If you’re planning a vacation with your partner or friends and want some fun, gay-friendly destinations, then look no further than Florida! In the Sunshine State, there is something for everyone – whether you’re looking to party, soak up some sun, or get a rollercoaster-induced adrenaline rush.
From Miami to the Florida Keys, below we list some of the best gay travel destinations in Florida.
While Miami and South Beach are the destinations most commonly associated with the words “gay travel Florida”, Fort Lauderdale and its neighboring city Wilton Manors have been building a reputation as the next gay hub in South Florida.
Sebastian Street Beach
You can’t go to Florida without hitting the beach – it’s almost criminal! For gay travelers, the best beach in Fort Lauderdale would be Sebastian Street Beach. The two-mile stretch of sand is more than just a gorgeous place to spot even more gorgeous people, it’s also within just a few blocks of some of the best gay resorts and guest houses.
Wilton Manors is one of the most diverse cities on this side of the US. In fact, it has long been dubbed the “Second Gayest City” next to Provincetown, Mass. That’s all thanks to its more than 100 gay and lesbian-owned businesses, from bars and clubs to thrift shops, cafes, hotels, and guest houses.
Wilton Manors is also home to the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, which Visit Florida calls “the LGBTQ community’s Smithsonian”. Here, gaybies can brush up on their queer history at the largest gay library and archive in the entire country.
And if museums aren’t your thing, you can always head to Wilton Drive – known locally as “the Drive”. This is the place to go shopping, to wine and dine, and to party the night away. Some of the most popular gay clubs and bars located in the Drive include Mind Your Manors, the Manor Complex, Georgie’s Alibi, and Scandals Saloon.
The Sunshine Stampede Gay Rodeo At Davie
If lounging on a sunny beach isn’t your thing, you can drive 20 minutes to nearby Davie, where the Florida Gay Rodeo Association holds the Sunshine Stampede Gay Rodeo in April. It’s a two-day spectacle filled with line dancing, calf roping, bull riding, and more. It’s essentially the Brokeback Mountain fantasy, but with a happier ending.
The Gulf Coast
Looking for a relaxing, gay-friendly tropical getaway? The cities along the South Florida coast offer a relaxing respite all year round, with beaches for all sorts of people. Sink your toes in the softest sand, swim in crystal clear waters, and get close to wildlife at these stunning destinations.
Up for some outdoor fun? Fort Myers is the place to go for parasailing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and all sorts of watersports.
If you’re into shelling, you can also hop on a boat to nearby barrier islands Sanibel and Captiva, whose beaches are overwhelmed with awesome shells from the Gulf of Mexico. And if you go even further up, you’ll find the beautiful string of barrier islands that extends north, including the isles of Gasparilla, Don Pedro, and Manasota – all great places for shelling, birdwatching, and getting lost in nature.
And if you’re looking for a queer-tastic nightcap in Fort Myers, make sure to visit Rascals, an all-inclusive neighborhood bar that hosts all sorts of events, from themed costume nights to drag bingo!
While it doesn’t usually make the “gay Florida” map, Gulfport is a community that is open to people from all walks of life, especially the LGBTQ community.
Every first Friday and third Saturday of the month, the eclectic suburb of Gulfport holds Art Walk, an artisan marketplace running along Beach and Shore Boulevards. Here, you’ll find paintings, handmade soap, wood carvings, artisan candles, jewelry, vegan food, crystals…the list goes on! You’ll also find several LGBTQ-owned and supportive businesses.
Need a place to stay? Then book at room at the Historic Peninsula Inn for a comfortable Bed & Breakfast experience.
In June 2021, Gulfport hosted their first Gulfport Pride celebration. It was long overdue!
If you haven’t had your fill of bohemian arts and handicrafts yet, you can drive five miles to St. Pete, where its Grand Central District is home to over 70 queer-owned shops, from bars, restaurants, art galleries, pottery studios, home décor galleries, and antique stores. And while you’re there, don’t forget to visit the world-famous Salvador Dali Museum!
Come Pride Month, St. Pete’s Grand Central District (and nearby gayborhood Kenwood) comes alive with a night-time pride parade, musical performers, entertainers, and more.
For beach-goers, you can head west of St. Petersburg to find St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island. The former is a beautiful tropical paradise that receives 361 days of sunshine a year. It’s also where you will find the dramatic Don CeSar Hotel – a pink Mediterannean-Moorish style castle that’s filled with charm and history.
St. Pete’s Treasure Island, on the other hand, is the first public beach in Pinellas County. The South Florida beach is open to anyone and everyone, and it’s got a laid-back vibe you won’t find in party places like Miami Beach. Finally, don’t miss out on what Visit Florida calls “one of the west coast’s premier gay beaches”, Sunset Beach. The bohemian paradise is located on the southern tip of St. Pete’s.
