These Are the Hottest Gay Beaches in the US
Like a quintessential gay bar, a gay beach at its core is an inclusive space to gather and feel free.
Memorial Day Weekend may be the official start of summer for most Americans, but for the queer community, it’s Pride Month. In between the concerts, parades, and dance parties—and long after they’re gone—the refreshing coastal breeze and cool waters beckon. But not just any beach will do; it’s gotta be gay. What actually defines a gay beach is the ability to worship the sun with no inhibition and discover the surrounding community as one’s authentic self.
Like a quintessential gay bar, a gay beach at its core is an inclusive space to gather and feel free. And you get to do it all with as little clothing as possible—or none at all. From the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Maine, these are the beaches around America to escape to this summer.
Hike through marshland to Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown’s perch at the tip of Cape Cod makes it one of those precious “hard to reach, even harder to leave” destinations that’ll have you coming back for more. America’s very first artist colony has all the trappings of a postcard-perfect New England hamlet: Colonial architecture, seafood joints, and several sandy beaches. To find the spot where P-town’s gays are bronzing, you’ll have to hike 20 minutes through soggy sand and marshland to a very specific section of Herring Cove Beach. The entrance on 6A Provinceland Road near Bradford Street is easy to miss, but there’s usually an ant trail of beachgoers making the same trek, which you can follow. Be sure to time your beach day trip right—when the tide is high, you’ll have to wade back through the path in waist-high water. Reward yourself with malasadas from the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery and lobster rolls from The Canteen when you return to Commercial Street back in town.
Get the presidential treatment on Poodle Beach in Rehoboth, Delaware
If Rehoboth is good enough for President Biden—the Delaware native has a summer compound on the North Shore—it’s certainly good enough for us. It’s arguably the most iconic gay beach on the mid-Atlantic seaboard (along with North Shore Beach inside Cape Henlopen State Park, but that’s more of a lesbian hangout). Poodle Beach sits at the south end of the boardwalk, so it’s a guaranteed short stroll to cap off your sun-drenched afternoon at Rehoboth’s beloved gay-friendly fixtures, like seafood restaurant Aqua Grill and dinner-and-drag hotspot Blue Moon. With more than 200 gay-owned businesses operating in town and an influential pro-LGBTQ organization CAMP Rehoboth curating the calendar of summertime events, Rehoboth stays true to its name, which means “a place for all.”
Feel like a 10 at 12th Street Beach in Miami, Florida
No other swath of beachfront is as popular with Miami’s queer community as 12th Street Beach, which is marked by rainbow flags surrounding the kaleidoscope-colored lifeguard stations. The beach sits right in the middle of Lummus Park in South Beach, with volleyball courts and an outdoor gym nearby should you desire a muscle pump before hitting the sand. There are dozens of gay-friendly bars and restaurants on the park’s fringes, including drag brunch mainstay Palace Bar and indoor-outdoor nightclub Twist South Beach. Each year, 12th Street Beach also serves as the kick-off point for Miami Beach Pride’s raucous festivities.
Go car- and clothing-free at The Pines on Fire Island, New York
Secluded on a slender barrier isle a few miles off Long Island, Fire Island Pines is a notorious gay enclave fueled by irrepressible hedonism. Summers in The Pines are anchored in ritual, one that begins with a 20-minute ferry ride from the town of Sayville. The car-free community has been around since the 1920s, but it was the Stonewall Generation that made it a legendary gay retreat famous the world over. New York City gays look forward to their “summer shares” (rooms pre-booked for certain weekends through Labor Day) all year round, but The Pines is also daytripper-friendly for those craving a pristine—and clothing-optional—stretch of sand, followed by evening tea dances at the Sip N’ Twirl and Pavilion. Just don’t miss the last ferry home.
Visit the rising-in-the ranks beach you can’t quit in Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit is usually overshadowed by Provincetown’s prominence as the preeminent New England gaycation, but this heavenly slice of Maine coastline is rising up the ranks. Nestled off scenic Route 1 just past the New Hampshire border, Ogunquit boasts one of the country’s top-rated beaches: a 3.5-mile-long stretch of powdery white sand bookended by scenic cliffs and Victorian mansions. Enter from the parking lot area—where families set up camp—and walk 10 minutes up the beach for prime Speedo spotting in the unofficial gay section. Wind down or turn up in Ogunquit’s town center, which is framed with shops, galleries, and restaurants adorned with rainbow flags, including tavern The Crooked Pine, piano lounge The Front Porch, and multi-level watering hole Maine Street.
Soak in the sun, sand, and art at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, Michigan
Saugatuck is a quirky resort town on the western shores of Lake Michigan that has over 100 years of history as an inclusive oasis. Less than three hours from Detroit and Chicago, the Art Coast of Michigan (so named for its clutch of world-class art institutions) is home to more than 140 queer-friendly establishments, including Dunes Resort, one of the largest LGBTQ resorts in the nation, and the annual Saugatuck LGBT Music Fest. Of the region’s six beaches, Oval Beach, which was once a haven for nudists, is where the gays plop their towels on the dunes.