Watching tanned, sweaty men in shorts training on the beach in South Beach: Check! Licking a popsicle in the hot Florida sun and giggling from ear to ear: Check! If it gets too hot, just dive into the refreshing water of the Atlantic Ocean: Check! Strolling down Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive while holding hands like Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, in the cult classic “The Birdcage”: Check! Capturing the charming buildings of the Art Deco Cultural District with a camera: Check! Getting in a gaycation mood with all those Latin beats: Check! Falling in love with the LGBTQ+ friendly atmosphere of Florida’s second-largest city: CHECK! Welcome to our Couple of Men – journal about our summer trip to gay-friendly Miami and Miami Beach in Florida!
– in paid collaboration with Visit Miami –
Miami – Gay Paradise Full of Contrasts
It seems to be a real gay summer dream that we found ourselves on the east coast of the USA. And yet, Miami is a city full of contrasts. Numerous celebrities reside on luxury estates on the islands off the city’s coast. Miami is at the same time one of the poorest cities in the United States. Ocean Drive houses some of the most amazing Art Deco buildings we have ever seen. And just an island away you are surrounded by only modern sky scrapers. Behind those huge property investments you will find countless three-story high neighbourhoods with the best food and grafitti art. The majority of Miami’s inhabitants have their roots in Latin America. So, it’s hardly surprising that the majority speaks Spanish as their mother tongue.
Let’s Leave the skyline of downtown Miami behind. It only takes about 30-40 minutes by car in a westerly direction to reach the Everglades. The biggest part of this species-rich swamp can only be accessed by a propeller-driven boat. It is this melting pot of cultures, architecture and nature, that creates the Miami Vibe. This is the reason why we spend our belated summer vacation on the east coast of Florida.
Miami Beach’s only gay hotel
Of course, we resided at Miami Beach’s only gay hotel, the self-proclaimed “friendly gay hotel” The Gaythering. The hotel is easily accessible from the Venetian Islands by car, bus, or even bike. We checked into our gay home for the next few days and got a chance to socialize with the local LGBTQ+ community on the very first night.
Glittering into our first Miami Beach night
It’s karaoke night at Hotel Gaythering, of course with appropriate drag queen moderation. To our surprise, it’s a drag queen from Germany! The Saarland-born Drag Queen CC Glitzer has been part of the hotel’s inventory for a few years now. Her husband Randolph provides the necessary drinks behind the bar. We were pleased to have a few words with the German drag icon during her break. We asked ‘The hottest import from Germany’, as it is written on the posters in the hotel elevator, about Pride in Miami.
“I had the honor of moderating Miami Pride on the main stage. That was really an exceptional experience, especially after the forced break in 2020. I feel really comfortable here, and I’m happy to have become a part of the queer community in Miami Beach.”
With one joke after another in her charming English, this drag queen brings the bar to life! Two drinks later, however, we say goodbye and decide to try out some other kind of entertainment. After a short visit to the hotel’s gay sauna, we are off to bed. After all, an extended bike tour around Miami Beach is on the agenda for tomorrow.
After breakfast at the Gaythering next morning, we cycle in a southerly direction. The bikeway steers us along the palm-lined waterfront. While passing yachts and gorgeous apartments, and with tropical temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius, everything radiates holiday! Several times we need to stop for the famous green iguanas, which lie comfortably in the sun, blocking our way. They are enormous and take there time to make way for some silly tourists on bikes.
Convertible? Walking? Or by bike through Miami?
Only for a short distance, we have to share the road directly with the American SUVs. And yet, we feel pretty safe on the bike in Miami Beach compared to other American cities. It helps that local drivers, bicyclists, scooters, but also inline skaters are part of the daily street life here. Our first stop is the South Pointe Park Pier, an observation deck at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. The view of the Atlantic Ocean, the white sandy beach on one side, and Biscayne Bay, including the Miami skyline on the other, is simply breathtaking. Below us we observe considerable schools of fish in the crystal clear water. The water looks so refreshing, expecially with this heat! Be careful not to burn your butt while resting briefly on one of the pier’s benches!
Cooling off at the Gay Beach in South Beach
We continue by bike through the long, well-maintained park between the sea-view hotels and the beach. Especially Miami South Beach is very doable by bike and maybe even quicker then going by car. Searching for a spot to park can take up a lot of time and lot’s of money. We park our bikes for free at the South Beach gay beach entrance. The pink lifeguard house and the numerous rainbow flags tell us one thing. We have arrived at the right beach. It is the Gay Beach between 11th and 12th Street, where tanned men in Speedos soak up the sun. Daan can hardly wait to jump in the water. But let’s find a good spot to setup camp first. And let’s not forget to put on a lot of 50+ sunscreen!
