A bowdlerised version of this column appeared in express magazine, New Zealand's gay periodical. It was severely edited to not offend their advertising sex-on-site businesses reviewed in the piece, which is the publisher's right. But here you get the unvarnished, raw, consumer point of view.
WINGATE SAUNA (76 Wingate Street, Avondale, Auckland): The location, facilities and even some of the punters have not changed much over the years. Since a recent fire in the sauna room closed the place down, the sprawling Lockwood building is taking the opportunity to upgrade and refresh its bath house facilities because they were starting to look shabby and rundown. The floors especially needed attention. All that constant wetness isn't good, even if the wood is treated. It made for a slightly slippery and uncomfortable feel underneath your feet.
It hasn’t reopened yet and I was advised to check their website for progress reports. For the time being a discounted entry fee applies. Currently only the communal area – where you can have a meal on certain nights – and the basement are available. One shower box, three cubicles and two video areas with the same feed can be used for play. One room has sprawling mattresses on the floor and is quite dark.
I hope the future new sauna box won’t be as cramped. The inside temperature was searing and the smallish entry door did not cause a draft that drops the temperature. The disadvantage of this cramped design was that the inside oxygen levels went down rapidly. The steam room was down some steps and it was pitch dark there, which I really disliked. I never tried out the spa pool - it's the only aspect of briny bath house culture I prefer stay away from - but it looked quite clean. From the spa pool you had clear line of sight through a glass window to the showers, a fully lit area where you were able to treat your wash and scrub down as a show performance.
The outdoor pool area – currently also unavailable- is its main attraction and a point of difference with all other Auckland venues. Check it out on Google Earth. Punters sprawl around it and soak up the rays on any Summery day. I really mean any day because I have visited on a weekday afternoon before and the place was packed - the quite substantial car parking was full - with gentlemen of a certain age who obviously find that environment way more appealing than having to sit around alone in their retirement home. I can't say whether a different age group, or body type, frequents Wingate on weekends or evenings, you'll have to try it out for yourself (not that I want to sound ageist – I can heartily recommend daddy sex because of all the experience you might learn from).
The indoor recreational cruising area (closed down at the moment) used to be fairly standard: an under-lit maze, small cubicles and a cinema. The upstairs balcony, via a small ladder, looked out at the screen and is the main orgy room. The ground floor seating is very uncomfortable due to straight upright wooden backs.
Wingate is obviously a life's work by the owners and it will be good to see it back in full form soon. Recommended for a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon.
DVX (3081 Great North Road, New Lynn, Auckland): Situated a stone’s throw from New Lynn train station and Lynnmall, DVX is a video rental store with an ‘outhouse’ backroom cruising area. For those too shy to go through the front door there is a discrete back entry. You pay at the counter before you can get into the closed off area. There are a considerable number of video cubicles but there is also a communal seating area with a video feed so you don’t actually need to rent a DVD. Some cubicles have glory holes only without video. It looks like a good alternative if you are out west and don’t want to trek into town for some jollies.
GRINDER (348 Karangahape Road, Auckland): The former Den
sex shop chain was sold and the K Road branch has been renamed Grinder. The sex shop is quite standard but it has a reasonably sized backroom for cruising. You pay at the counter to get through the backroom door, cruising punters in the shop is verboten. The backroom area has had a major makeover recently with the final touches still being put in place. The maze layout is much better now, the concrete floors are polished and the video area seating much more congenial than before. Two video areas with one decent sized screen. The split level glory hole corner works very well as it lets you avoid back pain by not having to stoop when the goods appear. The formerly ramshackle cubicles are now made much sturdier and roomier. In all, a huge improvement on what has gone before. Only the toilets need doing up now.
Good for a quickie if there are some guys to play with there.
PEACHES & CREAM CINEMA (474 Karangahape
Road, Auckland): This is a fairly new venue at least in its gloriously new spacious configuration. The former tiny video room has now a large cinema space added to it with a big screen and comfortable, expensive-looking leather seats and couches. It reminded me of an updated version of the former Classic Cinema on Queen Street where the Comedy Club is now. It shows straight porn but don't let that put you off, most of the punters here are after some cock action. But you have to be willing to perform in public, i.e. you may get an audience. There are some private cubicles if you want to watch a film by yourself. There are
four cabins available, two of them with interconnecting serving hatches (not glory holes) which you can open or close at will. The toilets are sufficient (if not always spanking clean) but not a pick up or place of action due to the rather harsh lighting.
It’s a relaxing venue and a chance to meet non-scene punters. Great friendly staff at the front desk too (one time I was there the place was attended to by two chatty women who obviously had seen everything before).
