The Elms provides a logical
first bay to cast anchor, screw on your land legs and start your inland Portsmouth foray.
Welcoming and fashionable, it's located on Elm Grove, in the heart of Southsea's boutique
shopping district, and its slight lesbian bias gives you a brief moment's respite before
upping sail again.
Let the coastal breezes carry you five minutes north to The Old Vic, set in its Mock Tudor
mansion on St. Paul's Road, the oldest bar barnacle in town, and infamous site of naval
anti-gay witch-hunts in the late 80s and early 90s, when the MoD placed its hidden camera
on the first floor windows of the offices opposite! It offers your usual traditional
queer staple of drag, karaoke and camp bingo but is extremely friendly. If your
beams start to wobble around closing time, you need only stagger upstairs to
High Society, a quiet cosy loft, to booze and exchange shanties 'til 2am - just ring
the outside buzzer if the main bar is closed by the time you hit port.
Or if you're still warming up for your big club night out, totter over the road to t
he trendy new Hampshire Boulevard where all the bright young things hang out ship-shape
along it's lengthy bar or in the spacious summer decks outside to the aft. Rumour has
it that the main club in town may soon be joining these pre-club venues across the
street, to make a right little village of it. But meantime, it's a ten minute cruise
uptown past the quaint Guildhall district with its Theatre Royal, City Hall and University,
to Marthas & Club 227. Marthas has one of the world's longest bars and lots
of room for pool and pre-club boogies around the back. 227 above is the only gay
club proper in town - small yet beautifully apportioned with a stage and several
chill-out zones around the main floor.
And if the old horn pipe's still strangely aloft, there's a range of options for
the old shivered timbers. Just a spit and a spunk from 227, try Tropics Sauna, though
its steamy cabins are perversely only open afternoons and evenings, not nights or
Sundays - Monday afternoon is reportedly busiest for old sea hands. If it's late
night fayre you're after, outdoor cruising's rife back down at South Parade around
Henry VIII's little old castle by the sea, though beware - a giant straight club
backs onto the area and groups of drunken het hunks have been known to cause trouble.
Far safer is the gay nudist beach by day, right beneath the MoD's rotating radar,
a half hour ramble along the coast - follow the coastal road eastward ho until it
bends left, then take the single track on the first right, following it between the
caravan site and the MoD HQ. You'll soon reach a beach with a sign plainly foretelling
of nudity. Waft yet further east along the beach and cast your towel - the MoD radar
won't be the only thing picking up naked men!