Gay and Lesbian Destinations in Florida

    By VISIT FLORIDA staff

    Sunny Florida has long been one of the world's premier gay and lesbian travel destinations, especially that scenic, vibrant stretch of Atlantic shoreline stretching from Fort Lauderdale south through Miami and the Beaches, down to distinctive Key West and up the west coast to Tampa.

    The region's pleasant fall, winter and spring months have long drawn legions of sun-worshipers, many escaping from cooler, snowy climes. And during the summer months, gay tourists from all over world have for decades taken advantage of the often substantially reduced hotel rates and airfares, plus a slew of lively events and festivals, such as Gay Days in Orlando.

    Gay Capital of Florida

    Perhaps no city in America has grown more in popularity among gay visitors in the past 15 years than fabulous Fort Lauderdale, which has seen an especially dramatic increase in upscale gay resorts. A number of older properties that had fallen on hard times have been reinvented by gay entrepreneurs and outfitted with lavishly landscaped pool areas, spacious rooms with luxurious bedding and opulent bathrooms and friendly, highly professional staffs. In fact, Fort Lauderdale was named Best Beach in the World by OMG magazine and chosen as Best Destination by Amazing Gay Awards. This is a premier Florida destination for both couples and singles looking for an inviting, private gay hideaway to relax for a few days – or a few weeks.

    Nearby Wilton Manors bustles with gay and lesbian businesses, including inviting cafés and coffeehouses, lively bars and lounges and fine retail and dining options. The city has more than 100 gay-owned establishments including hotels/guesthouses, bars, clubs and restaurants and myriad recreational opportunities.  

    Gay Community in Key West

    Down south, the subtropical island of Key West takes great delight in marching to its own drum. Gays have been relocating there in sizeable numbers for decades. Walk through town today and you'll notice a spirited camaraderie not just among gays and lesbians, but among all types of visitors, whether they're sipping cocktails at a sidewalk cafe along Duval Street or celebrating the sunset at Mallory Square.

    In Key West, you'll find your pick of gay resorts. The town was selected Best Gay Resort Town by readers of Out Traveler and In Key West, you'll find dozens of historic, intimate gay-friendly guesthouses - many with colorful gardens and ornate architectural details. The majority are in historic Old Town. The best thing about this relatively small community is that almost anywhere you stay, you're an easy walk from enticing shopping, dining and nightlife.

    Gay South Beach

    South Beach has long been known as the "Gay Riviera," attracting the LGBTQ crowd with its stunning collection of welcoming Art Deco gems and boutique hotels, but the luxury lodging scene has been heating up across the entire destination. In addition to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and The Setai, there are the legendary Morris Lapidus-designed Fontainebleau and Eden Roc resorts, (made famous by the 1950s Rat Pack), Carillon Miami Wellness Resort and Spa Miami Beach, 1 Hotel South Beach, The Mondrian, The Standard, and W Hotel, to name just a few.

    More inland options include additional Ritz Carlton resorts, a Four Seasons, and the Mandarin Oriental.

    Gay Attractions and Events Miami 

    Greater Miami has been famously rolling out the welcome mat for gay men and lesbians from around the world for decades as well. Years ago, the City of Miami Beach passed Florida’s most progressive human rights law, which included the creation of a city Human Rights Commission. As a result, Miami Beach now has one of the strongest human rights measures in the United States; meaning locals and visitors alike are welcome throughout the area.

    The LGBTQ Miami Beach Visitors Center opened in 2010, the first permanent operation of its kind in the United States, centrally located in the offices of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce at the corner of 11th Street and Washington Avenue on South Beach,.  

    Gay Lesbian Destinations St. Pete/Clearwater Area

    On the Gulf Coast, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area has grown into an increasingly prominent gay and lesbian destination. This host to the fast-growing St. Pete Pride Festival has a wealth of lively gay bars and is home to more and more accommodations and resorts that market to gay and lesbian travelers.

    Just down the coast, sophisticated and artsy Sarasota continues to develop a loyal gay following, thanks to its vibrant downtown, beautiful beaches and wealth of both cultural and outdoorsy diversions.

    The gay scene that began in just a handful of progressive, welcoming communities, such as Key West and Fort Lauderdale, has proliferated all around the state, from Miami to North Florida. Just about any time of year, you'll discover events and festivals geared toward LGBTQ visitors, plus dynamic nightlife options, romantic gay guesthouses and superb shopping and dining.

    Places to Remember