THE EXCLUSIVE SHOP (460 Karangahape Road, Auckland) (CLOSED DOWN): A standard, if old-fashioned, sex shop with video cabins and two cinemas on a split level – the one upstairs caters for straight porn, the other one for non-standard porn, mostly of the gay/bi/she-male variety. In both, it is customary to see, and partake in – if you want to - some action, either solo or joined, if you don't mind the lack of privacy. Everybody can be a porn star there when the on-screen action bores you. The downstairs cinema venue is cramped and dingy, while the upstairs one has had much improved seating installed. The place is ideal if you want your desires fulfilled off-scene. Some guys take their ‘girlfriends’, or at the ones they rented for an hour on K Road, there which can make the live performances more fun than the on-screen offerings.
K ROAD VIDEO (354a Karangahape Road, Auckland): A video rental store with preview cubicles. If you want assistance in your viewing habits, after selecting a DVD, ask for a room with glory holes. They are almost big enough to stick your head through. It's really not my scene as I prefer my punters attached to the rest of their bodies, but I know a lot of guys love glory holes and they are a usual feature in every sex-on-site venue. I didn't notice any cruising going on outside the cubicles, which was disappointing. The attendant was extremely efficient in showing me round the place and where all the facilities were. He also furiously cleans your cubicle immediately after you have vacated it, so the place is spotless.
THE BASEMENT (Canada Street, off Upper Queen St, Auckland): A sex shop and mail order business but also provides an area for cruising in the back. An ante-room provides space for rest and to get dressed up if you prefer to arrive in civvies. You can check in your valuables.
There is no maze but a series of themed areas for non-vanilla play, including a bath tub and two slings. A few cubicles, a dark ‘groping room’ and a decent size video room with circular seating (instead of rows of chairs) make up the rest. There are two video streams, one on a large, the other on much smaller screens. The toilets are clean and spacious, and towels are for hire. The venue occasionally hosts private and public parties (check their website for details) which cater for the leather and fetish crowds. It costs more to attend those but they are quite well patronised and good fun as you can turn up dressed as whatever you want to be and realise that long-held fantasy without being judged.
CENTURIAN SAUNA (Beresford Square, off Pitt St, Auckland):
Truly a world class bath house venue: spacious, clean, catering for a wide variety of relaxation options, including the non-sexual kind - you can just watch Sky Movies in a sprawling lounge with leather seats or mainstream TV in a little café area, if that takes your fancy but that would be a sign of serious perversion. All ages and body types can be encountered there. Since it is an inner city venue, it is popular with Asian students, flight attendants, tourists and gym bunnies. But it is eye-wateringly expensive even though the facilities are excellent: it’s clean, the staff are fun and engaging, the steam room first rate in atmosphere and temperature, and the sauna box spacious and hot enough to impress even a Finn. There is a whole raft of private spacious rooms with proper, lockable doors. In winter the communal areas and corridors can be a little cool due to the lack of heaters in every space. There are three different video streams playing, including one in a tiered cinema setting where regular group action takes place.
There a few theme nights, such as no-towel-days, which are a whole heap of fun and should bring out the exhibitionist in you. The atmosphere is far more congenial then, so I would recommend going for those. Orgy nights on the first Thursday of the month can be very busy but expect no privacy: all the cubicle doors are bolted open so expect a crowd to participate in your trading action.
On Thursdays there is a professional masseur on site whom you pay by the minute.
When there are a lot of punters, the action opportunities slow right down so you may want to avoid very busy times like Sunday afternoons.
LATESHIFT (2/25 Dundonald St, off Basque Road, Auckland): The longest running cruise club in Auckland (even New Zealand). It is a safe, congenial and social place to meet up.
The venue hasn't changed much over the years, it is still one of the best to spend a longer time in, such as pulling an all-nighter ‘til the sun comes up, when the drunks barge in from the K Road clubs for some fun at 5am and you can have a free breakfast there after service is over. There are two well-appointed playrooms available for extra hire charge where you can organise your own private party or, if need be, have a place to sleep. There is one small shower and towels are for hire. The urinal doubles up as a play area.
There is a large maze with plenty of cubicles, glory holes and themed play areas (one has a dentist chair, another has a barrel – you get my drift. There is also a video link between two rooms so you can star in each other porn movie). There is an excellent tiered video area where you can watch 6 different video streams, including a straight one, in one go if you don’t want to entertain your neighbour sprawling beside you. Non-sexual recreation includes a separate video room with Sky movies, a free internet café, a mainstream TV corner and two pool tables. Plus they cater hot snacks, free coffee and, as mentioned, free breakfast on weekends.
First Wednesdays of the month is Arse Men night when both playrooms are devoted to rear end plays and a lot of fisters and fistees populate the slings. It's a good opportunity to learn about it as many experienced experts are on hand, literally. It's quite social as John, who runs Arse Men, insists on chatting to you to see what they can do for you.
Sunday afternoons is Jacks & Jocks, when the venue caters for nude cruising and masturbators.