We dive into the turquoise, crystal clear, 27 °C warm water. Overjoyed and a little incredulous, we lie in each other’s arms while floating in the water. Is this perfect moment real? The palm trees sway in the wind and the blue sky offers the best contrast to the white-colored art deco buildings in the background. All thoughts of stress drop from our minds. Just floating in the salty water, that’s the motto for the next few hours. Well, every now and then we let our eyes wander over the interestingly mixed crowd on the beach and in the water.
Time Travel in the Art Deco Cultural District in Miami Beach
A few hours of sun later, it’s time to stretch our legs a bit. Holding hands, we stroll down Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive. We encounter a few other gay and/or queer couples who do the same and happily smile back at us. Again and again, inline skaters in skimpy neon-colored outfits whiz past us. We capture some of the most beautiful buildings on camera. All this colorful splendor of boutique hotels and restaurants that line the pedestrian zone at Miami South Beach creates the Art Deco Cultural District.
Nightlife adventure in Miami
Back at the hotel, we prepare for the evening. Taking a shower, applying after-sun lotion to each other and off we go. We had an appointment for dinner with our friend Dan at the vegan restaurant PLANTA. The Colombian native has lived in Miami for many, many years. In addition to his work as LGBTQ+ marketing director for Miami, he also actively campaigns for the interests of the queer community on a voluntary basis. This is how we learned about the Orgullo Festival, Miami’s Hispanic and Indigenous Pride Festival. The Orgullo Festival is being held annually since 2011, and according to Dan, we should not miss its closing event. Noted to our agenda!
For now, the evening is still young. Together we set off to visit another queer institution in Miami Beach called Nathan’s Bar. There we met up with gay couple Chris und Gus, who are loyal readers of our blog. The two men are originally from Cuba and decided many years ago to emigrate to Miami. From here they travel the world – which was impossible for them back in Cuba. With every drink, the atmosphere at Nathan’s got better and the music louder. More and more queer dance fans started to swing their hips to the South American beats. Thanks for the great evening, guys!
Art, Culture, Pride & The Birdcage
Lazy beach days follow at South Beach’s Gay Beach and, of course, at Haulover Nude Beach. This beach in the very north of Miami Beach is the only official gay nude beach. On the cloudier days, we mix some culture into our itinerary with a visit to the Pérez Museum of Art. PAMM, in short, showcases modern and contemporary art by international artists. We also visited the particularly artfully landscaped gardens of Villa Vizcaya. Definitely a tip for a day on mainland Miami!
During a city trip, we like to build in some moments in nature. And when in Florida, a trip on a swamp boat into the Everglades should be on your list. Dan hooked us up with Tigertail Airboat Tours. Gliding over the Everglades was one of the absolute highlights of our Florida sun vacation. During the trip, we learned a lot about the fragile nature of the Everglades National Park. We even encountered a few alligators, rare birds, and some giant insects. We really appreciated that there were no photo-ops with animals and that our guide Humberto talked about the wildlife with so much passion and respect.
Back in Miami, there is so much more to experience, such as the ever-changing graffiti landscape in the Wynwood district. But we’ll have to put that off until our next visit. One thing is for sure: we definitely want to come back and discover more of Miami!
Celebrating Orgullo at the Drive-in
On our last evening, things got especially queer. The Orgullo Festival invited us to an improv concert by Patrick & the Swayzees, followed by a drive-in movie experience! The choice of film for the evening, how could it be otherwise, fell on The Birdcage. We both never been to a drive-in cinema and with this classic queer Miami movie we had the best time! We sat in our (rented) convertible, stuffing our faces with popcorn and experienced for the first time the American feeling of cinema under the stars. Of course, with that extra portion of glitter.
Our first trip to the United States of America brought us via Atlanta to Florida, where we spent some beautiful days in Orlando’s Disney Parks and Universal Studios. In the same year, we explored the South Western part of the USA, starting with California from San Francisco. Meanwhile, we visited more states in the USA including Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and are planning to back every year at least once.
Now, it’s time to plan your summer vacation in Miami & Miami Beach!
We hope we can give you a taste of Florida and Miami with our travel story. For us, it was a wonderful summer adventure that we would like to repeat as soon as possible. Actually, before Miami, we stayed in Orlando, where we visited Disney World and Universal Studios. But there is still so much more to discover in Miami, Florida, the USA, and the whole wide rainbow-colored world.
For any clarifications about your plans for traveling to Miami, Florida, and the USA, follow us and email us or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram. See you around the world and the next time in Miami!
Karl & Daan.
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