Key West is a popular, year-round destination for LGBT travelers looking to relax in the warm Florida sun. Key West has long been a welcoming place for LGBT travelers, artists, and freethinkers and that remains true today. This eclectic, delightful little island has loads to offer active travelers – kayaking, skydiving, shipwreck diving – and just the right amount of low-key activities for the more relaxed traveler – beaches, shops, galleries.
Table of Contents
1. General Tips
2. Transportation & Airport Transfer
3. Gay Hotels & Resorts in Key West
4. Sightseeing & Activities in Key West
5. Restaurants and Cafes
6. Key West Gay Bars and Clubs
7. Gay Beaches in Key West
8. Popular Gay Events in Key West
9. Day Trips from Key West
Getting around on foot or by bike are great ways to experience the island. During the day, you can head to Duval Street for shopping or check out the only gay & lesbian historic trolley tour. There’s also Higgs Beach which has a poignant AIDS memorial. Gay life seems to spill into the mainstream on the island and visitors can expect to feel welcomed and comfortable at any establishment be it a bar, hotel, or shop. At night there are plenty of options for fun like 801 Bourbon Street for drag shows or Bourbon Street Pub for dancing. You can also check out the Gay Key West visitor center at 808 Duval Street to the most up-to-date information.
Key West has a tropical climate so you can visit nearly any time of the year and expect warm weather. The high season is typically from December to March when visitors escape the winter at home to warm up on the beautiful paradise island.
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Transportation & Airport Transfer
If you’re flying into Key West, Uber or Lyft is the easiest and most cost effective way to get to your hotel. If you’re coming from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, Greyhound Bus Lines, The Keys Shuttle and Florida Keys Express Shuttle offer transport between Key West and Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. You can also book an organized transfer from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
In Key West you can use convenient public transportation, taxis, rideshares, pedi-cabs, tour trains, the Duval bus loop, trolleys, bicycles or even your own two feet to see the sights. The Duval Loop buses go around the most important parts of the city and run every day, year-round. This free bus will visit each stop every 30 minutes, from 6am to 10am, and every 15 minutes from 10am – midnight.
Gay Hotels & Resorts in Key West
Marriott Beachside – The Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel is one of the highest rated hotels in the Florida Keys with a marina and water-sports rentals. This Marriott resort hotel is set on seven lush acres with a beach and waterfront pool for hotel guests. The property is gay-friendly and has long welcomed the LGBT community.
Silver Palms Inn – gay-friendly, contemporary boutique hotel in the heart of Old Town. With its island inspired charm and chic contemporary spaces, the Silver Palms Inn is a green boutique hotel where you can relax as well as discover new adventures.
Parrot Key Resort – gay-friendly hotel with glimmering pools, hammocks and cocktails. Get a real taste of the tropics at The Grove Kitchen & Bar. Enjoy lush foliage right outside your room, downtown Key West and famous Smathers Beach a quick shuttle ride away, and watersports right onsite.
Island House Key West – Award-winning clothing-optional resort for gay men. The property has a large poolside café and bar and they regularly host social events onsite. The hotel offers a gym with sauna, steam room and multiple Jacuzzis.
Alexander’s Guest House – Beautiful grounds located in a quiet neighborhood and just a minute from Duval St. Alexander’s Guesthouse is proudly gay-owned and operated.
New Orleans House – the only gay, all-male guesthouse on Duval Street, right in the heart of all the Old Town action.
Equator Resort – gay-owned guesthouse tucked away in the heart of Old Town. The resort offers a large, lush and open private setting with two heated pools and two hot tubs. Comprised of five historic properties, each room is unique and offers its own charm all with private baths and spacious.
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Sightseeing & Activities in Key West
Butterfly and Nature Conservatory – Take a stroll through a tropical paradise…walk through an exotic and inviting environment filled with hundreds of the most beautiful winged creatures in nature – butterflies.
Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden – Outdoor living museum with rental facilities for events, ceremonies, and parties. The only “frost-free” botanical garden in the continental United States.
Ernest Hemmingway House and Museum – Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote here for more than ten years. Calling Key West home, he found solace and great physical challenge in the turquoise waters that surround this tiny island. Step back in time and visit the rooms and gardens that witnessed the most prolific period of this Nobel Prize winner’s writing career.
BluQ – voted the #1 all-gay watersports activity in Key West. Enjoy sailing, snorkeling, kayaking and sunset adventures.
