Gay Vacations in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Sunbathers on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Mark Lewis/Digital Vision/Getty)

Fort Lauderdale Highlights

  • Take a boat. You don’t need a friend with a luxury yacht to enjoy Fort Lauderdale’s waterways—water taxis are plentiful. Just avoid the more crowded 70-passenger “water buses.”
  • Choose your favorite gay beach. Fort Lauderdale has not one but three popular gay spots: Sebastian Street is the most well-known and likely the busiest; Terramar is close to many of the gay guesthouses; and N.E. 18th Street is a quieter, residential section at the north end just before buildings resume on the sandy side of A1A.
  • Get a free Rainbow Vacation Planner from the tourism board. Fort Lauderdale really goes out of its way to attract LGBT travelers.

Long past its trashy spring break days, this seaside resort town a short drive north of Miami is now a gay travel mecca. Flashy high-rises tower over downtown, and Riverwalk, along the New River near Las Olas Boulevard, has transformed the area into an outdoor pedestrian street with excellent shops and restaurants. The 23 miles of perfect beaches in the area are clean and shiny, with nary a wet T-shirt contest in sight. Once looked down upon by residents of Miami, Fort Lauderdale can now hold its sophisticated head high to its swanky neighbor to the south, with rising property values to match. Sure, it may be a bit older and mellower scene than flashy Miami, but that's just the way everyone here likes it.

Fort Lauderdale has been characterized as one of the gayest towns in the world, which isn’t really an exaggeration. Many of the once-shoddy '50s-era mom-and-pop motels that catered to spring-breakers have reinvented themselves as gay getaways—the town now has more than 30 gay and lesbian guesthouses. All told, the area's homo infrastructure numbers more than 100 diverse gay businesses. The main drag of Wilton Drive overflows with gay shops, restaurants, and clubs. The most established residential LGBT area is Victoria Park, although queer life brims just as fervently in the adjoining towns of Wilton Manors and Oakland Park.

Fort Lauderdale is often called the "yachting capital of the world" or "the Venice of America" due to its 300 miles of navigable waterways and innumerable canals, which permit thousands of residents to anchor boats in their back yards. To see what we mean, come in December for the Winterfest Boat Parade, where more than 100 illuminated boats float along the Intracoastal Waterway through Fort Lauderdale. And overcoming its brainless beach image, the city hawks its impressive Museum of Art, with its collection of ethnographic art from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, North America, the Pacific Islands, and West Africa. There also are Broadway-style performances at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. And don’t forget the International Swimming Hall of Fame, with its hundreds of photographs of guys in wet Speedos. Come in late April and early May for the Annual Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in Fabulous Fort Lauderdale, or for the Sunshine Stampede gay rodeo in April. One of the largest pride festivals in Florida happens here in March—and the city even holds a second one in June! There's obviously no lack of gay self-respect in Fort Lauderdale.

Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »