A beginner’s guide to Key West
You’ll find Key West at the very end of the chain of islands known as the Florida Keys.
Initially colonised by Spain and Britain, the Florida Keys were claimed by the US in 1822.
Key West was first connected to the US mainland in 1912 when a railroad was constructed. In 1938, the railroad was converted to a road which became part of the US highway Route 1.
Key West emerged as a vibrant LGBTQ community and popular vacation destination for LGBTQ travellers in the 1970s. With tourism now the key focus of the island, LGBTQ visitors are still enthusiastically welcomed.
While Key West may not be quite as queer as it used to be – with the progress of equality campaigns, LGBTQ travellers have a lot more options across the US – this is still a destination that is worth spending some time in.
If you’re flying into Miami or Fort Lauderdale, you could pick up a car and drive south to Key West. This is a beautiful drive, taking you through the keys, with spectacular views. This is quite a long drive, and generally involves slow-moving heavy traffic, so be prepared for that.
You can fly into Key West from connecting airports such as Fort Lauderdale, and that’s definitely worth considering. You don’t really need a car when you’re in Key West – you can get around with taxis and bikes.
This part of the world enjoys the tropical climate of the Caribbean. The best time to visit is between November to April, when the weather is sunny and dry. It’s a clear heat that’s ideal for a relaxing vacation.
Where to stay
For the ultimate gay vacation experience, you should probably look at Island House. This is a clothing-optional resort that has a pool. It’s relaxed, welcoming, and a good mix of friendly guys. This is a fairly sexual experience, so if that kind of environment isn’t right for you then you should probably look at other options.
There’s a range of LGBTQ accommodation options available in Key West, and a huge number of small guesthouses and hotels. Paradise Inn was a good option. Make sure that you’ve got access to a pool where you’re staying.
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Where to party
Even if you’re not staying at Island House, it’s worth getting a day pass so you can use their pool and facilities. Their pool parties are a lot of fun, and worth going to.
All of the bars you’ll need are found on Duval Street. Most nights you’ll probably find yourself in Bourbon Street Bar. Inside they’ve got go-go boys, and then out the back is a men-only bar with clothing optional swimming pools. It’s a lot of fun.
The beaches are nice, but there’s not really a gay beach in the traditional sense of the word. Worth investigating, but you’ll probably do most of your tanning and swimming by the pool.
There’s a huge range of activities available, if you want to get active. Boat trips and snorkelling trips are worth investigating.