Sarasota is pretty small compared to St. Pete, but it does have its charm. While you won’t find too many gay events in Sarasota year round, you might enjoy its quieter, more laid-back beaches.
LGBTQ nonprofit Project Pride SRQ hosts several LGBTQ events and festivals during pride month.
North Lido Beach is Sarasota’s official gay beach. It used to be known for letting folks sunbathe in the nude, but unfortunately, according to Sarasota Out, that is no longer the case today. Still, gay beach-goers who want to be discreet can look for its infamous “trails”.
If partying is what you’re looking for, gay Florida travel blogs frequently suggest gay bars Purple Rhino and Oasis. For gay-friendly resorts, you can visit Siesta Key, where you’ll find Turtle Beach Resort.
While most people first think of Miami and Orlando when planning a trip to Florida, you shouldn’t write off places like Tampa either! In fact, Tampa has its own little gayborhood, and it’s cute to boot!
Tampa’s historic Ybor City is lovingly called the Gaybor District or Gaybor City. Ybor City was a former Latin immigrant enclave that became home to cigar manufacturers and the migrant workers who worked at the plants. Today, the diverse community – aptly named “LGBTA Main Street for The West Coast of Florida” – has been transformed into a vibrant neighborhood filled with gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses.
Must-sees in the Gaybor District of Tampa include LGBTQ dance and nightclub Southern Nights Tampa. Ybor City is also home to Tampa Pride at the end of May.
Off the southern tip of Florida, you’ll find the Florida Keys, an archipelago stretched out on the Florida Straits that divides the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. These tropical islands are some of the most popular holiday destinations in the US, with scuba diving, sportfishing, and boating as some of the top things to do here.
The southernmost island among the string of Keys is called Key West. Apart from being one of the most popular Keys among tourists, it’s also the most gay-friendly of them all. In fact, Out Traveler has dubbed Key West as the “Best Gay Resort Town” multiple times!
The city is proud of its diversity and acceptance – its official city and county motto is “One Human Family”. It was also the first city in America to elect an openly gay Mayor.
For a quick immersion into gay nightlife, head over to Duval Street, which is home to gay bars, clubs, and shops. If you’re looking for drag shows, be sure to check out 801 Bourbon Bar.
For accommodations, the best place to stay would be Alexander’s Guest House, an LGBTQ-welcoming luxury bed & breakfast where all are welcome — allies too! This lovely 3-story Conch-Style house is listed in the National Historic Register. For a more risqué option, head to Island House, a clothing-optional resort for gay men.
For an LGBTQ journey around town, you can get to know the island and its history through the gay and lesbian historic trolley tour – the first of its kind!
If you can’t visit any of the other gay places in Florida, just make sure you visit Miami. If there was such a thing as an LGBTQ Mecca, Miami Beach would be your closest bet.
And the epicenter of the US’ “Gay Riviera” would be South Beach, a gayborhood lined with gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses, including countless nightclubs, beachfront bars, and shops. Just look for the rainbow flags and you’ll know you’re in South Beach!
For art and design buffs, you can stroll down the Miami Design District. But really, Miami is chock full of beautiful Art Deco buildings, so just keep your eyes peeled and you’re sure to find something neat.
If you want a nude beach experience, you can skip South Beach and take a short trip down to Haulover Beach Park – the one and only legal nude beach in Florida. It’s open to everyone, but there is also a queer section up by the Northern end.
As for beach parties and events, there is no shortage of dance music and party scenes in Miami, no matter what day of the year.
Pride is a massive event in Miami, and the grand parade is something locals and visitors look forward to each year. But be sure to visit Miami Beach in November too, as this is when the city holds its annual White Party Week. This event is the oldest and most popular HIV/AIDS event. Expect attendance in the thousands! And if you’re big on celebrating St. Patty’s Day, Miami’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of epic proportions – so don’t miss out!
Orlando is a city in central Florida that has become world-famous for its theme parks, from Universal Studios to Disney’s Magic Kingdom to Legoland. But theme parks aside, Orlando also takes pride in having one of the strongest and most vibrant LGBTQ scenes in Florida.
If you’re looking to vacation in Orlando, make sure to schedule it during Orlando’s biggest gay events, such as Gay Days Disney, Come Out With Pride, Girls in Wonderland, and the International Bear Bash.
Church Street in downtown Orlando is a popular place to party with LGBTQ community members. If you are looking for a night to remember (or forget), there is the Stonewall dive bar, Hamburger Mary’s, Hoas, and Southern Nights, which has lesbian nights each week.
Other popular LGBTQ-friendly bars in the region include local cruise bar Hanks, Barcodes, and Savoy Orlando.
The Bottom Line
With stunning beaches, great weather, adrenaline-pumping theme parks, and tons of gayborhoods and queer events across the state, Florida is one of the best places to go for gay and lesbian travelers. So bookmark this travel guide, pack your swimsuit, and unfurl your rainbow flag and book a trip to Florida today!