The Florida Keys – A Gay & Lesbian Paradise!

BRRRRRRR…….
 
It is currently 35 degrees outside Out & About Travel’s office and I just finished booking a client’s trip to beautiful, gay friendly, WARM, Key West, Florida.  Ahh.
 
 
I am trying to regain feeling in my frozen toes and pretend I am in an air-conditioned office somewhere in sunny Florida. All it would take for me to escape this cold is to walk outside and feel that Florida sunshine. Alas, this is a dream at the moment, but then again, is it? I do have enough frequent flyer miles with American to escape winter, if only for a brief time.
 
Hmm…..
 
Thus is reason 1,000,000,001 why I LOVE TRAVEL. Isn’t all travel a sense of escapism? 🙂
 
I love what I do. I love sending clients on trips of their dreams. Funny, as I sit here daydreaming about sipping a Margarita on Smather’s Beach in Key West, I am looking at documents for clients from Naples, FL that booked a trip to Telluride, Colorado. They want to escape the beach and head for the snow!
 
Love it!
 
Let me spend a moment (or two or three…a’hem) talking about Key West. I usually make it down there during the winter, at least once. I fly into Fort Lauderdale, rent a car and make the extremely pleasant, scenic, 3-4 hour drive through the Florida Keys to Key West.
 
 
Once I see the A1A South sign, I feel a sense of calm that I don’t feel anywhere else.
 
Your journey begins in Key Largo. When I arrive in Key Largo the first stop I make is at the Sandal Factory (MM 102). It has become a tradition of mine to buy a new pair of sandals at the start of my keys vacation. The Sandal Factory has the best selection of any shoe store I have visited and the prices are pretty reasonable.
 
Another popular spot, which I am sad to say I have never truly explored (yet), is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. They are famous for their snorkeling, scuba and glass bottom boat tours.
 
 
A “must” stop is The Fish House which is known to have the best in “Conch-Style” cooking in a fun, casual atmosphere.
 
Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill At Fisherman’s Cove Restaurant & Bar is loads of fun too, with spectacular entertainment and waterfront dining. 
  
As you make your way past Key Largo, you will come to one of my personal favorite keys, Islamorada. Islamorada is comprised of six islands including Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key.
 
Islamorada hosts some big attractions such as Theater of the Sea Marine Mammal Park and Robbie’s Marina which is know for feeding the swarms of tarpon that linger around the docks.
 
 
I always stop at Holiday Isle Resort for a quick snack and the incredible water views. The area features some cute gift shops, several restaurants, watersports and entertainment.
 
Islamorada is home to Cheeca Lodge & Spa and Casa Morada, two luxurious, gay friendly properties worth the overnight stay & money.
 
 
Anne’s Beach (MM 80) is a beautiful, small beach that is worth a stop. I am always amazed at how stunning the hues of water are. Whether it be high tide or low tide, when the water is so shallow you can see sand bars out in the distance for miles.
 
Usually after my stop in Islamorada I am extremely eager to a.) drive the 7  mile bridge and b.) make it to Key West. With that said, I haven’t spent much time exploring Marathon or the other keys prior to Key West (with the exception of Bahia Honda State Park, which is considered one of the best beaches in North America and definitely the Florida Keys).
 
The 7 mile bridge is fascinating! As someone who use to have a severe fear of bridges, I am happy to say, I am able to make this drive with no problem. The bridges aren’t that high. You almost feel like you can touch the water in certain spots. Also, I am mesmerized by the different shades of blues/greens in the water below to care much about anything else.
 
 
I seem to always make my approach to Key West by sunset, which is PERFECT! A Key West sunset is spectacular. The sun seems, well, SO DAMN LARGE! 🙂 Watching it slowly sink as you get close to Key West is a sight to behold. I find myself saying, “Oh my God!” over and over again.
 
 
Something happens when you enter Key West. At least for me. I instantly get into my “Jimmy Buffett” mode. I start to crave key lime pie (The Blond Giraffe is super yummy), tropical music, the smell of coconut suntan lotion, sandals and a good old fashioned grilled cheeseburger. Seeing chickens roam freely throughout the island is norm as is the plethora of double-pawed cats. They are considered locals and treated with respect by the tourist who act as if they’ve never seen a chicken or cat before!
 
 
 
No matter how many times I go to Key West, I am always struck by it’s beauty and eclectic/funky/artsy vibe. I love the conch houses. I love the flora and fauna. I love the smell in the air. I love the bikes tied to trees. I love the sensory overload that happens between colors, smells, tastes and sounds.
 
 
A drive down Duval Street is otherworldly. You will see street performers, free roaming animals, hear live music from the many honky tonks, drive past herds of tourists/locals, tons of stores, restaurants, cafes and things that defy explanation. Keep driving down Duval and you will eventually hit — the beach. Duval Beach Club is a great area for a quick bite, a fantastic view and an afternoon suntan.
 
 
I love the beaches of Key West. Sure they aren’t as grand as say, Fort Lauderdale or Miami Beach, but they are distinctly Key West and beautiful nonetheless. Fort Zachary Taylor (the only beach to charge an admission….$5, I believe), is a must visit. Also, Higg’s Beach and Smathers Beach are breathtaking.
 
To say Key West is gay friendly is an understatement. We send hundreds of clients to Key West each year. The gay & lesbian lifestyle is pretty much intergrated everywhere (as it should be). With that said, there is a “gay section” midway down Duval street which is home to several popular gay nightclubs including 801 Bourbon Street, La Te Da and Aqua Nightclub as well as Pearl’s Patio Bar & Grill, located at 525 United Street.
 
There are also several gay/lesbian exclusive properties such as Alexander’s Guesthouse (a personal favorite).
 
For the most information on the gay & lesbian scene, visit http://www.gaykeywestfl.com.
 
Of course, if you need help planning your getaway to this tropical paradise, drop us an email at info@gaytravelpros.com with the specifics and we will work our magic for you! 🙂
 
 (Blue Heaven)
 
Some MUST DO’s when in Key West include: Blue Heaven (dine with the chickens and enjoy live music – breakfast hot spot), Sloppy Joe’s, Hog’s Breath, Schooner Wharf Bar & Grille, Bo’s Fishwagon, The Lazy Gecko, Two Friend’s Bar (popular for their nightly karaoke – must see to believe), Green Parrot Bar, (the original) Margaritaville, Kelly’s Caribbean Bar & Grill, Sarabeth’s (very gay popular – breakfast hot spot), A&B Lobster House and Half Shell Raw Bar.
 
 
**IMPORTANT** Do not miss “THE CAT MAN” performing at Mallory Square each night. That’s all I am saying.
 
For a complete list of Key West attractions visit http://www.keywest.com.
 
I could go on and about my love for the FLORIDA KEYS and Florida for that matter, but I will end here.
 
Afterall, I have to purchase my plane ticket to paradise! 😉
 
Happy Travels!
 
Desiree (a.k.a. Travlgrrl)
 
 
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  1. […] The Florida Keys – A Gay & Lesbian Paradise! | Gay Travel … Funny, as I sit here daydreaming about sipping a Margarita on Smather's Beach in Key West, I am looking at documents for clients from Naples, FL that booked a trip to Telluride, Colorado. They want to escape the beach and head . As you make your way past Key Largo, you will come to one of my personal favorite keys, Islamorada. Islamorada is comprised of six . I seem to always make my approach to Key West by sunset, which is PERFECT! A Key West sunset is  […]



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