Gay Beach Getaways
The West Coast is home to some of the nations most exciting and LGBT-friendly cities. All year-round travelers gamble in Vegas, tan in San Diego, get in touch with their history in San Francisco, and shop at the farmers’ markets in Seattle. Getting to the coast is easy and finding the gayborhood is never difficult. Everyone knows L.A.’s WeHo, San Diego’s Hillcrest and San Francisco’s fabled Castro.
OK for the visitor from afar: But what about the people who already live here? Where do they go when they want to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and visit the off the beaten path summer vacation destinations? The answer is simple: All around the beautiful Pacific Coast. America’s West Coast is awash with islands, culture, and charm. Here are a few that are especially gorgeous, LGBT-friendly, established, and perfect for short jaunts.
Picturesque. Calm. Serene. If your answer is "Yes" to all of the above then Victoria Island is for you. In just under three hours aboard the Victoria Clipper, a passenger-only ferry service with year-round daily departures to Victoria, British Columbia, from a pier in Downtown Seattle, you’re able to take a quick-trip or an extended weekend trip to one of the most luxurious, yet welcoming islands in the Pacific Northwest. From Afternoon Tea at a century-old hotel to drinking a pint in one of Old Victoria’s pubs, there’s a little something for everyone. Victoria is situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
Established in the late Eighteenth Century by British settlers, the city maintains its rich sense of history and culture, showcasing beautiful Victorian architecture, tree-lined streets and old British charm. Surrounded by natural beauty and offering several great sightseeing opportunities year-round, it has become one of the premier tourist spots in the Pacific Northwest. The island may be small but you can bet it is jam packed with things to do. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for unique shopping, dining and live entertainment all around town.
Beautiful Port Ludlow lies just a ferry ride and scenic drive from Seattle and just minutes from historic Port Townsend. Watch the world change in less than 30 minutes! The $12 ferry service includes both pedestrian and vehicle passengers. In one half-hour, you are on the water’s edge of Ludlow Bay, featuring breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains, Port Ludlow Marina in Puget Sound, and are surrounded by lush, tree-lined rolling hills. Kayaking, hiking trails that lead to lakes and waterfalls, and relaxing resorts all beckon.
You’ll find restaurants that serve Pacific Northwest seafood and weather that is the most beautiful (and least rainfall) of all the San Juan Islands. Whale watching excursions and a wild game reserve are all within reach. The best part? Catch the ferry in the morning, explore all day, and arrive back in Seattle just in time for Happy Hour at one of the many gay bars on Capitol Hill, Seattle’s gayborhood.
Situated just 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles, Catalina Island is a quick-trip paradise. The weather is always good and Avalon, Catalina Island’s main town, is only one square mile in size, so everything is within easy walking distance. Life slows down as walking is the preferred mode of transportation. Escape the rat race of L.A. for the snail’s pace of island life.
You can scuba dive, go snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking or fishing. There’s nightlife and entertainment; scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and plenty of dining options. For those who prefer to do nothing but relax on the beach, you can be on Catalina Island in as little as 15 minutes (via helicopter) or one hour by boat from the mainland.
Oregon’s largest city, Portland, is a wonderful day trip for Northern California vacationers and those looking to drive down from Seattle. There’s a robust LGBT community with plenty of entertainment offered from gay-owned and operated restaurants, bars, clubs, and more. In Portland, you’ll find an award-winning airport, efficient light rail system, pedestrian-friendly city blocks and miles and miles of bike paths - all of which make getting around town a real pleasure. We’ve never paid more than $10 for a taxi ride to any destination in Downtown Portland. From hiking to high-end shopping, this eclectic city has you covered. Also, Portland is one of the most beautiful large cities in the country, if not the world. There’s a reason why they call it "the city of roses."
What self-respecting gay man doesn’t like wine? We love the stuff and some of the best is bottled in this famous wine-growing region. The truth is, everyone feels the same about Napa so it should come as no surprise that it has become one of the premier travel destinations in the world. Whether you are driving or taking the train via Amtrak from the north or south, you’ll bask in the breathtaking views: rolling hills planted with vineyards, beautiful sunsets and near-perfect weather. Napa Valley is a collection of towns, each offering its own style and appearance. Whether you are wine tasting, dining at renown restaurants, pampering yourself with a mud bath, or just enjoying your stay at quaint bed & breakfasts, hotels or resorts, Napa Valley is your spot of heaven on earth.
This article is part of our "Summer 2012" series. Want to read more?
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