Harry S Truman Little White House – Florida’s only presidential museum, the Harry S. Truman Little White House has hosted presidents, prime ministers and kings. As President of the United States, Truman spent 11 of his working vacations at the house.
Key West Food Tours – Discover the best of the local fare. Your guide is wildly passionate about the fresh, local, and historic cuisine found in Key West. They will be delighted to share their love of the local food and culture with you. Book tour →
Old Town Trolley Tours – Discover all of Key West aboard the 90-minute fully narrated tour. Your ticket is good for two days to hop on and off at any of the convenient 12 stops to enjoy, shopping, dining, attractions all over Key West. Book tour →
Restaurants and Cafes
Smokin’ Tuna – Key West's premier music venue. Great local seafood and world-class musicians who perform on a courtyard stage.
Lateda – Beautiful hotel, restaurant, piano bar, outdoor bar and cabaret. Tropical open-air fine dining in a casual atmosphere. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Old Town Tavern & Beer Garden – International tavern offering breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner. Bar and restaurant open from 9am – 2am daily.
Hog’s Breath Saloon – good times and great entertainment and fun, not to mention the drinks and food are outstanding.
Schooner Wharf – This funky, open-air bar offers the great musicians, fresh seafood and unique special events.
Tempt Restaurant –Chef Andrew Nguyen curates an eclectic menu that changes weekly, offering dishes like Caribbean spiced game hen, Mediterranean sea bass with Taylor Bay Scallops and American black Angus beef tenderloin with roasted bone marrow.
Key West Gay Bars and Clubs
For such a small island, Key West has an incredible number of bars, clubs and venues catered to the LGBT community so there’s no shortage of places to drink and party. In fact, if you party too hard, you can even visit the Hangover Hospital the morning after for a 45-minute hangover treatment. There are no gay saunas or bathhouses in Key West, however, many of the gay resorts are clothing optional and things are known to happen at night.
801 Bourbon – the legendary 801 has been a part of the Key West landscape for over 30 years. Enjoy the downstairs bar where the locals enjoy people watching or the upstairs nightly cabaret that features the largest drag house on the island.
Bourbon Street Pub – New Orleans-themed video bar featuring the Men of Bourbon Nightly. Live VJs, live shows with multiple bars plus a men-only, clothing optional garden with pool and jacuzzi.
Aqua Night Club – a popular bar and nightclub with drag shows nightly.
Grand Vin Wine Bar – Premier wine shop on Duval Street. Great porch sitting and people-watching with excellent wines by the glass and by the bottle.
The Roost – Elegant and quaint bar specializing in craft cocktails, fine wines, and small bites.
D’vine Gallery – Unique, state-of-the-art wine tasting bar at the luxurious Gardens Hotel. The self-serve wine dispensing system enables you to sample over 32 intriguing varieties.
1 Saloon – The only gay leather bar in Key West. It’s a historical local bar with late hours, drink specials, live entertainment and an outdoor patio.
Gay Beaches in Key West
Higg’s Beach – this the gay beach in Key West where you’ll find locals and visitors. You can lay out, snorkel and admire the sunset from this quaint little beach.
Smathers Beach – the largest public beach in Key West located on the south side of the island.
Popular Gay Events in Key West
Key West Pride – held in June each year, the entire island comes together to celebrate. Events include free play readings, talent shows, pool parties, a street fair, and the pride parade, which takes place downtown.
Tropical Heat – a series of all-male theme parties, pool parties, and adult-oriented entertainment takes place each August. Attend individual events or buy a wristband for all-access to all events during the long weekend.
Women Fest – the event welcomes women from across the globe to an annual celebration that has become one of the largest gatherings of lesbians and friends in North America. Each year thousands of ladies come together over Labor Day weekend and for a wide range of activities and events during four days of revelry and fun.
Day Trips from Key West
Fort Jefferson & Dry Tortugas National Park – take a boat to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park across the 70 miles of open water from Key West to the Park. During your voyage, you will enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Marquesa Islands, Boca Grande and have an opportunity to see turtles and dolphins.
Islamorada – a collection of islands that includes Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key, and Plantation Key, is located midway between Miami and Key West (it’s a 90-minute drive to either location), making it the perfect stopping point if you want to break up your drive.
Image Credits / Featured Image: The Florida Keys & Key West