St Pete is the thrilling gay hub of west Florida. We’ve visited several times and always left with smiley faces wanting to return for more. It offers everything a gay would want – a super friendly vibrant LGBTQ community, glorious beaches, an exciting gay scene, and home to the largest gay Pride event in all of Florida.
St Petersburg also receives over 360 days of sunshine each year and has rightfully been nicknamed “Florida’s Sunshine City”. And wherever the sun shines is a place the gays want to be, which is why many people from across the United States head to St Pete to make it their new home.
Perhaps the stand-out reason why we love St Pete so much is the vibe. Everyone is so friendly and warm here. No one ever seemed to be stressed out and we were only ever met with smiles – from the many (straight) people on the beach offering to take our romantic sunset pic (“awww guys you’re so cute!” – they said to us) to the rows of rainbow flags that proudly line the streets of Downtown during Pride.
Much like Palm Springs and Fort Lauderdale, St Petersburg is a little gay oasis in what has become quite a conservative state (Florida). We celebrate this exciting charming city in this article, featuring the best gay/gay friendly hotels, gay-owned businesses, gay bars, clubs, events, and more.
This is our experience of St Pete, which we hope you also fall in love with as much as we did!
Is Saint Petersburg Gay Friendly?
Very! You may be thinking…how can that be? Surely a place in Florida, notoriously one of the most republication states of the US, is full of conservative retirees. But in fact, it’s quite the opposite. There is a large draw for LGBTQ retirees, as well as a younger, diverse crowd. And in recent years, St Pete has seen an increase in transgender and non-binary residents as well.
St Petersburg has a large LGBTQ population and has consistently received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI). This is a study that looks at the laws within an area and rates them on the inclusivity of LGBTQ+ people who live and work there.
We felt very safe walking around St Pete holding hands and being openly gay. We not only felt tolerated but celebrated. Everyone we came across was either very friendly or gay themselves!
The Gay Area of St Pete
For all things LGBTQ-centric in St Pete, head on down to the gayboorhood of Kenwood. It’s where most gay people reside, it’s where the Pride parade used to begin its trail (until it moved downtown a few years ago), and where most of St Pete’s gay bars and clubs can be found.
Strolling through the gay neighborhood, you’ll find it’s mostly made up of bungalows, giving it a quaint and cozy atmosphere. You can totally imagine Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia (if you know, you know) living here. The community is a major draw of living in Kenwood, with regular neighborhood events, walking tours and artist open-studio nights for residents to get involved in.
Move on down from the peaceful ambience of the residential area, across to the adjacent Central Avenue, and you will find gay clubs like Enigma, The Garage, and Lucky Star. These are where hundreds of partygoers visit each night – so it’s a great mix of both a homely residential area and an exciting going-out scene.
Gay Hotels in St Pete
When you’re looking for somewhere to stay, you’ll want to ensure you will be accepted as a queer traveler, whether you’re in a couple or traveling solo. In this section, we feature all the best gay-owned and gay friendly hotels in Florida that we tried, loved, and most importantly, welcomed us as a gay couple.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Lovely pool AND close to the beach
- Great location for the local gay scene
- On-site coffee shop and restaurant
- Pet friendly!
We loved our stay at the gay friendly Hollander Boutique Hotel!
As soon as we stepped inside, we instantly felt the warm, homely vibe – from the decor in the reception area (you’ll want to spend a bit of time snapping here for your Insta grid!) to the super friendly and welcoming staff who always greeted us with a big warm smile.
Staying here felt like we were in our own little gay home paradise in St Pete!
The pool area is massive and pretty swish. It makes for such a welcoming spot to chill out and destress after a long day in the Florida heat! Also on site is a cafe and excellent restaurant. In terms of location, the Hollander is a short Uber ride to the gay bars of Downtown and also to the seafront – St Pete’s Pier. It’s also around 20-minutes drive away from the beach.
Prices at The Hollander start from $143 per night:
THE DON CESAR
IN A NUTSHELL
- Pretty in pink!
- Right on the beach plus there’s a spa
- Luxurious and well-located
- Excellent restaurant and bar
You certainly won’t get lost trying to find the gorgeous Don CeSar. The gay friendly hotel looks like a giant, pink wedding cake!
And it’s super lush! As well as being located right on the beach, the rooms are chic, modern, and spacious – all touched by the classic, Floridan charm.
Straight off the plane like us? Head to their beachfront restaurant, grab a few cocktails and take in what is one of the most magnificent sunsets you’ll ever see – THIS is what Florida is all about for us!
That Floridian charm we mentioned? You feel it here. Not only are the staff super friendly, but as a gay couple taking a picture like the one shown here, not a problem! In fact, one family came over and offered to help us – full of smiles and curiosity about where we’re from, being gay was just not an issue for them. It really was quite heartwarming.
