The beach is a great place to relax with a book (not so much if you have young kids—sorry) and keep cool during the summer heat. Since COVID-19 is still very much a threat, staying outside is a safer way to enjoy friends, family, and time off. Spending time by the ocean can make for a great vacation or mental health break. But, the beach, like any public space can also be stressful if you are queer or transgender. For those of us with bodies or suits that are gender nonconforming and relationships and families that don’t fit the heteronormative mold, the beach can be as irritating as the sand that gets stuck in your suit. If water and sand are your jam, here are a mix of queer friendly beaches for the family and beaches that have more of an adult-only feel.
1. Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown, Massachusetts
Affectionately knowns as P-Town, Provincetown is a queer gathering spot that sits on the tip of Cape Cod. Each year P-Town hosts queer friendly events like Bear Week, Family Week, and Gay Pilots Cape Cod Classic as well as year-round drag and Express Yourself events. Access to the water is right off of Commercial Street, but to spend the day at the beach, the closest and calmest beach is Herring Cove Beach. The beach is usually a mix of identities and offers a range of public displays of affection, but from families with kids to young and single queers, everyone is welcome.
Don’t be surprised to see some nudity too. You may also see a few straight families. If you’ve been to a Pride event none of this should surprise you. Race Point Beach is Provincetown’s other beach; the waters can be a bit rockier but good for surfing. There are bike paths that run along the beach too.
2. Rehoboth Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth is a small town with a very chill and welcoming vibe. All of Rehoboth Beach is queer friendly, but Poodle Beach located near Queen Street attracts queer men while North Shores (on the north end of the Boardwalk) tends to fill up with queer women. While both are queer friendly beaches, you’ll find more queers with kids on other sections of the beach. Kids can kind of kill a sexy, summer beach vibe but the last thing I, as a queer parent with kids, want to see is some hot young couple having a carefree day while I worry about sun screening my kids and handing out more snacks. Be sure to hit up the Boardwalk, funky shops, and restaurants while you’re there.
3. North Beach, Burlington, Vermont
I have been to both of the previous beaches, but this one is located in my home state and is one of my go-to beaches. While most of the beaches on Lake Champlain in Burlington offer welcoming and queer-filled crowds, North Beach is the biggest and has the most facilities and offers food, bathrooms, and kayak rentals. The beach is a mix of college students, families with kids, and individuals reading or napping. The bike path makes it easy to walk or ride to Burlington’s Waterfront Park and to downtown Burlington—where you will find a lot more queer and queer friendly people. You can enjoy a mix of city and country life by reserving a spot and staying a few days at North Beach Campground. Iced coffee and queers by day, s’mores and tents by night.
4. Smathers Beach, Key West, Florida
Yes, there are queer friendly beaches in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale but Smathers Beach is known to be one of the most LGBTQIA+ friendly beaches in the United States. The 2-mile stretch of beach allows for surfing, volleyball, walking or roller skating and biking on the board walk. And if you can’t find what you need at the food trucks, there are plenty of bars and restaurants on nearby Duval Street. Check out Gay Key West to see what events are happening to make your trip to Florida extra queer. Key West Pride is in June, FYI so free up your calendar now.
5. Hippie Hollow, Lake Travis, Austin, Texas
I don’t love conservative Texas, but I loved the city of Austin when I visited. And like any place worth visiting, there is usually a queer scene somewhere. Hippie Hollow Park is about a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Austin. There isn’t as much of a beach there as is a rocky shore and rock slabs to set up a towel and cooler for the day. The rocks can be steep and slippery so may not be ideal for everyone. Hippie Hollow is clothing optional so no one under the age of 18 is allowed to enter the park. Hippie Hollow is a great watering hole with plenty of thirsty LGBTQIA+ folks showing up to swim.
6. Collins Beach, Sauvie Island, Portland, Oregon
Gay Portland is on my list of places to visit and when I do, I can’t wait to check out Collins Beach on Sauvie Island. It’s a long and narrow river beach that is divided into two sections: clothing and clothing optional. While more queer folks tend to gravitate to the clothing optional section, there are plenty of queer families on the clothing required side. The beach is often filled with queer women and trans folks, who—and I may be stereotyping—are enjoying books from Powell’s Book after hiking nearby trails or picking berries on one of the island’s farms.
7. Alamitos Bay Beach, Long Beach, California
Long Beach has a vibrant queer community and the beaches are no exception to that diverse and welcoming feel. Alamitos Bay Beach offers calm waters and plenty of activities for adults and kids to enjoy. Paddle boarding, kayaking, and handball are popular water and park sports that are available too. If you happen to be vacationing with your dog while in Long Beach head over to Rosie’s Beach to let your pup run off leash with other happy doggos. And be sure to check out all of the other gay events, restaurants, nightlife, and arts scene that Long Beach has to offer for LGBTQIA+ visitors.
If you plan on doing more than a day trip to any of these queer friendly beaches and need to find accommodations, visit Orbitz to find LGBTQIA+ friendly transportation, hotels, and other places to stay. Have fun at the beach and don’t forget the sunscreen, especially if you choose to leave your swim suit at home.