Waipu. The view is absolutely stunning, there are both very comfortable dorm style options as well as fantastically comfortable suites. Relaxing at Dragontree Lodge There is also the spa pool, which is great for relaxing with a glass of wine and enjoying the view after a hard day's sunning and socialising at the beach. The lodge is perfect for those looking to enjoy the social and sun elements of the beach, but also be able to ease into a relaxing, yet still social, atmosphere and enjoy all the comforts of civilisation. For more information check out the website at There are options to book the entire lodge for yourself and your entourage (subject to availability) as well as a current offer of a free bottle of bubbly for accomodation booked till 31st of January 2009. Alternatively, there is Salty Dicks. Salty Dicks is a men's retreat and campsite located just outside of Waipu, and is only a few minutes drive from the beach. There are several rooms available, but plenty of campsites for $10 per night. There are showers, a tepee with communal space, pool table, kitchen facilities, and a number of men's play facilities. Salty Dicks has a large international profile and often sports visitors from all over the world. It is very much a cruizy, laid back men's campsite and would be a great alternative for those wanting to camp near to the beach and want to stay in an exclusively gay environment. Autumn Farm Autumn Farm's 'Naked week' Although I haven't spent a New Year's at the farm, I was lucky enough to visit this Easter weekend just been, and then to spend two weeks wwoofing (willing worker on organic farms) a few weeks later - and if my experiences during the time I had to stay there compared in the slightest to what it would be like over the holiday season, I couldn't recommend it enough. Autumn Farm is an organic farm and gay retreat in Takaka, Golden Bay, which is about two hours out from Nelson. To get there you can take drive (you'll need to take the ferry to Picton from the North Island), fly into Nelson and take a bus from there, or you can fly from Wellington straight into Golden Bay itself. I would have to describe Golden Bay as beyond beautiful - and amazing valley of green farmland boarded by immense and sheer cliffs of exposed stone (Takaka marble is the only marble native to NZ) and native bush. Shielded from the rat race of modern life, you very quickly relax into the slower pace of life down there. Around the farm there is an abundance of tramping, caving, fishing (the Anatoki Salmon farm is a great place for some easy fishing excitement!), the local beaches and local culture is fantastic. A must do is a night at Takaka's laid back local cinema! The Farm itself is a clothing optional country garden environment which echoes the laid back and cruizy pace of life, but don't be fooled as it definitely has a vibrancy and culture of its own. The 'Summer Camp' over New Years hosts over a hundred guys of all different ages from all over the world! The Farm has limited accommodation available, but plenty of space for camping. It boasts the amazing taste of its own produce, a nack for intellectual, deep and meaningful conversations especially with your hosts, a one of a kind bathhouse and the famous firebath! Events over the summer camp include day trips, Happy Hours, The annual Cabaret Night and King and Queen Competition, and culumnating with the New Years Eve Fireworks and Dance Party, seeing the New Year in here is one you will not quickly forget! For more information about spending the New Years at Autumn Farm look on their website for info on how to contact the farm or get there try . wishes you a very happy and safe summer break. Scott Dunning - 16th December 2008    
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