There’s no denying that Florida is one of the most beautiful places to live. For many, Florida is the retirement dream. And for those who already call this state home, it’s the perfect place to reside. Aside from mosquitoes and those pesky hurricanes, who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by water and sun the majority of the year.
Florida’s population includes an estimated one million LGBTQ community members (This estimate doesn’t account for tourists and may not fully account for snowbirds). Whether you’re in search of a beachside bungalow, an LGBTQ-rich community or a skyrise with waterviews in the city, Florida provides options for all who choose to live here.
South Florida – Ft Lauderdale, Wilton Manors, West Palm Beach, Miami
Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors
If it is your wish to live in the “gayest city in Florida”, make Wilton Manors your next home. With 14% LGBT population, this walkable suburb with a small-town atmosphere is dubbed the country’s “Second Gayest City” (second only to Provincetown). The main street is “the Drive” (aka Wilton Drive), where shops and restaurants alike proudly display their rainbow flags. “The Island City,” as it’s known, is a little municipality 10 minutes north of downtown Fort Lauderdale and 40 minutes north of Miami. Oakland Park is a “sister city” to Wilton Manors’ north.
The famously “gay beach” Sebastian Street Beach is located in Fort Lauderdale Beach, and is part of the pedestrian-friendly “strip” on a barrier island home to many hotels, shops and restaurants. North Beach is poised to become one of the “hottest gay neighborhoods” in Fort Lauderdale.
Poinsettia Heights is centrally located, walkable, close to Wilton Drive, the beaches, and a little something for everyone, larger, more spacious, million-dollar homes, pool homes, both waterfront and non-waterfront. The upscale luxury community of Coral Ridge offers a good mix of multi-million-dollar homes with less expensive condos.
Within the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, there more than 100 gay-owned businesses, including bars and clubs, cafes and coffeehouses, award-winning hotels and guest houses, and there are many “up and coming” LGBT-friendly neighborhoods, including: Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, Sea Ranch Lakes and Lauderdale Lakes.
Pompano/Pompano Beach is more affordable area close to Wilton Manors. Lauderdale Lakes features gated condo communities and is a “must-see” neighborhood if you want to be close to the action, but are on a budget.
As the LGBT population ages, many predict Sea Ranch Lakes/Lauderdale by the Sea to be very popular LGBT-friendly beach resort communities, offering oceanfront living at very attractive prices. “Senior Advice”, a website that focuses on senior living, recently ranked Fort Lauderdale the #7 best city for LGBT people to retire in 2019.
If you want to live downtown Fort Lauderdale, then Victoria Park is the neighborhood for you! With its high end shopping, five-star restaurants, the beach, all while still living in a residential neighborhood that is a tightly-knit and well-organized gay community.
Another hot, “up & coming”, yet affordable LGBT-friendly neighborhood is North Andrews Gardens. It may be more “transitional” than others, but its convenient location and great prices makes up for it.
Dubbed the “Gay Riviera,” Miami Beach is a city on a barrier island, separated from “Miami proper” by Biscayne Bay. South Beach takes up its southernmost two miles and is glittered with eye-catching Art Deco gems and boutique hotel. The beach itself is a huge draw, especially the “gay beach” at 12th Street and Ocean Drive.
South Beach has been gay enough for long enough for its gayness to seep into every aspect of the entire neighborhood.
Wynwood, the city’s artistic hub, has more of a “gay-friendly hipster” vibe, overflowing with vibrant restaurants, artwork, clothing stores, breweries, and club and dance venues, among a variety of other retail options. The region is highlighted by colorful artwork and murals that meticulously cover the walls of many edifices.
Miami’s oldest neighborhood, Coconut Grove, is also its greenest, still full of the lush hammocks that cover the Grove’s sleepy streets. There is a lot of money in the Grove, and nightlife too – mostly around CocoWalk – though none of it’s “explicitly gay.”
Just a bit farther south, you’ll find yourself in Coral Gables, another lush, old-money neighborhood with an understated gay presence.
The Miami neighborhood of Little Havana is the spiritual and cultural core of Miami’s Hispanic community, hosting Gay8 Festival, the largest Hispanic LGBT Festival in the United States attended by over 60,000 people.
West Palm Beach
While a tad more on the conservative side than Fort Lauderdale and Miami, West Palm Beach earned a perfect score on last year’s Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index which measures how inclusive laws and services are for LBGTQ people who work and reside there.
