Gay Key West: your essential guide to the best gay bars, clubs, beaches and hotels

Stefan Arestis

Conch! It's quite a quirky word, satisfying, yet it sounds like you're cursing…“you CONCHhead!” or “you're such a CONCH!”

Giggles aside, over in the gay island mecca of Key West, a conch is a legit nickname given to the locals. And this bunch of conchers sure know how to live life to the fullest!

Key West is famous for its relaxed, tolerant and queer inclusivity. Historically it's always been different, helped by the fact that it is the southernmost point of the USA mainland, slightly cut off from the rest of Florida. This has allowed Key West to thrive as a mixed haven for an eclectic blend of people ranging from Native Americans, Spanish, freed slaves, pirates, and of course, the LGBTQ community. It has also been a bedrock for artistic talent with the likes of Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway and Judy Blume all making this unassuming island their home base. Key West even has an official motto of One Human Family.

We absolutely loved Key West. There are so many things to do here with a really exciting gay scene along Duval Street. We've been to Key West several times and always had a ball on each visit. We've put together this detailed gay guide to Key West to include our experience trying out the best gay hotels, partying in the bars/clubs, inspiration for things to do, and more.

Hillarious drag queen in Key West

Discover gay Key West with a drag queen

This is easily one of the best gay tours we’ve ever done! It’s led by a World-Class-Drag-Queen who takes your hand and leads you through the gay bars of Key West dancing and singing along the way. It’s so much fun and a great way to make new friends whilst getting a feel for the gay scene of Key West.

Find out more

Key West gay area

The gay area of key West is based around the busy Duval Street, between Angela and Petronia Streets. There is a permanent Rainbow Crosswalk here so you can't miss it! This small intersection forms the gay neighbourhood of Key West, largely centred around 3 large complexes forming a sort of triangle. The 3 large complexes are 801 Bourbon, Bourbon St. Pub and Aqua. Each one has around 3/4 separate bars/clubs inside which we summarise in detail below.

A few blocks from the Duval gay street is another gay bar which we love called Bobby's Monkey Bar. See below for more about it, but it was our favourite hangout because of its relaxed and friendly “local neighbourhood dive bar” feel.

One thing we also love about the gay scene of Key West is the prominent local drag culture. Every evening stars like Miss Sushi and Randy Roberts entertain the crowds and we LIVE for it! We have never had a dull night out on the Key West gay scene that's for sure!

One of the highlight for LGBTQ travellers in Key West is to a do a sunset cruise

A sunset cruise with your lover…

Florida has THE best sunsets ever. There, we called it! Over in Key West, you're guaranteed a stunning view every evening. One of the most romantic ways to enjoy it is aboard a sunset cruise. We did one which included champagne and hors d'oeuvres on a posh elegant sailboat. A moment we'll never forget!

Find out more

Gay resorts in Key West

When it comes to all-male gay resorts, Key West has some of the best we've tried. There are so many that we've put together a detailed guide to the best gay resorts in Key West, which we recommend you check out. For this guide, we've selected our top 3.

The one thing we'd say about accommodation options in Key West is that it's not cheap! The island has notoriously become touristy and quite expensive that many locals are forced to have 2, sometimes 3 jobs. So, if you're looking to splurge, you'll be in paradise here. Otherwise, if you're watching the pennies, we recommend checking out the listings on Misterbnb.

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The Island House

Island House is a fabulous gay resort in Key West that's clothing-optional and men-only!

Why we love it


  • A gay man's clothing-optional paradise!
  • Pool parties on Wednesdays and Sundays
  • Lots of cruising areas
  • Has a pool, gym, sauna and a steam room

Island House is probably THE most famous gay resort in all of Florida! It's a gay man's haven, hosting pool parties that are pretty out there.

We went to the Sunday pool party for brunch and my goodness – I don't think we've seen that many schlongs in one space at one time ever before!

We also love the fact that Island House is a real mixed crowd of gay guys of all ages.

At Island House, you can either stay the night as a hotel guest or visit as we did for the day on a Guest Pass.

In terms of room options, there are a variety of options, from the basic private rooms with street views to the more lavish luxury superior rooms. If you really wanna splurge or you're travelling in a group of friends, we recommend splashing out on the two-bedroom apartment spread over two floors, which has its own private entrance, dedicated parking (a rarity in Key West!) and private porch.

