Travel
4 min

10 great island destinations for LGBT travellers

Tropical idylls, Mediterranean gems and Atlantic escapes — certain islands are worth treasuring

Magnetic Island — or Maggie, as regulars call it — claims to be the gayest bit of Queensland. Credit: Aefa Mulholland

From tropical idylls shaded by towering palms to Mediterranean gems and Atlantic escapes, there are certain islands that are worth treasuring. Those who seek out and explore these watery wonders will find a wealth of great LGBT hotels, bars, beaches and bookstores awaiting. So read on and set a course for the top 10 LGBT islands round the world.

1.  Mykonos, Greece
Two all-gay hotels, a labyrinth of narrow whitewashed streets and three nude gay beaches make chic Mykonos not just the gayest island in the Mediterranean, but a contender for the title of gayest isle of them all. Spend your days sprawled on Elia, Paradise or Super Paradise gay beaches — just three of 27 beaches on the island — and overnight at The Elysium or The Geranium.

2.  Lesvos, Greece
An easy ferry ride from Piraeus (just outside Athens), Lesbos, aka Lesvos or sometimes Mytilene (this lady-loved island has a whole lot of aliases), is the obvious option for an island for women. Keep in mind that some of the island is not especially Sappho-centric, so set your sights on low-key beach resort Skala Erresos for some safe, same-sex time in bars, streets, restaurants and on the beach. Make lesbian-run bar The Tenth Muse, on the central square, your first stop. Aubergine, also on the square, is the other year-round ladies' room.

3.  Galveston, Texas
This cruise homeport and spring-break destination — a barrier island three kilometres off the Texas coast — also has a grown-up side. It has a delightful collection of Victorian historic districts, 50 kilometres of beach and a charmingly liberal character. With an appealing scatter of gay bars, such as the lively Pink Dolphin, some stylish gay-popular accommodations and rumours that 50 percent of the population is gay, Galveston is for those ready to graduate from Key West and gravitate round the Gulf. Once known as “the Wall Street of Texas,” Galveston has an abundance of architectural gems, from Federal-style to Folk Victorian to Greek Revival to Gothic. Island attractions include the Victorian Seawall promenade, the 242-acre Moody Gardens and the manly Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum.

4.  Fire Island, New York
A barrier island south of Long Island, in summer Fire Island sees an influx of gay men taking the train and ferry from the city to hit the sands, streets and social venues of this car-free, carefree, 50-by-1-kilometre sliver of an Atlantic isle. It’s been a gay hotspot since the 1960s, and Cherry Grove and The Pines are the prime resort towns. Drink and dance at Sip N Twirl, watch ferries and their captivating cargo dock from Cherry's, try "low tea" at the Blue Whale and dance at the Ice Palace or Pavilion.

5.  Isla Mujeres, Mexico
A popular cruise stop for both major women's cruise companies, Olivia and Sweet, this liberal Cozumel-adjacent spot off the Yucatan peninsula was once the hideout of Ixchel, Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine. Today, it's a good way to escape the mainland crowds, see endangered turtles and lounge on stunning sandy beaches. Check into the mixed (straight/LGBT), all-inclusive Isla Mujeres Palace or unpack for a luxurious stay at the gay-owned, six-room Casa Sirena.

6.  Oahu, Hawaii
When temperatures take a turn for the teens, head for Honolulu. The Hawaiian capital, and the main town on the 80-by-110-kilometre island of Oahu, it offers amazing surfing and swimming beaches, laid-back restaurants and outdoor bars, and the perfect jumping-off point for exploring Oahu. With a million residents, Honolulu and adjacent Waikiki are home to several popular LGBT bars, including Fusion, Hula's, and Wang Chung's and to Queen's Surf gay beach.

7.  Key West, Florida
Bridges thread together to link the 100-plus islands and keys that make up the Florida Keys. At the end of this ribbon of highway that ties these palm and porpoise-populated spots to the mainland — and just 175 kilometres from Cuba — you'll find quirky Key West. The focus round here is more bar than beach, and many folks spend their whole holiday between their gay guesthouses and the famed Bourbon Street bar complex and its neighbours along Duval Street.

8.  Magnetic Island, Australia
With a permanent population of approximately 2,500 and many times that more courtesy of year-round visitors, Magnetic Island — or Maggie, as regulars call it — claims to be the gayest bit of Queensland. The mountainous isle is mostly national park, but the rest has beautiful beaches and an appealingly accepting air. Townsville, from which ferries leave, has an LGBT hotel, the Sovereign, and LGBT bookstore Mary Who.

9.  Ibiza, Spain
Europe's summer social centre, this party-prone Balearic hotspot has even more late-night LGBT locations than Mykonos and a popular LGBT beach, Playa es Cavallet, on the island's southern tip. Not all spaces are as big as Privilege — with room for 10,000 partiers, it's the world's largest nightclub — but you'll find LGBT venues crammed all along harbourside Calle de la Virgen and Calle Alfonso XII in the town of Ibiza. On top of all the homo antics, the 16-by-40-kilometre island can claim looming cliffs, rugged rocks and hidden coves, and there's also an atmospheric, cobblestoned old quarter in town.

10.  Curaçao, Caribbean
Curaçao is arguably the most queer-friendly Caribbean island and is certainly the most LGBT-marketed, with a clutch of great venues, incredible beaches and lovely locals. There's an easygoing air to this isle, with its sweet mixture of liberal Dutch-Caribbean attitudes, laid-back island outlooks and quirky, calm take on life that's singularly Curaçao. The island’s very first Pride celebration took place in September 2013, and a year-round range of other gay or lesbian events decorate this idyll's social calendar. Many bars are warmly LGBT-welcoming.