Cute tip: the Don CeSar is allegedly haunted – by a “gentleman sporting an old-fashioned Panama hat and white summer suit” (how do we break the news that this was Seby sneaking downstairs for a midnight snack?)…
Prices at The Don CeSar start from $399 per night:
CASA DEL MERMAN – GAYSTPETE HOUSE
IN A NUTSHELL
- Clothing optional gay guesthouse
- Lovely swimming pool and sauna
- Breakfast included
- Can organize an on-site massage
Clothing-optional. Pet friendly. Free breakfast. This place ticks all our gay boxes (oh Matron!).
This gay guesthouse has that charming, 20th-century American feel, with its terrace and exterior staircases. It also feels super homely – they have just six rooms to book. We love that each room is named after a local beach and decorated in what the owners call a “definitely Florida” way (which we take to mean looking like the set of The Golden Girls).
Each room has its own separate entrance, a private bath and a TV, so you can basically lock yourself in with a loved one all week.
In the center of it all is the fabulous, heated swimming pool. Guests can hang out (take that as literally as you like, it’s clothing-optional after all), do laps, or enjoy a drink. You can even arrange to have a poolside massage.
And don’t be alarmed if you spot a few parrots floating around – they’re just the hotel’s resident pets! Pecker, a Blue & Gold Macaw, is lovely but is known to give back talk.
Prices at Casa del Merman start from $109 per night:
IN A NUTSHELL
- Adult’s only gay men’s hotel
- Developed by the owner of COCKtail, The Saint and Zazoo’d
- Pool and day club (with bar)
- Eccentric and colorful style
Gay travelers were shooketh when the iconic COCKtail bar owner announced he would be transforming the space into a male-only gay resort. Turns out they are a grower as well as a show-er!
And those who were worried the resort wouldn’t live up to the stylish and boisterous legacy of the bar can breathe a sigh of relief. The gay Mari Jean hotel is every bit as lively! The owner was conscious to bring the contemporary design the bar was known for throughout the rest of the hotel. So, let’s just say, expect tons of neon…
The resort, which still contains the COCKtail bar, includes 54 spacious hotel rooms, equipped with kings, queens, and suites. The pool bar, known as The Wet Spot, lives up to the name. Guests can hang out during the day, basking in the Florida sun, and splashing around in the pool. They also serve food for when you are feeling peckish.
Prices at Mari Jean coming soon:
Gay Bars in St Pete
Start your night off the correct way by stopping by one of St Pete’s famous gay bars.
Known for its stiff drinks and hard liquor, COCKtail bar is one of the best hangout spots in St Petersburg. And believe us when we say that it isn’t just the drinks that are hard and stiff… The gay bar is part of a larger complex, which also features a larger club area, a shop, and a hotel. The outside bar is where the gay clientele hang out.
COCKtail often host themed nights, with everything you can think of, like line dancing, drag shows, and karaoke. And when you’re using the toilet – make sure to look up. The ceiling is famous for its male organ murals (yes, you read that right), by artist Chad Mize. Let’s face it, we all have to resist temptation to “take a peek” at our urinal buddy’s little friend. Now we have giant pieces right over our heads to satisfy our curiosity.
Opening Hours: Daily from midday until 3am
Location: 2355 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
At The Saint, they take the 1920s-style Prohibition theme to the max. Don’t stress though, we aren’t talking about the infamous Berghain club in Berlin here. Just make sure you dress snazzy and avoid singlets if you wanna make it through the door of this speakeasy. Once you’re in, you’ll be charmed by its quirky décor, flirty staff, and tasty drinks.
As you go in, you are asked to write your darkest sins on a piece of paper and hand it to the doorman. Were our sins bad or juicy enough to be pinned up on the wall? You’ll have to go and see for yourself (wink!). Note, you will need a password to get in: check their Instagram Highlights on their story for the latest “Sin to get in” password.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 5pm until midnight, open until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights
Location: 49 24th Street North, St. Petersburg
The Garage on Central Avenue
The Garage is located in the heart of the city on Central Avenue. Walking in, you may wonder if you’ve found the right place. It appears nothing like a gay bar usually looks like. The lighting is dim and the interior is decorated with fine, dark woods. But once you spot the leather daddy and drag queen making out in the corner, you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.
As the gay bar has been around for a long time, it has a large and dedicated clientele who frequently visit. We thought this was an incredible way to chat with people who have lived in St Pete for years and learn more about this incredible city. They regularly host themed events like karaoke, disco, and leather nights.
