Any beach in Florida is a good beach, one might argue, but there's one that's especially popular among the LGBT community. Sunset Beach, Florida, has long been dubbed "the gay beach" by locals. And when you visit during the summer, it's easy to see why.
The LGBT community adores Tampa Bay for its abundance of gay beaches, lesbian hangouts, and drag queens. In the center of it all, there's St. Pete, as it's been affectionately nicknamed, which hosts Florida's largest Pride festival each June.
About 250,000 people flood into this neighborhood on the Western shores of Florida every summer for a celebration that could rival Pride fests in most metropolitan cities. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, then, that St. Petersburg is also home to perhaps the most gay-popular beach on the Gulf.
Here, visitors are free to unravel their rainbow towels along the white sand coastline without judgment. Sundays, in particular, are the best time to visit for those interested in free jello shots and DJed dance parties.
This is like the Las Vegas Strip with a Pride theme. Are you intrigued?
No trip to Pinellas County would be complete without a stopover at Sunset Beach, so make your way to the southern tip of Treasure Island if only to sip a frozen margarita while watching local bands play at the beloved Ka'Tiki Beach Bar.
It isn't the easiest sliver of coastline to find, however, but if once you learn area, you'll be lounging with a rainbow umbrella-topped Mai Tai in no time.
Directions and Parking
Sunset Beach is about a 20- to 30-minute drive from Downtown St. Petersburg, and rest assured it's worth the short detour. Start by heading west on Central Avenue for 9 miles through Historic Kenwood and the Grand Central District (which is also home to many of St. Petersburg's best gay bars, including Punky's Bar & Grill and The Queens Head). Then, cross the Causeway to Treasure Island and take Gulf Boulevard (Highway 699) south. You'll find a metered parking lot just north of the Mansions by the Sea condo tower.
The parking area with the easiest access to this section of Sunset Beach is called the Tern Parking Lot. There are plenty of metered spaces here, but it can get crowded on weekends, unsurprisingly, so remember to plan your visit accordingly.
Finding the Gay Section of Sunset Beach
From the Tern Parking Lot, you'll find the Sunset Beach Scenic Boardwalk to your left. You'll pass through one of several wooden crossover boardwalks before being spit out onto the sugary sand.
After dipping your toes in the Gulf of Mexico, walk north along the shoreline and you'll eventually stumble upon a gay mecca. Here, below the rainbow flags, is where the LGBT folks congregate. Treat yourself to a cocktail upon arrival because there should be plenty of booze about.