The communal facilities are everything a gay man could possibly want! The 24-hour gym and fitness center with a full array of free weights and cardiovascular equipment including elliptical machines. What made us giggle is the name of their “five-man gang shower”…we'll leave the rest to your imagination!

Island House also has a very busy steam room, sauna and sundeck…all of which are clothing-optional, of course! The outdoor poolside area of Island House is the most sociable, where most guys hang out at all times during the day, with a 24-hour cafe and bar alongside it.

STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL

Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.

02

Alexander's Guesthouse

Alexander's Guesthouse is a clothing-optional gay guesthouse in Key West open to all persuasions, with a mix of gay men and women

Why we love it


  • LGBTQ-mixed super friendly guesthouse
  • Housed in a restored old 1800s mansion
  • Super fun Pink Monkey Bar
  • Clothing-optional pool area

Alexander's Guesthouse is one of the few gay guesthouses in Key West that is open to everyone in the LGBTQ family above the age of 18.

Women and straight allies are welcome alike here! As such it's not as sleazy or cruisy as Island House. We found it to be a more low-key, toned-down alternative to Island House.

Alexander's guesthouse oozes charm from every nook and cranny.

It's set in a restored 3-story, “conch”-style home, made out of wood and set on posts – a technique in the 1800s to allow air to circulate under the floor. Alexander's is located just around the corner from Island House and around 15 minutes walking distance to the main gay bars/clubs on Duval Street.

Alexander's has a range of spacious modern rooms, each with super-comfy king-sized beds, private balconies and air-con (a must for my Seby). If you're a group of 4, we recommend booking the stylish and luxurious suite called “The Apartment”. It has a “spa” inspired bathroom, private sun deck and private covered balcony with views of Fleming Street.

Communal areas include several clothing-optional sunning decks, an outdoor pool and a Jacuzzi. They also have a complimentary cocktail Happy Hour at their aptly named inhouse bar – the Pink Monkey Bar, which is also a cool place to connect with other LGBTQ travellers and also to watch Seby show off his card “magic” tricks to other guests… What was interesting about the guests is that almost all of them were returning visitors who had stayed at Alexander's at least 2/3 times before – which also explains why it's one of the few hotels in Key West on Tripadvisor with a rare 5/5 Excellent rating from its many reviews!

03

The Gardens Hotel

The Gardens is a very classy and pretty hotel in Key West that's adults-only and welcoming to all orientations

Why we love it


  • Unique wine hotel
  • Round the corner from the gay street
  • Mixed adults-only hotel
  • Gorgeous lush garden area by the pool

The Gardens Hotel was our little splurge in Key West. It's one of our favourite hotels for couples, ticking all the boxes. It's set in a really pretty old building, just around the corner from the main gay bars of Duval Street.

Yet it feels like a little oasis: complete silence here at night! Duval Street gets pretty busy in the evening but at The Gardens, my light sleeping Frenchman had a terrific night's sleep.

The Gardens Hotel is aptly named after the large lush garden area that surrounds the pool. Seby compared it to entering the Garden of Eden as we enjoyed our breakfast listening to the birds chirpping on by above us. The Gardens is also a “wine hotel” with a massive cellar and a self-service tasting system set up at their “D'vine Wine Gallery” which you use via dedicated keycard.

The rooms at The Gardens Hotel are large with private verandahs and plenty of living space. We recommend booking one of their 5 unique cottages, 4 of which have their own private pool, marble bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs. Our favourite is the “Eyebrow Cottage” located in a standalone cottage in a secluded corner of the property with its own walled gated entrance.

Whilst not an outright “gay” hotel, The Gardens is open to everyone above the age of 16. Given its proximity to the Duval gay bars, it's always been a popular choice with LGBTQ travellers, especially couples. It's also a pet-friendly hotel, with over an acre of tropical foliage to allow our furry friends to roam free as much as they want!

Best gay bars in Key West

The gay scene of Key West is comparatively large given how small the island is. There are 3 main gay complexes, each with their own party vibe happening. We've summarised these below, along with a few others like Bobby's Monkey Bar which is located a few blocks away from the big 3.