Opening Hours: Every day from 4pm until 1am
Location: 2729 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
Lucky Star Lounge
Just like the Madonna song, a night spent at Lucky Star will make “the darkness seem so far.” As St Pete’s oldest gay bar, it may not be the loudest or the flashiest, but it more than makes up for it with its welcoming clientele and charming ambiance. The dancefloor is splashed with unique lighting, the DJs tend to play throwback bops, and the patio area is a great escape for fresh air when you’ve worked up a sweat.
It’s a small space, so it can feel a tad crowded at times. Although, we always feel this makes it easier to strike up conversation with strangers and make new friends. It’s almost all men who visit and whilst we aren’t complaining, it is worth noting for women who may be looking to meet other women.
Opening Hours: Daily from midday until 3am
Location: 2760 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
The Dog Bar
We’re cheating a bit with this one as The Dog Bar isn’t specifically a gay bar. However, due to the fact it’s across the street from COCKtail, has a large queer clientele, and is full of little furries (no, not that kind of furry unfortunately), we thought it counted! The Dog Bar is half bar, half dog park. So, if you thought the name was tongue-in-cheek, think again! If, like me, you’re a dog person, then this spot will feel like Heaven.
Around the bar, you’ll find pups of all shapes and sizes, paddling pools, and feeding bowls. The bar is overlooked by a “wooferie” to make sure all doggos and patrons are safe and having a good time. After you’ve obsessed over all the cute puppies (and remembered half the reason you’re there is to drink), you’ll enjoy a wide selection of cocktails, wines, and beers.
Opening Hours: Daily from midday until midnight, open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights
Location: 2300 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
Punky’s Bar & Grill (permanently closed – updated August 2022)
Punky’s Bar & Grill is another pet-friendly gay bar on our list. Plenty of people bring their pups here and even book birthday parties for their beloved furry child. This place is a super fun, whacky-looking restaurant, where you can grab a burger, a plate of hot wings, and delicious fries. The face of Punky’s looks like a 1960s housewife who had a terrible mix-up at the hair salon as she now sports several colors in her hair.
The bar is mostly popular for its gay events, including Drag Queen Bingo on Tuesday evenings. Things can get super competitive though, so make sure to bring your A-game. There are flatscreen TVs dotted around the bar and on the patio which play classic pop music videos, which sets a cool, retro vibe.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday from 11.30am until 9pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 9pm
Location: 3063 Central Avenue North, St. Petersburg
Whenever we see anything listed as being “straight friendly”, we know we are in for a gay old time! Quench Lounge is described as the “hottest” gay bar in the county. So perhaps they’ve named themselves quench as they are satisfying your thirsty cravings. Throughout the week, they have several events that’ll get your heart racing as well as perking up your competitive streak. Wednesdays they have karaoke, Thursdays are for drag bingo, and on Fridays, things get rather hot at Boyz Night.
The weekends are the most popular nights with On Diva Saturdays and there is the undie Sunday, where everyone walks around in their tightest underwear… expect to see more packages than at an Amazon warehouse!
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday from 2pm until 2am, Friday and Saturday 2pm – 3am
Location: 13284 66th Street North, Largo
Pro Shop Pub
Located in an inconspicuous part of the city, Pro Shop Pub is by far one of the most underrated gay spots in the city. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. It’s a brick block, with the words Pro Shop spelt out in neon lights. Not your usual flashy, loud queer bar/club we’re used to seeing. But it turns out that its design was left over from the era when gay men used to meet there in secret.
When it opened its doors in 1976, it was one of the few places in the state where men could escape persecution and be themselves. And it was also the dawn of disco, which made it feel like even more of a piece of a heavenly sanctuary. Today, it is modest in comparison to the other spots on the list, making it perfect for anyone looking to have a peaceful night out.
Opening Hours: Every day from 11am until 3am
Location: 840 Cleveland Street, Clearwater
Gay Clubs in St Pete
After you’ve warmed up in one of the city’s most gay bars, it’s time to go out dancing. Luckily, there are plenty of gay clubs in St Pete for you to choose from.
We’ve told you all about the saucy bar area, now it’s time to gush over the sensational gay club. Trust us, visiting both is a must! You just can’t beat a big dance area and throw in the fact that they have live male dancers, and you have yourself a winning combo. These men are hot hot hot.
The music is just what you need for a night out dancing. Expect Gaga, Ariana, Cher, Dua Lipa (or as Wendy Williams calls her, Dula Peep), and Kylie. The club stays open until 3am each day, which in our view is the sweet spot between an early one and pulling an all-nighter.
Opening Hours: Daily from midday until 3am
Location: 2355 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
For dancing, drinks, and delicious men, you can’t go wrong with the most popular gay club in St Pete: Enigma. Using world-class lighting systems and expert sound machines, a boogie here is like no other. You can practically feel the music pulsing through you (or maybe that was the one too many drinks we had…?)
