Travel Thursday: Explore The Water Sports, Gay Spaces, And Local Atmosphere At Key West
At the southernmost point of the United States of America, there lies an island full of culture, fun, and small town atmosphere.
The island of Key West originated as a close-knit community and artistic hub before revamping into a vacation destination in the mid-twentieth century. On top of that, the island has a strong gay community and appeal for vacationers. That makes it the perfect place to write about for Instinct Magazine’s Travel Thursday section.
So, if you’re looking for the best spot to plan your next vacation, here’s some info about why you should pick Key West.
First, where would you stay in Key West?
Well, there are several LGBTQ-friendly resorts and inns on the island. The one that I stayed at was the Equator Resort, which was men’s only.
The equator is a beautiful resort with a definite gay vacay feel. What I mean by that is that this resort doesn’t hide the fact that it’s all about the merging of relaxation and sexual exploration. Not only does the resort have spacious rooms and a kind/efficient staff, but it also has eleven complimentary gay porn channels on the tv screen and a backyard pool area that’s clothing optional.
For more on the Equator Resort, you can either read my first article on Key West about the gay sex scene there or check out the resort’s official website.
If you want a less sexual resort/inn or are traveling with family, you can look into the Gardens Hotel.
The Garden’s is just as spacious and luxurious as the Equator, but it also has the added feature of being on an absolutely beautiful lot. There are plenty of plant life and animal life surrounding the hotel and your vacation photos will be beautiful.
Experience: Water Sports
But once you step out of your hotel, what’s there to do in Key West?
Well Key West is an island, so there’s, of course, a whole bunch of water sports to enjoy. From snorkeling, to sailing, to jet skiing, to night kayaking. I participated in all of these activities while I was on the island and I enjoyed every one!
Possibly the most interesting activity out of the bunch was night kayaking. While you can jet ski anywhere in the world, the night kayaking and paddle boarding by Ibis Bay Paddle Sports was particularly dynamic. Paddling away as we watched crabs, fish, and lobsters hang out below us was an experience I’ll never forget.
Though, I also have to give a shout out to the Blu Q Sunset Sail, which is a gay owned sail boat tour. There was something about the sky turning into the same rainbow colors as the flag flying above the ship’s bow that felt special to me.
Of course, you also have to consider what to eat while you’re down at Key West.
Well, I’ll be honest with you up front. Key West is an expensive place. Even the locals usually carry two or three jobs to afford it all. The food is no different. That said, if you save up before you go, or are just stacked to begin with, you can enjoy a plethora of delicious food.
Here are some dishes that I enjoyed during my stay.
Experience: The “Pink Triangle”
Once you’ve packed away some food and gotten yourself ready for a night of drinks, dancing, and dudes, it’ll be time to head over to Duval Street and the Pink Triangle.
Duval Street is the “downtown” street in Key West, though the western street actually cuts the island completely from the north side to its southern side. At night time, this street is covered with tourists and locals alike who are looking to enjoy the nightlife on the island. This is especially true around the Pink Triangle.
The Pink Triangle of Duval Street is home to several gay clubs and bars (and even the Gay Visitor Center). This location is full of spots where gay men (and only gay men in several bars) go to party and hookup.
This includes the risqué bar and dance club Bourbon (which has a clothing optional pool area in the back), the karaoke bar named Bobby’s Monkey Bar, the dragtastic Aqua bar, and the risqué and dragtastic 801 Bourbon bar.
And as you can tell from the description and photos, Key West is known for a fantastic drag scene.
Experience: Gay Male Spaces
As I’ve touched on in other sections, there is an intense sexual atmosphere in Key West. Several of the men’s only bars and resorts have a gay sex scene feel to them.
On particular spot of note was the Island House Resort. Not only could you choose to stay here instead of the two spots detailed above, but you could just decide to visit this location as if it were a bathhouse.
The Island House resort is decked out with a large (clothing optional) pool area, a sauna, a fully stocked bar, and more. Not only is this location a great spot for tourists to relax and have fun, but it’s a well-known spot for locals as well.
Every Sunday and Wednesday, the Island House becomes a spot for gay men to gather, socialize, drink, and become intimate. Island locals and tourists join together to enjoy themselves in a social setting that most bathhouses today have sadly left behind.
If you don’t find that scene to be to your liking, like I did on my trip, there are other sweet treats that you can enjoy.
Key West is the home of the Key Lime pie, and I for sure had my fill with each slice tasting different than the rest. And if you’re not a fan, don’t worry. Key West is an island chock-full of desserts. Check out a few I tried down below.
Experience: Locals & Tours
What’s great about Key West is that it is complex and dynamic. While you can enjoy the typical tourist spots and water sports or the gay vacation spots, you can also enjoy the history, culture, and small town side of the island too.
If you visit Key West, take the time to talk to some of the locals on the island. Once you’ve met them, you’re sure to see them all over the island.
For instance, my first stop on the island was at Papa’s Pilar, a rum distillery named after famous islander Ernest Hemingway. Once there, I was given a tour of the distillery, which included a history lesson about Hemingway’s love of the island, how he named himself Papa and (forced everyone to call him that), his boat called the Pilar, and how a rum got named after both.
The staff at the distillery were so kind, informed about the island’s history, and knowledgeable about the technical side of creating alcohol that I HIGHLY recommend this tour to anyone visiting the island.
On top of that, I befriended some of the workers at the distillery and imagine my surprise when I later ran into one while hanging out in one of the gay bars. Small island.
But that’s not all. There are plenty of other tours that you can take while in Key West such as a tour of Hemingway’s Home, a museum tour for famous playwright Tennessee Williams, a bike tour around the island, and one for the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.
If you want to be guided around the island and shown all its history, culture, and natural beauty, there are plenty of tours to do that.
Experience: Key West
Two weeks ago, I was blessed with a visit to Key West, and I can say without a doubt that I now plan to go back someday. I enjoyed the gay bars, the water sports, the food, and the local feel of the island. And now I have to get another look.
If you can afford it, Key West is a must for any traveler (gay or otherwise).
If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and address your comments to the Managing Editor.