Good gay resorts are like little utopias of self-expression! Places to go to escape the humdrum of the heteronormative world and unleash your true self amongst like minded souls. Whether being yourself means leisurely chatting with your fellow guests over a gin and tonic by the pool, or making out with a hot stranger on an openair dancefloor as Padam Padam blasts out of the speaker is – of course – entirely up to you.
Dunes Resort is one of the largest and most famous gay resorts in the US, snugly sandwiched between Saugatuck and Douglas on the coast of Michigan. Over the years the resort has become as much a landmark for the local community as a place to stay or party. From its past to its present, we take a look inside the fun packed LGBTQIA oasis to find out just why its reputation precedes it.
Paid Their Dunes
The Dunes had humble beginnings as a gay bar all the way back in 1981. Formerly known as The Douglas Dunes, the bar was a place for the gays to gather during the troubled times of the eighties and nineties; somewhere to socialize and have a good time amid the chaos. The atmosphere was so welcoming, in fact, that it led to some folks uprooting their lives to move into the area just to be close to the bar. Later The Dunes grew to become a hotel, restaurant and bar – infamous for its rambunctious summer outdoor dance parties.
Danny Esterline and Greg Trzybinski were two regulars at The Dunes from the beginning. After years of enjoying their favorite bar, in 1996 the twosome met their soon to be business partner, Mike Jones. Over pizza and margaritas – a winning combo if ever there was one – they hatched a life changing plan to buy The Dunes and transform it into the largest, friendliest LGBTQIA+ resort in the Midwest. Fast-forward a few years and their dream became a reality – as The Dunes became the resort, bar, club and all-round adult playground it is today!
There’s room for everyone at the Dune’s Resort – quite literally. Inclusivity is the name of the game, and The Dunes accommodations are made to cater to singles, couples, or groups alike. Guests can choose between everything from cottages, motel rooms or grand duplexes with hot tubs as their holiday abodes. But there’s so much more to The Dunes than being a place to stay. The resort also houses a collection of indoor and outdoor venues, each with their own distinct atmospheres and events.
What's a resort without a pool and The Dunes is huge and comes replete with its own bar. This ‘Splash Pool Bar’ opens all summer, becoming a lively social area with cabanas for those who like a little alone time – or “alone” time with their partner or new friend. `The Deck’ on the other hand, is a place to relax in the sun or party while simultaneously perfecting a tan. Then there’s The Vinyl Lounge – a gay games bar – and The Showbar – a place to sit back and enjoy everything from drag queens to live music and LGBTQIA comedians. The original bar still stands as the resort’s heart but now the partying can continue at their own club, which hosts the very best local and international dance DJs.
All in Dune Course
The Dunes Resort has quite the repertoire of exciting events every year. No week is ever truly the same, with events like themed parties and – during the summer – the infamous Tea Dance party every Sunday out on The Deck, where tops come off – and probably out – with the dancefloor never being empty. It’s not all sweaty half-naked men-filled parties though and during the week resident piano player Bobbi entertains the masses for with shows tunes and a more laid back vibe. Then, for the vocally talented – or the delusionally talented -, there’s weekly karaoke and even a game’s night.
Drag is the lifeblood of the gay world, and The Dunes celebrates the art in all its glitz and glamor. There’s weekly drag bingo and the resort even holds its own Drag Race – lovingly entitled ‘Dunes Resort Academy for Girls’, where the queens fight polished tooth and manicured nail to be crowned The Dunes next drag superstar.
Across the year The Dunes is known for its legendary festival parties, when the gays descend for a weekend of dancing and events during the likes of Mardi Gras and Labour Day. Other yearly parties include an Eighties Disco Weekend, a Summer Blues party and – naturally – a messy but fun White Party. Those who like a little leather-clad kink with their drink can attend Mr. Michigan Leather every September. Finally, the Lambda Car Club weekend blends car shows into the mix with dance parties.
Finding one’s tribe is the secret to true happiness and whenever you visit – whatever your sexuality or gender identity – your tribe awaits you at The Dunes Resort.
This article was sponsored by The Dunes Resort.