Bobby’s Monkey Bar

Nomadic Boys touching the monkey at gay bat Monkey bar in Key West
Touch the monkey for luck!

Bobby's is one of our favourite gay bars in Key West. It's a dive bar, like a gay Cheers, where everyone knows everyone. It's homely and super friendly, which is why we love it so much. The owner, Bobby, is the life and soul of the bar, always chatting with people, making everyone feel like they're part of a big happy family. They have karaoke every evening from around 9:30pm where everyone gets involved and sings along with you! It's truly a warm atmosphere…particularly when we tried out a few ABBA numbers and had the whole bar singing along with us!

Bobby's is open every evening until around 4am. It is located at 900 Simonton.


801 Bourbon Bar

the 3 drag queen painting at 801 bourbon street gay bar
The queens of the 801 Bourbon gay bar

801 is a large gay complex standing proud next to the Rainbow Crosswalk. The 801 Bourbon Bar bar is downstairs and its sister club is upstairs (read more about this below). The bar is a good spot to come for a few cocktails to kick off the evening. It's open late, which is handy if you're looking for a place to just hang out and chat with friends at 2am. They have themed events worth checking out – our favourite is their Sunday karaoke between 4-8pm for the simple reason that the drag queens get involved, and these fierce queens just KNOW how to host a hilarious karaoke party!

The 801 Bourbon Bar is open every evening until around 4am. It is located at 801 Duval Street.


Bourbon St. Pub

Sebastien in fron of gay bar Bourbon Street oub
One of the handsome boys standing outside Bourbon Street pub – and he's all mine!

As you're making your way down the gay ꜱtriþ of Duval Street, you're most likely to be enticed inside the Bourbon St. Pub by one of the speedo-clad Bourbon Boys standing outside. We sure were! Inside, it's like a gay man's paradise, especially the outdoor male-only “Garden Bar” – a large pool bar area with handsome topless staff and those hot Bourbon Boys performing on the bar! The bar hosts some of the raunchiest parties including “Holiday Underwear Party”, the “Bone Island Bare It All” and numerous frivolous pool parties! Check their Facebook page for the latest info.

The Bourbon St. Pub is open every evening until around 4am. It is located at 724 Duval Street, just across the road from 801 Bourbon Bar.


Aqua Back Bar

Aqua gay bar illuminated in a dark background in Key West

Aqua is another large gay complex in the Duval gay triangle. It has 2 bars and a club dancing area called “Sidebar” (see below). The first bar is in the front bar as you enter, called “Aqua”, which has drag shows, karaoke nights and Gay Bingo. You HAVE NOT lived until you've had a drag queen heckle at you after you've cried out “BINGO!” The second bar is “Back Bar” – located at the back(!). Back Bar is a more chilled place to just hang out with friends.

The Aqua Back Bar is open only Wednesday to Sunday evenings until around 11pm. The entrance is just down Tabby Way on 711 Duval.


Saloon 1

The 3 gay bears cartoons of Saloon 1 in gay key west
All bears welcome here!

Saloon 1 is Key West's main bear bar – “where real men come to play”. And come to play they sure do… This is one very unapologetically all-male bar, the type of place you come for one thing and one thing only! The first thing that greeted us as we walked inside was two sock-clad gentlemen (they literally had nothing else on!), bent over together by the bar in an overly sensual embrace… Saloon 1 also hosts many wonderful themed evenings ranging from Friday's “Cock Shock” contest to the “Gear Night” on Saturdays.

Saloon 1 is open every evening until around 4am. It is located right next door to the 801 Bourbon Bar at 504 Petronia Street.


Island House Pool Parties

A group of gay guys at Island house pool party in Key West
Ready to play in the water?

Island House is one of the most famous gay resorts in south Florida, particularly for their clothing-optional male-only pool parties. They have 2 every week – on Wednesday and Sunday. The Sunday pool party is the most famous and popular. We came here with a group of friends for brunch. It's absolutely crazy! We had loads of fun – plenty of wangers on display, everyone having a great time lounging in the sunshine and a few eccentric drag hosts to keep the crowd entertained.

The Island House pool parties happen on Wednesdays from 5-8pm and on Sundays from 12-4pm. It is located at 1129 Fleming Street.


