Historic, romantic, secluded, and famously popular with LGBT visitors for decades, Key West lies at one of the most remote points in the United States, and it's continued over the years to attract travelers seeking adventure and fun social encounters. A small city with fewer than 20,000 residents, Key West does not - despite having a very high percentage of gay residents and tourists - have a gay spa or bathhouse in the traditional sense of the word, like those you can find in larger Florida communities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando.
The town's colorful historic district does, however, have a pair of men's clothing-optional gay resorts that welcome gay visitors, one of them with day passes available and the other attached to a highly popular gay nightclub.
For tips on socializing and dancing in town, check out the Key West Gay Bars Guide.
Key West Gay Beaches and Other Parks
Additionally, a handful of this island community's beaches are popular with gay sunbathers, notably Smathers Beach (off Roosevelt Blvd. on southeast end of island, near airport), and Higgs Beach (within walking distance of the historic district hotels, at south end of Reynolds Street and extending east to White Street Fishing Pier). These aren't overly cruisy beaches, but you can definitely still meet other gay guys in both places. And at virtually all of the other beaches in Key West, you're apt to occasionally run into fellow LGBT folks.
Both the expansive Fort Zachary Taylor Beach, an 87-acre park with a fort that dates to the mid-19th century, and Rest Beach, where you'll find popular White Street Pier, are also lovely expanses for sunbathing and strolling.
Key West Bathhouses and Gay Clubs
You will find something akin to gay bathhouse culture Key West, just in a different format than you might be used to.
Among the gay resorts, and Key West only has a few these days that are clothing-optional and geared strictly to LGBT guests (although there are many other charming properties with mixed clienteles), the famed Island House (1129 Fleming St., 305-294-6284 or 800-890-6284) is the tried-and-true hot spot for hot encounters. It's a quite comfortable overnight option with attractive rooms, but day and weekly passes are also available. These entitle you to use the clothing-optional pool, hang out in the hot tub, enjoy the cafe and bar, and work out in the health club, which has a gym, steam room, indoor Jacuzzi, five-man shower, sauna, and pretty much the vibe you would find at a gay bathhouse.
There's definitely a sexual energy here, and the gym, pool, and other areas have 24-hour access. This is a beautifully maintained property with a friendly staff and a fun all-ages-welcome crowd - if you're not spending the night here, it's well worth the effort to come and hang out at Island House for a few hours.
On historic Duval Street, one of Key West's top gay nightspots, Bourbon Street Pub (724 Duval St., 305-295-9336), which adjoins another of the town's gay accommodations, New Orleans House (305-293-9800 or 888-293-9893) is another reliable and fun option for cruising, mingling, and playing around. Behind the main dance bar in the pub, the Garden Bar is a clothing-optional men-only hangout that guests of the bar or the inn can use (one night a week, Tuesdays from 6 pm until 4 am, the Garden Bar is open to women and men).
As Bourbon Street often brings in hunky gay porn stars to perform, the mood inside tends to get fairly steamy, and it's certainly not uncommon - especially late at night - for things to saucy and sexy in the Garden Bar, with its pool and hot tub. Weekends, during the day and night, are especially popular at Garden Bar, which is actually one of five different bar areas at Bourbon Street Pub.