West Palm Beach has more than 40 miles of beaches, plenty of shopping, and while relatively small, there is still some gay nightlife. “Senior Advice” ranked West Palm Beach the #2 best city for LGBT people to retire in 2019.
Florida Keys – Key West
The Florida Keys, in general, are “gay-friendly”, however gay transplants have been relocating and vacationing in the island paradise of Key West since the early 1970s. The fun-loving southernmost city is selected repeatedly as “Best Gay Resort Town” by readers of Out Traveler magazine.
Most of Key West’s gay and lesbian nightlife takes place on Duval Street, in an area called the Pink Triangle. The Pink Triangle gayborhood includes a cluster of LGBT bars, entertainment clubs, and even a rainbow crosswalk. The island is only 4 miles long by 1 mile wide, so it’s pretty easy to find a gay-friendly neighborhood!
West Coast – Tampa, St. Pete, Gulfport, Sarasota
With over 6% of its population being LGBT, Tampa has a perfect score on HRC’s Municipal Equality. In April, Jane Castor was elected Tampa’s first openly gay mayor.
The GaYBOR District is a coalition of gay and gay-friendly businesses that began on the west end of Tampa’s historic Ybor City neighborhood – is now a 10-year-old presence in this former cigar-rolling, Latin immigrant enclave. Dubbed the “LGBTA Main Street for The West Coast of Florida,” the 12-block area offers a fun mix of shops, bars and restaurants.
The Heights (Seminole Heights, Riverside Heights and Tampa Heights) are all gay-friendly hipster hoods in Tampa with historic bungalows, both large and small. South Tampa is a more upscale neighborhood and nearby Hyde Park, a small neighborhood with high-end bungalows. Downtown Tampa features swanky high-rise condos in Channelside, Harbor Island and upcoming “Water Street”. If you are more interested in new construction in the suburban areas of Tampa Bay, you may want to try Wesley Chapel in Pasco County or the more affordable of area of Riverview.
Advocate named Tampa the 19th gayest city in the US in 2017, Business Insider ranked it the 3rd gayest city for queer singles, and Tampa’s cost of living is 3% below the national average, and Tampa’s purchasing power is 22.7% higher than in NYC, making it an affordable and fun city.
“Senior Advice” ranked Tampa the #10 best city for LGBT people to retire in 2019. Assisted living costs are “low” compared to national figures, and home healthcare costs are “average”, while the overall cost of living is “low” compared to national averages.
Sunny Tampa is close to the popular beach towns of St. Petersburg, Gulfport and Dunedin.
The heart of LGBT St. Petersburg is the historic Grand Central District featuring more than 70 GLBT-friendly businesses, including antique stores, home décor galleries, salons, boutiques, bars and restaurants. The adjacent gayborhood is Kenwood, with its streets lined with Craftsmen-style cottages from the 1920s. Historic Old Northeast was the first developed in St. Petersburg. Many of those fine homes still stand today and provide a deep sense of history and pride for the area. Tropical Shores is a “hidden gem” of a neighborhood just off Old Southeast and is truly a treasure. This is the closest waterfront neighborhood to downtown.
St. Pete also is home to one of the West Coast’s premiere gay beaches, “Sunset Beach”. Located on the southern tip of St. Pete’s Treasure Island, among the string of barrier islands that extends along the Gulf of Mexico to the west of St. Petersburg, Sunset Beach is famous for its strip with beachfront bars and its Sunday beach parties.
St. Pete is much calmer than the party atmosphere of Miami. Stroll along the southern end of St. Pete Beach through the Pass-a-Grille area that stretches 22 blocks where the gay community hangs out. The charming island is also known for its white sand, pink shells, humble attitude, and beautiful waterfront homes.
Gulfport is Tampa Bay’s “Gay Margaritaville”. The ’burb of Gulfport is a bohemian village of pastel bungalows, artists, eclectic shops and outdoor cafes on the Boca Ciega Bay.
It is rumored that the population of Gulfport is over 50% LGBTQ. We wouldn’t be surprised. The Windsor building, dubbed the “Edie Windsor Building”, in the TownShores 55+ condominium complex, is home to dozens of lesbian singles and couples. It’s also one of the few dog-friendly condos in the area.
Gulfport is also home to the nationally accredited LGBTQ Resource Center, located in the Gulfport Library. Throughout the year, Gulfport celebrates diversity in all of its colors, shapes and sizes, so it is no surprise that it is home to the most LGBTQ-welcoming residents.