La Te Da Sunday Tea Dance

Lateda gay tea dance is the place to be on Sundays for gentlement

La Te Da's Sunday “Tea Dance” pool party is a more low-key but just as buzzy affair as its cousin over at Island House. Everyone is welcome at the Sunday Tea Dance. It has a live DJ which is usually a local radio star like DJ Rude Girl or Molly Blue. Each Tea Dance is themed and tradition dictates that one dresses up (or dresses down!) accordingly. Most will first go to Island House for a Sunday brunch, then head over here to continue the party.

The La Te Da Tea Dance happens every Sunday between 4-6:30pm. It is located at 1125 Duval Street.


Gay clubs in Key West

The best gay clubs in Key West are in the same 3 complexes that house most of the bars mentioned above. From our experience, you're guaranteed a fun night out whichever one you go to. They are all located a stone's throw distance from each other so most just migrate between the 3 depending on where the vibe's at. That's what we did and had a fantastic evening followed by a terrible hangover…

801 Bourbon

Man and drag queen dancing at gay club 801 bourbon in Key West

The upstairs of the 801 Bourbon complex is the club section of the building. It has drag shows taking place throughout the night in between the cheesy pop anthems and Latino pop beats. We love the 801 Bourbon club for this, and so did many others – 'cause when we came here on a Saturday evening, it was jam-packed! But in a good way. This is also the home of the island's most famous queen – Miss Sushi!

The 801 Bourbon club gets busy from around 11pm and goes on until around 4am every evening.


Bourbon St. Pub

The swimming pool of Bourbon street gay club in Key West

Once the Bourbon Boys have enticed you inside to the Garden Bar, we recommend checking out the dancing area of the Bourbon St. Pub building, particularly on their male-only “Bare It All” foam nights. It's raucous and you'll very quickly make plenty of new friends! We like coming to the Bourbon later in the evening at around 2am when its different bar/club sections all merge into one and the crowds spill out into the outdoor pool area outside. For the ladies, look out for their female-only “Girls Night Out” party on Tuesdays from 5pm to midnight.

The Bourbon St. Pub dance parties usually catch fire from around 11pm and go on until 4am. The entrance is located at 724 Duval Street.


Aqua Sidebar Nightclub

Aqua gay bar illuminated in a dark background in Key West

Aqua dubs itself as “Key West's Best Nightclub”. When we went on a Saturday night it wasn't as busy as the other clubs but this varies depending on which night you go. The themed nights are usually the best to look out for because they have some impressive Burlesque shows – the annual Thanksgiving “Turkey Testicle Festival” is one of the most famous. The crowd is a mixed bag of all ages from all spectrums of our wonderful LGBTQ family.

The Aqua Sidebar parties happen evening from around 11pm and continue till 4am. The entrance is located at 504 Angela Street.


Drag shows in Key West

Key West is home to some of the best drag artists, like the hilarious America's Got Talent star, Randy Roberts and one of the Gaycities “Best of 2018 Hometown Queens”, Miss Sushi. We've set out below some of the best drag shows in Key West to check out.

For first timers or solo LGBTQ travellers who want to quickly make friends and see the best of the gay scene of Key West, we highly recommend doing a drag tour which is led by a charismatic charming local.

The Crystal Room at La Te Da

 

The Crystal Room is La Te Da's Cabaret Theatre, which has shows every evening. Our favourite is Randy Roberts, who was one of the funniest and most talented female impersonators we saw during our trip to Florida. Between his Cher and Bette Midler impersonations, he'll have you in a fit of giggles throughout the entire evening. Definitely one to get tickets for! 


801 Bourbon

 

We mentioned above how much we love the upstairs club of the 801 Bourbon complex – this is mainly because of the hilarious “801 Girls” who perform here every evening from 9pm, and again later in the night. 801 Bourbon is also where you're likely to see the famous Miss Sushi performing and mingling amongst the crowd – another not-to-miss gem in Key West!


Aqua Key West

Drag queen in a wedding dress at Aqua nightclub in Key West

Every evening from 7pm the “Aquanettes” perform to a seated audience at the Aqua complex. Saturday is the big night, which has 3 shows between 7pm and midnight. The shows are pretty unique because they are targetted to all ages and feature such humble(!), shy(!!) and super demure(!!!) queens such as Inga, Faith Michaels, Elle Taylor, Jessica Deveraux and Beatrix Dixie. We recommend booking your tickets in advance online as they sell out quite fast.


