Fort Lauderdale has grown up since its Spring Break days of the 60s, 70s and 80s immortalised in the classic teen movie Where The Boys Are. The students have been replaced with sophisticated Europeans, hip Americans, savvy Latinos and gay and lesbian travellers. Currently undergoing a major tourism-related transformation, the destination offers an ideal climate, wide variety of attractions and quality accommodations, fine dining and shopping. OutUK correspondent Jill Pentrack explores one of America's best gay destinations just 40 minutes from Miami.

The weather is a factor in any holiday, but even with great weather you need something more. Naked, sun-bronzed bodies aren’t enough – a man needs to eat after all - and we all like the social aspect of making new friends from different parts of the world. Here in Ft. Lauderdale, the gay community has exploded on the scene with a variety of restaurants, clubs and shops all with that marvellous gay-family feel. Since there is so much to do and see here, I thought it might be helpful to outline a typical day and night in this very gay city along the Florida coast.

By Day

If you’ve arrived from any of the weather-challenged parts of Europe you’ll need to spend at least one day thawing by the pool. A tan is mandatory and will also serve as your best souvenir. (Plus your friends back home will envy you even more.)

Next on your agenda should be a drive along the coast (especially if you’ve rented that hot little red convertible for the week). Not only does this contribute to your healthy glow, it also allows for a 360° view of the boys jogging, skating, walking and sunning along the beach.

Your first stop is the Gay Beach located at Sebastian Street where locals and visitors alike congregate. After you’ve enjoyed a few hours of sun and fun, head back North along the coast to Wilton Manor, a Gay district of sorts in Ft. Lauderdale. Stop by Georgi’s Alibi for a cool one and a bite to eat, head to Gay Mart or the Pride Factory for some lite shopping and supplies, and then back to your hotel for some R&R before your night on the town.
If you’d just like a relaxing cruise through the waterways, in what some call The Venice of America, the Water Bus will only set you back $5 and makes about 21 stops throughout the day. The Jungle Queen Riverboat (no kidding) hosts 3 hour sightseeing cruises and includes a stop at the Jungle Queen Indian Village in a tropical island setting.
If you’re into watersports (the real ones) like snorkeling, diving, and parasailing, there are a number of companies here to indulge you.
Spend at least one afternoon or evening walking along Las Olas Boulevard. With over 100 specialty shops, galleries and restaurants, it’s a great opportunity to try out that new Platinum card.

By Night

Dining choices are endless. Some of my favourites are Hi Life just off of Federal Highway. Gay owned, this restaurant attracts a mixed crowd and is known by locals as one of the better restaurants in Ft. Lauderdale. If you enjoy sushi and other Asian fare, Galanga, located in Wilton Manor has some of the finest, served in a trendy and relaxed setting. A favourite with gay men, it can be quite cruisy. Max’s at the Beach located on A1A just across from the beach should definitely be on your list. The food is incredible, the servers are as varied and tasty as the menu, and the staff are very friendly.

Ask for Mark or Mick as your server and be sure to enjoy a cocktail with Eric and Kevin the bartenders. If you need a dose of good energy, visit with Tammy, the manager. She’s a delight. Try the Bento Box for your appetizer, the warm goat cheese salad and the Chilean Sea Bass for your entrée. Also visit Bar Amici located on Las Olas just next door to Cathode Ray, one of the many gay clubs. Good food, great location, and here at OutUK we also like the Casablanca Cafe very gay-friendly and very good food at a reasonable price.

After dinner, there are ample opportunities to shake your groove thang. Georgie’s Alibi in Wilton Manor is jam packed with locals and visitors alike. Start your party here! The natives are very friendly and you just might find a personal tour guide to show you the City. Cathode Ray on Las Olas starts late but finishes strong. Great music and lots of room to dance. If the music doesn’t get your heart pumping, the hot bartenders will. The Copa has been a fixture on the gay scene for over 27 years and still maintains its position as one of the top clubs in the area. With dancing, a game room, entertainment, videos, and cutting edge sound and lighting, what more could you ask for? Celebrating their 11th anniversary, the Eagle Bar is home to South Florida’s Leather Bears. Located on Powerline Road (how appropriate), if you’re into the smell or feel of leather, this is the place to satisfy your craving. The Coliseum is “home to the most beautiful men in the world,” and features some very cool events. Check out their hot website at for more information.


Time for bed! And here is where it gets tricky - there are so many great places to stay, from the larger, full service hotels, to the more intimate men’s guesthouses (over 30 of them). Understanding that each resort has a unique setting, I suggest you visit them online to find the perfect one. Here are a few to consider:

The Royal Palms is our favourite with impeccable standards of service and a sophisticated vibe. It's an intimate, clothing optional, small hotel which surrounds a lush tropical pool. Owner Richard Gray is always improving his hotel and is a prime mover in developing Ft Lauderdale as a quality gay destination.

There are new owners at the popular Coral Reef Guesthouse. It's a spectacular property located in the beautiful Coral Ridge area. With a heated pool and 14 man Jacuzzi, it’ll be interesting to see if they keep up previous owner's Jeff & Frank's high standards. Clothing Optional.

The Blue Dolphin is located just 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale International Airport and 1 minute (walking) from the beach, The Blue Dolphin is host to gay travellers from all over the world. The facility is completely enclosed for your privacy and a large heated pool is located in the center courtyard where clothing is optional.

Ideally situated in the heart of Fort Lauderdale's gay lodging district just 325 yards from the beach you'll find Orton Terrace. Your hosts offer a relaxing and friendly atmosphere near to Fort Lauderdale's famous Central Beach immortalised in Where the Boys Are. Take a short walk to the Sebastian Street Gay Beach, or lounge in their tropical clothing-optional courtyard. Their heated pool area provides plenty of warm Florida sunshine for that all-over tan.

With 23 miles of pristine beaches, over 100 gay-owned establishments, and more than 30 hotels catering to the gay and lesbian market. You can get full contact details at in the official gay guide to the city at

Updated March 2004


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