Charming and quaint, Dunedin is a historic, small town with a big-city mindset just north of Clearwater. Dunedin has a hip little downtown, a pedestrian-friendly “Main Street”, Scottish heritage and a gay nightlife destination that draws crowds.
Key West is colorful and Miami is flashy but Sarasota is “sophisticated and artsy”, and has developed a loyal gay following, thanks to it being “Florida’s cultural capital.” Sarasota County’s ever-growing arts and cultural scene, along with its international mix of residents and visitors, fosters that kind of open, diverse atmosphere.
Take in the posh shops and restaurants of St. Armand’s Circle or hit Sarasota’s quiet, white-sand North Lido Beach. It’s secluded – think dunes and sea oats – and 22-acre north Lido Park looms like a forest above.
Southwest Florida – Fort Myers, Naples, Marco Island
Admittedly, Fort Myers doesn’t even compete with bigger cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or St. Petersburg for the title of Florida’s most gay-friendly neighborhood, however the “City of Palms” does have a steadily growing LGBTQ+ community to boot.
In North Fort Myers, the Resort on Carefree Boulevard is a place where new friends are waiting to share your favorite pastimes, where neighbors look out for each other, where you can thrive in a tropical paradise. The all-Lesbian Resort encompasses 50 acres and features 278 home and RV lots. Many overlook tropical freshwater lakes and preserves. All sites are especially designed to accommodate manufactured homes or RVs in a natural setting.
Naples and Marco Island
Known for its great shopping and dining on Fifth Avenue, world-class golf courses, with more than a hint of cosmopolitanism, Naples is not necessarily known for being a gay hotspot. A Republican stronghold, Naples still manages to attract a healthy dose of affluent gay and lesbian travelers every beach season.
The Paradise Island Convention and Visitors Bureau has been making strides in their marketing efforts to make the Naples/Marco Island region more welcoming to LGBTQ people. And although still in its infancy, Naples Pride brings together LGBTQ community members and business owners from throughout the region. The town even has a touch of LGBTQ nightlife at Bambusa Bar and Grill. And CAVO Lounge hosts a monthly drag brunch that is popular among both LGBTQ people and allies.
Although there isn’t a specific street or community that is home to a plethora of LGBTQ residents, if you’re looking for a laid back, mature community, and living in an LGBTQ hot spot isn’t a top priority, we’re confident you’ll feel at home in Naples/Marco Island.
Central Florida – Orlando, The Villages, Gainesville
With 4.1% of the population identifying as LGBTQ, Orlando has a well-established gay community and several popular gentrified neighborhoods such as Winter Park, Lake Eola Heights and Colonialtown.
The ViMi District, more officially known as Virginia-Mills, is one of the city’s most vibrant gay neighborhoods. Just outside of Downtown, and north of Colonial Drive, the gays were some of the first to move to the once-rundown area to spruce it up. Ivanhoe Village District is a colorful bohemian community where you’ll find some fabulous antique dealers as well as a couple of laid-back neighborhood bars.
Near Downtown, the fun and funky neighborhood of Thornton Park is full of lovingly restored homes from the beginning of the last century. It’s filled with hip shops and on-trend restaurants.
The cost of living, housing prices and tax rates are particularly low in Orlando. WalletHub gave Orlando the highest ranking for LGBTQ Millennial job seekers, in addition, roughly 33% of the population is single.
And if you are hoping that many of your friends will visit after you move to the Orlando area, the proximity to the all the theme parks won’t hurt. Speaking of the theme parks, what started as a small group of gays and lesbians dressing in red and spending the day at Walt Disney World in 1991 has grown into one of the largest gay pride events in the world, attracting over 150,000 gay and lesbian travelers to Orlando on the first Saturday of every June. Not officially sanctioned by Disney, the annual event has attracted a growing number of LGBT families with children.
Many LGBT “active adults” have heard of the retirement community “The Villages” located about an hour northwest of Orlando.
There are over 100,000 residents that live in this self-contained community filled with golf courses, and access to more goods and services than you’d find in a regular city of that size. That’s a good thing too, because it’s pretty much out in the middle of rural Central Florida.
While not specifically noted as a gay community, there is a “gay community within the community” called Rainbow Family and Friends. For more information, visit rainbowfamilyvillagesfl.com
Most college towns tend to be more progressive, open and tolerant, and the small college town of Gainesville, home to the University of Florida, is no exception. As long as you live on campus (or nearby) you should be okay, just beware that 15 minutes in any direction, attitudes about the LGBT community can change dramatically.
Northeast Florida – Jacksonville, Saint Augustine
Once ranked by The Advocate as one of the “Top 5 Emerging Cities of Gay and Lesbians”, Jacksonville boasts a healthy LGBT community and is one of the largest cities in Florida. While the city as a whole has remained politically and socially conservative, gay-friendly locals work to keep the vibrant city life alive and eclectic.
The historic neighborhoods of Riverside and Avondale are filled with gorgeous tree-lined streets, adorable Craftsman-style bungalows, riverfront mansions and numerous distinctive shopping districts. Riverside also has Jacksonville’s highest concentration of gay bars.
Over the last several decades, the uber-queer Five Pointsforms the hub of what is, without question, the most gay-friendly area of Jacksonville. Five Points has become known for its edgy, colorful character as well as many independent shops, restaurants and businesses.
The upscale riverfront community of San Marco is slightly less gay-centric than Riverside or Avondale, but it’s got plenty of quaint shops and some of the best restaurants in the entire city.
Jacksonville’s first and oldest subdivision, Springfield, has been revitalized in recent years thanks to some handy, gay and gay-friendly investors who have purchased a number of the area’s massive Victorian homes and restored them to their former glory.
About 45 minutes south, you’ll find the intercoastal city of St. Augustine also known as “The South’s Little Secret”. Quaint and charming, cultured and European, St. Augustine’s history is quite alluring to LGBT travelers. Some decided to stay and build a laid-back life in Vilano Beach, Matanzas Bay, or the San Savino neighborhood of St. Augustine Shores.
Florida Panhandle – Pensacola Beach, Panama City Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Destin and Tallahassee
One might not instantly think of Florida’s Panhandle as gay-friendly or “welcoming” due to its ultra-conservative nature. But Pensacola Beach has long been a refuge for land-locked gay Southerners looking for a beach getaway – especially during the “Gay Memorial Day” holiday weekend. The rest of the year, however, this relatively conservative small city in the Florida panhandle has a small and quiet, even discreet, gay community. Aside from the enormous Gay Pride Parade that brings out thousands of LGBT tourists on Memorial Day weekend, residents in the area will tell you that everyday life is a bit stricter. Many LGBT couples are not “out.” There is, however, a growing LGBT presence here.
If Pensacola has a “gayborhood” it’s East Hill. It is on Bayou Texar and is surrounded by parks. Many LGBT couples in town reside in this historic neighborhood, which has its own small fenced-in dog beach. The “gay-friendliest” beach is on County Road 399, two miles past the Gulf Islands National Seashore sign.
Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Beach are among the places seen as “up-and-coming” gay-friendly, family-friendly destinations, especially for LGBT families with children.
Tallahassee is not only the college hometowns of both Florida State University and Florida A&M University, but is also the state capital, and is considered a hub for science, education and state-level politics. In fact, about half of Leon County’s residents possess at least a college degree, and has the most highly educated population in all of Florida. This well-educated base has blossomed into a culture of liberal and Democratic voters, and is one of only a few Southern cities known for progressive activism. While most of the Florida Panhandle is pretty conservative, Tallahassee is solid blue.
Given the left-leaning slant of the city, it’s surprising that Tallahassee doesn’t have a more visible gay population. Many people consider “gay life” in “Tally” boring. There are no gay bars. There are a few bars that have “gay” nights, but that’s it – so if having a big “gay scene” is important to you then Tallahassee will probably be a disappointing place to call home.
While Tallahassee is open and friendly, many of the gay couples tend to live in the northern part of the city. Lakeshore, for example, is a popular “gayborhood.” Or, if closer to downtown is more your thing, the artsy and hip All Saints neighborhood, is quirky, fun and very gay-friendly.
You may have noticed that Tallahassee has a reputation for being particularly “lesbian-friendly”, and that may stem from the fact that between 1905-1947 FSU was a women-only institution, and was one of the largest women-only universities in the country!
Again, Tallahassee is a lone “island of blue” in a sea of red, so please do beware that 15 minutes in any direction outside of the city, attitudes about the LGBT community can change dramatically.
Disclaimer: Most gay-friendly cities in Florida are quite diverse, and neighborhoods can change dramatically in just a few short blocks. It would be wise to use a local gay REALTOR® to help you find your next home in just the right area! For a list of LGBTQ-friendly real estate professionals in Florida, click here.
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