Gay beaches in Key West

Although Key West doesn't have an “official” gay beach, these are the beaches you are most likely to find a large LGBTQ crowd:

Higgs Beach

Higgs is where the gay boys are most likely to head to. The water is usually shallow, which makes it ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Higgs Beach is located at Atlantic Blvd between Reynolds Street and the White Street fishing pier.

Smathers Beach

Smathers is one of our favourite beaches in Key West because of the long sandy beach with shallow waters. It is located at the southern end of Key West near the airport, just off Roosevelt Blvd. 

Fort Zachary Taylor beach

This gem of a beach is named after Elizabeth Taylor who used to visit it a lot with her buddy Tennessee Williams in the 1950s. Unlike the other beaches, Fort Zachary Taylor is rocky, so remember to pack a pair of sandals. Fort Zachary Beach is located at 601 Howard England Way.

Nomadic Boys watching a beautiful sunset in Key West
A romantic sunset by the beach

Gay Pride and events in Key West

For a small island, Key West sure packs a punch when it comes to queer events! There is quite a large number to look out for. Most are organised by The Key West Business Guild – we recommend checking out their Calendar of Events for the latest info.

We've summarised some of the main gay events in Key West below which we recommend you check out if your trip coincides with one:

Key West Pride (June)

Key West Pride takes place on the 2nd week of June (except the 2020 Pride which was rescheduled to November). It is so much fun, with hilarious events like “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche” and stand up comedy shows with celebrities like Leslie Jordan. The event culminates with the Key West Pride Parade, which starts at the Truman Waterfront, goes along Duval Street and ends at South Street.

Key West Tropical Heat (August)

Tropical Heat is a 4-day summer male-only event, which takes place in the 2nd week in August. It has different themed events, like the Splash! Pool Party, the Bare-only and Underwear Party and a Drag Brunch. Oh – and that infamous Sunday pool party over at Island House? Well, during Tropical Heat, those Island House pool parties morph into the Hot Naкҽd Sunday Pool Party!

Womenfest Key West (September)

Womenfest is Key West's equivalent of Tropical Heat for the girlies and also one of the largest lesbian events in the world attracting thousands each year! This 4-day festival takes place during the 2nd week of September over the Labor Day weekend. Events include a pool party, boat party and club nights with live DJs. Find out more on the Womenfest Facebook page.

Key West Headdress Ball (October)

The Headdress Ball is an annual ticketed Cabaret event that takes place in October. It's part of the Key West Business Guild's annual fundraiser event. And it's really popular, often selling out within weeks of tickets being released online! Entrants compete for “The Best Headdress” cash prize ($3,000 for 1st place, $1,000 for 2nd place and $500 for 3rd).

Bear Weekend (October/November)

Growl! Key West's biggest bear parties take over the island during the Bear Weekend! It usually takes place on the last weekend of October and includes foam parties, a hilarious “Butch Queen Bar Crawl”, a Bear Cruise and the “Mr Key West Bear” contest. Find out more on the Key West Bear Weekend Facebook Page.

Film Festival (November)

“Passion Meets Paradise!” is the slogan of Key West's annual film festival, which takes place in mid-November. The event is huge and takes over the whole island. During the day there are film screenings, which includes a large LGBTQ segment. In the evening, the film geek crowds spill out into the Duval Street gay bars giving the gay scene a really cool vibe!

Gay couple Nomadic Boys crossing the street hand in hand in Key West
Nomadic Boys celebrating their own gay pride in Key West!

Gay saunas in Key West

There are no official gay saunas in Key West. However, if you're looking for some hanky panky, Island House is your best bet. It is a male-only clothing-optional resort (read more about it above) with a sauna, steam room and plenty of cruising areas.

Weekends at Island House are particularly notorious as this is when many locals and tourists (who aren't staying at Island House) visit on a Guest Pass.

Island House is a fabulous gay resort in Key West that's clothing-optional and men-only!

