Florida is one of the most popular vacation destinations in all of the United states. Its warm temperatures throughout the year make it a great place for Northerners to thaw out in the winter without having to leave the country. Further down the peninsula, in Southern Florida, there are all sorts of beautiful and lively locales that cater specifically to LGBTQ+ travelers, making South Florida one of the nation’s top destinations for our community.
There is so much for LGBTQ+ visitors to enjoy in South Florida. From Miami’s art deco area of South Beach, to Key West, the Southernmost isle in Florida that has been a home-away-from home for gay tourists for generations. In recent years, an even gayer region has emerged in the state, the Wilton Manners area of Fort Lauderdale, which houses more than 100 gay-owned businesses and establishments.
This tropical Floridian area has been a haven for gay tourism since the early days. It has a vibe and architecture all its own. Miami has its Art Deco made famous by films like “The Birdcage,” while Key West is a mix of early 20th century buildings and rocking chairs on front porches, all with an unmistakable Caribbean feel. In fact, much of South Florida has an international feel.
Many island nations, including the Bahamas and Cuba, heavily influenced different neighborhoods in this region, making it possible to feel like you’ve experienced cultures and tastes from distant lands without having to reach for your passport. From nightlife to nature, here are some of the top reasons and locations that make South Florida a top travel destination for the LGBTQ+ community.
Arts And Culture
Miami Art Deco
There are a variety of ways to enjoy Miami’s Art Deco district.. You can immerse yourself by taking a self-guided tour, an official historic walking tour, or a bus tour that can show you a lot more than just this popular district. You can even combine your art deco tour with some of South Florida’s other top sites with a full day (9-10 hour) tour like this one:Miami Combo Tour: City Sightseeing, Biscayne Bay Cruise and Everglades Airboat Ride.
Museums And Galleries
Whether you are interested in LGBTQ+ history (Stonewall National Museum & Archives), contemporary art (ICA, Miami), to instagramable street art (Wynwood Walls) or something in between, South Florida has you covered. If you are an art fanatic, however, you may want to consider planning your trip around Art Basel, Miami’s famous art festival.
Once a year, Miami becomes the pulse of the international art world when it hosts Art Basel. This event takes place in early December, and all of Miami’s top galleries and museums come alive. Celebrities, artists, curators, critics and influencers alike flock to the region to see art, and to be seen. This is an expensive, but luxurious time to enjoy South Florida as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, especially if you are an art enthusiast.
Bars And Nightlife
You can find LGBTQ+ friendly nightlife all over South Florida. Palm Beach, Hollywood, Delray Beach, Vero Beach and Boca Raton all have plenty of appeal for the gay community. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West, however, are the three iconic destinations for LGBTQ+ travelers who seek fun in the sun and exotic year-round nightlife.
Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors
Fort Lauderdale has more than gay-owned businesses and establshments than anywhere else in South Florida. It has everything from gay cafes, to bars and nightclubs. Downtown Fort Lauderdale has several gay and LGBTQ+ friendly bars, but for the ultimate gay vacation experience you need to take a short ride over to Wilton Manors. Whether you strip down at one of the clothing-optional gay hotel nudey parties, or settle in for a long chill evening at the bohemian streets of Eucolyptus Gardens, Wilton Manors has it.
While Fort Lauderdale has certainly emerged as the epicenter of LGBTQ+ hotels and establishments, Miami still boasts a number of popular gay bars in several of its happening neighborhoods. South Beach has for years been the hub for LGBTQ+ travelers, and still boasts a handful of very fun bars and clubs. Palace has been a staple in the community, and no night out in Miami is complete until you dance your way through Twist. South Beach is not the only neighborhood in Miami worth visiting for nightlife.
Wynwood, on “mainland” Miami features hip new restaurants, bars, and street art as far as the eye can see. There are several LGBTQ+ friendly bars and restaurants, some of which even have weekend drag brunches.
Key West might be a tiny island, but it still has plenty of LGBTQ+ nightlife to keep you entertained. You can check out the popular Bourbon Street Pub, the popular gay friendly bar before hitting a gay club like 801 Bourbon Bar. Or maybe you like staying on the move, after all, Key West is littered with all sorts of drinking holes. If this is the case, the Key West Haunted Pub Crawl might be just the ticket for you.
Beaches And Nature
South Florida Beaches
There are many renowned beaches in Southern Florida, all with a different vibe that attracts different types of LGBTQ+ visitors. If you are looking for a cruisy, party scene on the beach, look no further than 12th Street Beach. It should not be hard to find as it has rainbow flags flying around it, and even a clothing optional area.
If the party (or nude) scene is not for you, don’t worry. There are more tranquil beaches to the north and south of South Beach Miami. There are even protected wilderness beaches where nature lovers can spot aquatic birds and other Florida wildlife.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a truly special string of islands. It often feels as though you are driving from one Bahamas island to another. On the way to party in Key West you can stop at tranquil islands like Bahia Honda Key, with its secluded state park and stunning swimmable waters. Key West does not have many sandy public beaches, but there are many resorts with stunning ocean views and beach club ambience.
South Florida State And National Parks
South Florida also has three unique and unforgettable state and National Parks worth checking out. There is Everglades National Park, which is a 1.5 million acre wetland reserve, with an ecosystem like no other on the planet. Take an airboat tour through the wetlands to see native bird species, fish, manatees and alligators just feet away from you.
If you love diving or snorkeling, you have likely already heard of John Pennekamp State Park. This park is unique in that it exists underwater. This vast coral reef system lies just off the coast of Key Largo (a perfect half-way stop between Fort Lauderdale and Key West). You can take a dive or snorkel boat to see some of the best underwater views in the nation. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, don’t fret, you can take a glass bottom boat or other non-immersive boat experience as well.
If you are looking for a vacation that mixes LGBTQ+ nightlife and secluded paradise, you might want to pre-book a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. This National Park is a small island chain reachable only by a pre-booked ferry from Key West. This trip is a great way to feel like you have left all your worries and entered a peaceful tropical paradise, without the gimmicky cocktails and Jimmy Buffet forever playing in the distance that you are likely to experience in many areas of the Florida Keyes. Be sure to plan this trip in advance, however, as ferry tickets sell out months in advance.
Adventure And Sport
Take a sailboat, high speed power boat, or luxurious yacht out from any one of South Florida’s top LGBTQ+ destinations. Many companies have group rates that cater to those looking to have an intimate day at sea. This is a great option for those traveling with like-minded friends.
If you are a fishing fan, South Florida is a great place to do some serious angling. You can catch fish like Mahi Mahi, grouper, and even Sailfish. The Florida Keys (Key Largo, Isle Mirada and Key West) all boast some of the best and most sought after fishing boats in the country.
Snorkel And Scuba
South Florida, especially the Florida Keys, has crystal clear water and a plethora of exotic aquatic life. You can book affordable group snorkel trips or even an exclusive private charter for a real off-the-grid experience.
Wrapping Up Your LGBT Experience In South Florida
South Florida is a real “create your own adventure” land for the LGBTQ+ visitors. Whether you crave the wilderness and open ocean or a pool chair with a view and well-crafted rum cocktails, South Florida has you covered. From Miami’s signature South Beach and the classic Key West gay isle experience to Wilton Manners, an evolving capitol of Florida gay life, there is something for everyone at the Southern tip or the sunshine state.