Friday nights are when Daphne Ferraro takes to the stage for “the best drag show in the world.” Her words, not ours, although we don’t disagree. Her comedic chops are legendary, her impersonations are spot on, and her musical performances are sensational. And best of all, they run a happy hour every day until 9pm. Visitors get 2 for 1 on all cocktails, bottled beers, house wines, and more. So, you know where you can find us…
Opening Hours: Every day from 1pm until 3am
Location: 1110 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
Blur is first and foremost a show gay bar, so expect theater from the moment you arrive. Tuesday nights are for house-enthusiasts, with DJ sets blasting out the best of the genre until midnight. Wednesday/Hump Days are for hip-hop fanatics. They feature an open-mic night, so if you feel inspired, you can hop up on stage and spit your best bars. Thursdays are for karaoke. This is right up our alley – the only issue we have is deciding who gets sing to Lady Gaga’s part in ‘Rain on Me.’
For drag queen shows, come by on Friday for fantastic performances and incredible lip-syncs. Once a month, they have drag queen bingo, which merges our two favourite things, silly games and drag. On Saturday, they have a live band, and on Sunday, it’s Happy Hour all day.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Thursday from 3pm until midnight, 3pm – 3am on Friday, midday till 3am on Saturday and midday until 8pm on Sunday
Location: 325 Main Street, Dunedin
Social Roost is owned by gay couple Rob and Jason, who both grew up in St Pete, went to school together, served time in the army, and traveled the world before establishing one of the city’s most fabulous dining experiences. If that ain’t a tale for the ages, we don’t know what is. Having seen so much of Mother Earth, it’s easy to see just how wide and diverse their menu is. Tokyo shrimp, salads inspired by Italy, the Mediterranean, and the southwest of the US, Peruvian chicken, Mexican-style tacos, you name it!
Their menu is almost as well traveled as we are (close, but no cigar). Their resident chef, Susan Burdian helped develop the global menu, and with mixologist Max Blowers also on board to whip up delicious cocktails, they are truly an unstoppable team.
Uptown Eats is a gay-owned café that serves breakfast and lunch. From the second you walk in, you are pelted with the rich smell of roasted coffee, toasty pastries, and delectable sandwiches. It’s enough to make you never want to leave. Staff are always smiling, super welcoming, and are happy to suggest any items on the menu if you are struggling to decide.
The selection of foods ranges from the uber nutritious to the diet-crushing treats. So, no matter what you are craving, you’ll find something to tuck into. It’s owned by Dan, who is a partner of Chad Mize (yep, the guy whose male organs murals you can find on the ceiling of the COCKtail bathroom). There is even an outdoor seating area so you can enjoy your brekkie in the morning air. And our big tip? Look out for their uber delicious rainbow cookies!
Lingr is another LGBTQ-owned business that you simply must visit! Their menu was developed by Chef Jeff (such a cute accidental rhyme), who appeared on and won the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games. Inspired by his mix of Norwegian and Asian heritage, Jeff created a menu that is contemporary, whilst still feeling authentic. All dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients and are perfectly matched for Lingr’s selection of craft beers, cocktails, and wine.
You can clearly tell how much time, love, and attention went into each dish. Everything we saw being served up, both to our table and our neighbours, looked positively delish. We had a mix of veggies and spiced salmon – making us feel like we were dining right in the heart of Norway. The staff are equally as passionate about the food and sharing their recommendations as the chefs are preparing it. An all-round must-try!
Who doesn’t love a nautical theme? After all, there’s nothing better than a hot seaman! Pier Teaki has 360-degree views of the waterfront. So, as you wait for your food to arrive, you can breathe in the fresh, sea air and get excited to tuck in. Plus, if you book your table for sunset, your views are even better. Pier Teaki’s menu is packed to the brim with the likes of clam chowder, shrimp, and spicy fish.
The restaurant is surrounded by water, with stunning views out onto the gorgeous Tampa Bay waterfront. The staff were extremely pleasant, welcoming, and full of recommendations as to what we should try. We love it when you can tell the people love the place they work in and take pride in walking you through the menu.
The Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli
Opening its doors in 2018, Golden Dinosaurs has been the go-to place for vegans across the Tampa Bay and St. Pete area ever since. It serves a range of sandwiches, burgers, wraps, chilli dogs, and baked goods. Run by an indigenous couple, you can tell how much care and attention was put into crafting each meal. Even those who aren’t vegan (ahem us, sorry!) can find something suitable and delicious on the menu.
The staff are dedicated and ensure every customer has the best experience. The vibe is very chill, with seating on a private patio, decorated with a gurgling water fountain, bushy trees, and painted artworks. It’s a super relaxing place to tuck into your meal.