Gay restaurants in Key West

Key West is a satisfying place for foodies with many different restaurants to check out. We've summarised some of our favourites below. Just remember, you're in South Florida, so you'll want to try the famous Key Lime Pie amongst other culinary gems!

La Te Da

The nomadic boys with the charismatic chef of Lateda gay restaurant in Key West
The charismatic head chef at Lateda restaurant

We came to the La Te Da restaurant for dinner before going to watch their Randy Roberts show cabaret show (we repeat, do not miss this in Key West!) and loved it. From the charismatic waiters to the hilarious Head Chef, they love making guests giggle and feel really welcome. They are open all day for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Our favourites were the Onion Soup and the Hamburger La Te Da – uniquely served with Shoe String Fries. We also came for brunch and can confidently say they have one of the best eggs benedicts we tried during our entire road trip in Florida.


Latitude restaurant

Nomadic Boys dining at romantic and gay friendly restaurant Latitude in Key West
A romantic dinner at Latitude restaurant

Latitudes Restaurant was one of our favourite romantic experiences in Key West. It's a restaurant set on a private island called Sunset Key, which is just a short boat ride away from Key West. Seating is outdoors on the sand, complete with candlelight, with views over the Gulf of Mexico. We came during sunset which made those views particularly special. I had (and highly rate!) the Pan Roasted Caribbean Lobster Tail and Seby enjoyed the Mushroom Ragu Linguini. We both tried and loved their Key Lime Pie. Although, we both tried and loved the Key Lime Pie in every restaurant we visited in South Florida…


New York Pasta Gardens

Delicious pasta dish with prawn at the New York Pasta gardens in Key West
Yumny prawn tagliatelli pasta at New York Pasta Gardens

We found the New York Pasta Gardens completely by accident when searching on Tripadvisor for a highly rated restaurant close to Duval Street. It's set in a pretty outdoor patio with beautifully sculptured Instagrammable fountains and a few resident tropical birds that pose for pictures. They are famous for their pasta dishes, fresh fish and steaks. For Seby he went ga ga over linguine with clam sauce, and for me, it was all about the fillet mignon. Obligatory key lime pie for dessert of course! Overall a fantastic meal: delicious food and attentive staff.


Things to do in Key West

Guys, this is the west-facing side of South Florida – it's made for sunsets! The sunsets are one of the best we've ever seen in all our travels. We recommend making this a thing during your trip, whether you watch it at Mallory Square or on a romantic sunset cruise, make sure you watch it every evening – it's truly magnificent! There is, of course, lots to do in Key West, so we've summarised a few of our favourites here:

Sunset Cruise

Nomadic Boys enjoying a romantic sunset on the schooner america in Key West

Our favourite “sunset experience” in Key West, which we highly recommend to other gay couples is to watch it onboard a cruise. There are many sunset cruises to choose from, but we strongly advise going for one of the more expensive ones, such as the Schooner America sunset cruise, which is the one we did. The more expensive it is, the less crowded it will be and also the quality of the drinks and snacks will be much superior – champagne with fresh shrimps, yes please!


Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square

very skilled man juggling in Mallory square in Key West

The sunset is so famous in Key West that every evening in Mallory Square there is a whole celebration for it! It starts around 2 hours before the sunset and has lots of arts/crafts exhibitors, food carts and street performers entertaining the crowds that gather to watch. This was definitely one of our favourite spots to watch the sunset in Key West because we had the unique backdrop of the cruise ships in the background.


Shopping on Duval Street

Duval street has the best gay shops in Key West
“What do you think, Stefan, will it fit me?”

As well as being the hub of the gay scene of Key West, Duval Street is also a great place to stroll and for shopping. It has many different boutique shops, galleries, souvenir shops and novelty shops selling some of the funniest T-Shirts we've ever seen! Also, the best gay shops are on Duval Street, which includes InTouch, Graffitti and Leather Master. It's also quite interesting seeing Duval Street during the day – a far different vibe from the evening when the bars start to open up.


Foodie tour

Discover the best eateries in Key West on a secret food tour

We always love to use food as a way to discover the local culture in every new place we visit. There is a unique story behind every dish you eat. We tried the Secret Food Tour, which started with a tour around Key West with a local, exploring the architecture and getting an insight into the history. We then headed to the Bahama Village (around 3 hours from Key West) where the locals go to escape the city and learnt more about the island's historic culinary influences.


Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Seby thinking about Butterfiesy at the Butterfly conservatory in Key West
My little butterfly thinking about butterflies…

My Seby loves butterflies! Especially the big bright blue ones. So imagine his joy at seeing a whole bunch of them flying about, feeding on old brown bananas. We both loved the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. It's set in a greenhouse-like garden where all the many multicoloured butterflies fly around, going about their daily business. We recommend trying out your phone camera's slow-mo setting to try and get a shot of a butterfly taking off!


Tennessee Williams Museum

Tennessee Williams was one of the famous gay residents of Key West

One of Key West's most famous gay residents was playwriter, Tennessee Williams (1911-1983). He lived in Key West for 34 years and left his mark here, which is celebrated in this fascinating museum. We recommend visiting because it also gives you an insight into the island's LGBTQ history. The museum is dedicated to his life's work through an extensive collection of photographs, first edition plays, books, rare newspaper articles and videos.


The Southernmost Point

The most touristy thing to do in Key West, Southernmost point

Key West is famous for being the official Southernmost Point of Continental USA (the actual southernmost point of the entire country is at Ka Lae on Hawaii's Big Island). The Southernmost Point of Key West is honoured by a colourful signposted buoy, which gets pretty busy! There is always a queue of people waiting to get their photo with this vibrant landmark, particularly at sunset. For this reason, we recommend going at dawn when the colours in the sky are quite spectacular and there are far fewer crowds, or consider doing a guided tour with a local, which includes a stopover here.


Ernest Hemingway Museum

Ernest Hemingway was one of the famous residents in key West with the 6 toed cats

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was another famous novelist who lived in Key West at The Hemingway House (now a museum) between 1931 and 1939 where he wrote To Have and Have Not. He was famous for being as lavish with women (he had 4 wives) as he was with his interiors! At one point he had peacocks wandering around the gardens. Today, the museum grounds are particularly famous for their (very photogenic!) 6-toed polydactyly cats.


Plan your trip

We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Key West. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.

How to get there: Most will either arrive here independently by flight, road trip (like we did) or via one of the many cruise ships that dock here. If you're flying in, you can prebook your airport pickup online, which we definitely recommend doing to minimise stress.


Getting around: We recommend you walk wherever possible as Key West is small enough to navigate by foot. When we drove over, we left our car parked in the hotel the entire time as finding parking here is hard and can be quite expensive! There are touristic conch trains that go around Key West which are fun to try out.


Travel insurance: Travel insurance is a must! We always recommend getting it before you head off to ensure you're covered for anything that could possibly go wrong. We've been using World Nomads for years and cannot recommend them highly enough. Their coverage is very comprehensive and it's easy to make a claim online.


Safety and Security: No matter where you are, you can encounter danger when travelling. We like to use the CloseCircle “virtual bodyguard” as they can provide support wherever you are. Their service covers everything from advice to evacuation in the case of weather emergencies or unforeseen events. Read more about why we love CloseCircle in our article how travellers can stay safe.


Accommodation: There are many excellent accommodation options in Key West. We like using Booking.com to plan our trip as they have the best offers and also offer free cancellation for most listings, which is handy for when you want to be flexible with your travel planning.


Sightseeing and adventure: For more inspiration, we recommend checking out the tours on GetYourGuide. They always inspire new ideas and the booking process is super easy.


When to visit: It's always tropical in Key West! Sunshine and heat throughout the year is the norm, which makes Key West a place you can visit throughout the year. The only thing we'd point out is that the hurricane season is between June to November, so bear this in mind before going. We visited in October / November and never had any issues.


Key West gay map

Here's our gay map of Key West which includes all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip to Key West!

Check out our gay map of Key West for all the best places for gay travellers to stay, eat, party and more

For more inspiration:

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Our gay travel guide to key west for LGBTQ travellers

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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

4 thoughts on “Gay Key West: your essential guide to the best gay bars, clubs, beaches and hotels”

  1. My husband and I have been going to Key West between Christmas and New Years for the past 10 years. We absolutely LOVE KW.

    Greg W and Tony V
    Dallas, tX

    Reply

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