Florida Keys and Key West: Holding Hands in The Sunset
Known as the gay travel blogger couple Couple of Men, Karl and Daan were traveling through the Florida Keys and enjoyed a varied and sun-kissed time.
Lovingly, Daan put his arm around my shoulder and kissed my cheek. Seagulls sailed overhead and a catamaran slowly passed us towards the glowing golden ball on the horizon. We sat on the pier at Mallory Square in north Key West and let our legs dangle over the turquoise water. A school of small black and white striped fish swam around our feet. The mild summer breeze tasted salty on the lips and caused a disheveled beard, especially on Daan. We took a deep breath. We were on vacation in the Florida Keys.
I chuckled as I thought about our drive through southern Florida. A good ten days ago we were still very excited on our way south from Miami on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. With the windows down we seemed to be able to practically touch the holiday feeling and felt free. And today? Today we had to say goodbye and goodbye at a sunset that is so typical for Key West. The sky turned into a veritable firework display of golden and red tones that made even our tanned faces shine warmly. We looked at each other relaxed, happy and satisfied. It was time for us to leave.
We strolled hand in hand along the pier, past singing street performers and occasionally encountered a rooster strutting past us with a proud chest. “Pinch my arm.” Daan had to laugh. “Are we really here?” He stroked my face affectionately and nodded. The atmosphere was just enchanting, easy going, so different, and at the same time exuded so much holiday feeling. We had become part of the «One Human Family», which is the mission statement of the Florida Keys and Key West. Only a little later we reached the historic seaport of the old town. We paused on the boardwalk between mighty motorboats and watched a manatee playing in the water. It smelled of the sea, fresh fish and a breeze of grilled food. Good that we made a reservation at the quaint harbour restaurant Half Shell Raw Bar.
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The Florida Keys certainly have no shortage of restaurants with delicious seafood specialties on the menu. We’ve had fine Italian dining at Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen & Bar in Islamorada, delicious Hawaiian-inspired dishes at Mahina in Marathon, and refreshing desserts in Key West Key Lime Pie Company. But not only the restaurants are impressive. Also, LGBTIQ-friendly beachfront hotels like the Postcard Inn in Islamorada, The Perry on Stock Island, and luxury resorts like Isla Bella in Marathon reflect an openness to queer travellers that we have come to appreciate on our trip. Of course, this also includes the famous Island House in Key West, probably the «best gay resort in the world ». Here we spent super relaxing days naked by the pool and got to know local and traveling gays better at the pool parties.
A rich LGBTIQ Story
It has a long tradition that gays – or the LGBTIQ community in general – feel comfortable on Key West, which began at the latest when playwright Tennessee Williams came here in 1941. A lot has happened since then. Twenty years ago, for example, a two-kilometre rainbow flag on Duval Street connected the Gulf of Mexico with the Atlantic. Since then, parts of this legendary flag have been shown again and again at Pride events around the world. But the Florida Keys archipelago has much more to offer. Each of the inhabited islands offers its own natural and man-made sights and varied activities. During our trip to the Keys, we learned about sea turtle conservation at the Turtle Hospital on Marathon, hiked the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge on the Mid Keys towards the sunset and went on an adventurous paddling tour with Big Pine Kayak Adventures through the dense mangroves of the Lower Keys.
One of the best experiences for us was the day on a catamaran with the queer company Blu Q in Key West. The self-proclaimed “home on the water for gay men” has been offering nudist sailing excursions since 1996, including snorkelling, kayaking and optional sunset tours. With like-minded people, fruity snacks and a glass of prosecco, you can relax on the catamaran (and in the water) really well. The sun was our constant companion, from sunrise over the Atlantic to sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
A Summer Fairy Tale for Every Season
At the end of our Florida Keys summer trip, after dinner with fresh fish for me and Spanish vegetarian delicacies for Daan, there was a drag cabaret show at the notorious La Te Da Program. The way back to our hotel took us through the historic old town and gave us the opportunity to say goodbye to the Florida Keys. Without fear, relaxed and in love, we walked through the narrow streets, looked into one or the other shop, kissed on the Rainbow Crosswalk and disappeared into the night…
With a few days in what is probably the gayest island city in the USA, our summer fairy tale came to an end. But an undeniable feeling remains in us even days after our return: As a gay male couple traveling, we had spent an almost perfect, varied and above all sun-kissed time on the Florida Keys. And we definitely want to come back.