My first visit to Key West was during high school, on a decidedly non-gay trip with my Uncle Ed and Aunt Agnes. As we strolled along the main commercial strip known as Duval Street, my uncle suddenly called out, “I think that’s a gay bar!” This year, I can finally say that I’ve visited this feisty little Florida city as an adult — and yes, the bar that attracted my uncle’s attention is, indeed, gay.
Actually, a rather large percentage of Key West’s businesses are gay. You’ll meet a mish-mash of LGBT travellers from around the United States in Key West, as well as quite a few from Canada and across the ocean. You also may see a fairly large number of these visitors naked, thanks to the clothing-optional gay hotels and bars.
Key West’s decidedly progressive attitude about gay life is just one aspect of its overall uniqueness. Closer to Cuba than Miami, Key West was once an exceedingly wealthy port city — and briefly a secessionist US breakaway known as the Conch Republic (in the 1980s, believe it or not). Today, this heat-soaked island is likely one of the most liberal gay hotspots in the United States.