When the mercury rises, set your sights on these enticing resorts across the border, away from the urban sprawl. You’ll find gay-adored destinations boasting boardwalks where the crowds skew gay and lesbian, beaches filled with boys and girls, and a flotilla of fine bars, restaurants and hotels that happily host everyone from across the LGBT spectrum.
1. Fire Island, New York
Divided into two main communities, The Pines and Cherry Grove, this car-free barrier island off the south shore of Long Island has a special place in the hearts of gay New Yorkers. With just a train and ferry ride between big city and sand, it’s an easy escape for city boys and girls. The Chelsea set tends to make for Cherry Grove, while a more mixed mélange (clique-wise and straight/gay/lesbian) takes over The Pines during the summer months. Make it a splashy summer at Fire Island National Seashore’s blue-flag beaches (Sunken Forest and Watch Hill) and continue the party 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.
2. New Hope, Pennsylvania
This well-loved Pennsylvania tourist town can trace its gay roots back to the 1940s and ’50s, when artists and performers first stumbled upon it. Just across the Delaware River from New Jersey, the town of 2,500 is understandably popular with LGBT folks from New York, New Jersey and, of course, Philly. The quaint town offers antique stores, galleries, a vibrant bar and theatre scene, and a Pride celebration every May. Don’t miss the monthly drag shows, jazz concerts and excellent dining at The Raven.
3. Rehoboth Beach, Deleware
A LGBT summer hotspot for folks from Philly, DC, Baltimore and New York, this one-square-mile town’s population soars from a mere 1,500 to 80,000 on summer weekends, so hotel and restaurant reservations are essential. When the weekend rolls around, this seaside delight of a town’s many bars, restaurants and nightspots fill with a very gay crowd. Rehoboth offers a more laid-back take on summer, so don’t go expecting the high-octane antics of P’town, but if you want to soak up the sun amongst LGBT hordes, take your towel to tres-gay Poodle Beach at the south end of the boardwalk.
4. Ogunquit, Maine
The quaint gay-popular beach resort of Ogunquit is a fishing village with lovely wee inns, a bevy of excellent seafood restaurants, some fun, low-key LGBT bars, and a picturesque backdrop of granite cliffs. The Pine Tree State also boasts a pleasing landscape of evergreens and birch trees perched alongside rocky coves and enticing sandy beaches. The gay-owned Admiral’s Inn offers two pools, two hot tubs, fire pits and a gym.
5. Provincetown, Massachusetts
P’town is one of a kind: a joyful, exuberant gay playground on Cape Cod. Here you’ll see all ages and all types celebrating summer together on the streets and on the sands. Within easy striking distance of Boston, there’s an incredible array of accommodation options and a calendar packed with LGBT events, from July’s Bear Week and Girl Splash to August’s Carnival Week and September’s annual Tennessee Williams Festival.
6. Saugatuck, Michigan
Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake the US has all to itself. Its northern regions are sparsely populated and forested, the southern shores are densely inhabited and industrial, but a rainbow shines brightly on the eastern shore. Three hours’ drive from Windsor or just two from Chicago, Saugatuck — the Provincetown of the Midwest — has a clothing-optional beach plus an adjacent gay resort, the Dunes. The dunes the resort’s named for tower 60 metres above four kilometres of sandy shoreline.
7. Russian River, California
More rustic than many other summer retreats, Russian River puts the emphasis on the gorgeous river beaches and towering redwoods and less on the parties, but its location does allow visitors to pair outdoor options with sallies into nearby Sonoma wine country. The River is primarily a getaway from San Francisco, just 145 kilometres south. Spring sees Pride and women’s weekends bring the crowds to the woods, while summer’s main events include the late-July Lazy Bear Weekend and first-Friday River Gals gatherings.
8. Key West, Florida
Bridges thread together to link the hundred-plus islands and keys that make up the Florida Keys. At the end of this stunning ribbon of highway that ties these palm- and porpoise-populated spots to the mainland — and just 233 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 in their gay guesthouse and the famed Bourbon Street Pub complex and its neighbours along Duval Street.
9. Asheville, North Carolina
This Blue Ridge Mountain beauty boasts theatre, literary and hot restaurant scenes, plus a smorgasbord of gay- and lesbian-owned inns and guesthouses to bunk in between cultural binges; try gay-owned 1899 White Gate Inn and Cottage. With a population of 73,000 and balmy summer days and nights, it’s a perfect place to shake off the stresses of city life. Impressive Art Deco, Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical architecture dots the streets of this atmospheric art colony, while coffee shops, galleries and restaurants roost alongside. By day, linger at lesbian-owned bookstore Malaprop’s; by night try cozy gay bar Smokey Tavern and hot LGBT dance spot Club Hairspray.
10. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Most people have never heard of this tiny Ozark Mountain village in northwestern Arkansas, sometimes called “the place where misfits fit” and even “the gay capital of the Ozarks.” It’s a historic hamlet of gingerbread houses, art galleries, a clutch of gay- or lesbian-owned guesthouses and even a gay church. Three Pride weekends are on the calendar (in spring, summer and fall), and, all in all, it’s a lovely, low-key getaway, where LGBT folks congregate at venues such as Chelsea’s Corner Café.