Gay men are humanity's great adventurers: We venture where others do not dare to go.
For almost a century, gay men have been at the vanguard of the naturist movement, glorying in the joy and beauty of the naked male body - our own and others'. Thus it is no surprise to find that clothing-optional beaches are largely frequented by gay men.
None of the nude beaches listed in this article are exclusively gay. However, they are all popular with gay nudists and have gay sections where most gay men gather. Which is the gay section? Just look for the absence of women and children.
1. Black's Beach, La Jolla, California
California's recent campaign against public nudity in state parks has put a damper on nude sunbathing in the Golden State. Fortunately, it's still tolerated in the northern section of Black's Beach, America's most popular nude beach. (The southern section of Black's Beach, within the City of San Diego, is less tolerant.) Though Black's Beach is by no means a gay beach, it is frequented by gay nudists who are turned off by the current crackdown against nudity at San Onofre State Beach. Black's Beach is also hard to reach, which seems to keep away gawkers and law enforcement officials. (Directions to Black's Beach are long and complicated. Visit here for detailed instructions.
2. Marshall's Beach, San Francisco, California
Perhaps the closest thing we have to an all-gay nude beach is Marshall's Beach. It's right next to the Golden Gate Beach and is mostly unknown to the pedestrians who stroll along the sidewalk on the eastern side of the bridge. Marshall's Beach is on the west side, reached via a sidewalk reserved for bicyclists. Four years ago the federal government refurbished the area and added walking paths to the water. This, we are told, has been a bit of a mixed blessing, because while Marshall's Beach is still as gay and as nude as ever, more unsuspecting straights also end up there.
3. San Gregorio Beach, San Mateo County, California
San Gregorio Beach (not to be confused with the adjacent state beach of the same name; stay north of the "hazardous surf" sign to avoid park rangers) is America's oldest nude beach, dating back to 1967. It is also the gayest, especially at the northern end. On any given day there may be 200 people (mostly gay men) searching for the perfect spot to disrobe. San Gregorio is privately owned, which allows it to ignore the state's anti-nudity laws. It boasts two miles of soft sand strewn with driftwood, tide pools, and a lovely lagoon, all of it framed by dramatic cliffs.
4. Haulover Beach, Miami-Dade County, Florida
My hometown favorite, the clothing-optional section of Haulover Beach is the most popular nude beach in North America. It is also one of the most-accessible gathering spots for naturists, with none of the hair-raising cliff-side hikes one must endure to reach some of the other nude beaches. Just take Florida State Road 826 east from I-95 until it ends at A1A, turn right, go South for a mile or so, and then turn into Haulover Park's North Beach parking lot. (A walkway that goes under A1A will take you from the parking lot to the Beach.) Only the northern end of Haulover Beach Park is clothing-optional, and only the northern end of the clothing-optional section is gay. Nevertheless, on a warm, sunny day Haulover Beach is what heaven would be if God was a gay nudist: friendly, naked men, an almost-idyllic weather condition (except when it rains or overheats), a well-kept beach, and the reassuring presence of the folks from South Florida Free Beaches, who made it all possible. Just remember to wear a hat and apply sunscreen during the hot summer months.
5. Playalinda Beach, Brevard County and Apollo Beach, Volusia County, Florida
Playalinda Beach and Apollo Beach are part of Canaveral National Seashore and both are attractive and popular naturist hangouts. Playalinda in particular has been a popular naturist playground for nude sunbathers, gay and otherwise, since the 1960s. Unfortunately, Playalinda Beach is in Brevard County, which in 1995 passed a strict anti-nudity ordinance that it has since done its best to enforce. Not surprisingly, many nudists moved their beach-going activities to Apollo Beach, located in the more tolerant Volusia County. Though Apollo Beach is only an unofficial nude beach, it is the Sunshine State's most nudist-friendly beach outside of Hanover.
6. Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Gunnison Beach, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, is the Jersey Shore's only legal nude beach. The largest nude beach on the East Coast, Gunnison is head-over-bare-feet above other nearby beaches. In addition to its nude recreation opportunities, Gunnison Beach offers fishing, hiking, bird watching and views of the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Gays hang out at the southern end of the beach. As in Haulover, the powers that be put up signs warning tourists that "beyond this point you may encounter nude sunbathers." On any given weekend you will find up to 5,000 sunbathers of every shape, color and sexuality.
7. Hippie Hollow, 18 miles west of Austin, Texas
Though not technically a beach, McGregor County Park (its actual name) is a naturist paradise. Located on a rather steep slope above Lake Travis, Hippie Hollow attracts visitors from all over the world. It has a steep, rocky shoreline, nature trails and designated swimming areas. It is also the protected habitat for endangered bird species like the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Viero. Though every day is Gay Day at Hippie Hollow, the best time to visit is during Splash Days held on the first Sunday in May and on Labor Day weekend. To get to the gay section, make a left turn at the parking lot. It is a 15-minute walk but one that is well worth the effort.
8. Wreck Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia
According to Michael Boyd (writing in Naked Places), Wreck Beach is "perhaps the best-known nude beach on the globe." It is located in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, at the foot of the cliffs that surround the University of British Columbia. The clothing-optional section stretches for 4 miles from Acadia Beach to the north to Booming Grounds Creek on the south. Though the cold Pacific waters are not for the faint of heart, the ocean breezes keep the summer temperatures down. As in other nude beaches, the gay section is off the beaten path, in this case the remote area south of Trail 6. Keep an eye out for the naked vendors who, in G. T. McCallan's words, "ply the beach offering water, beer, sandwiches, and a surprising array of narcotics."
(Cross-posted from the August 2010 issue of The Guide, sadly the last issue of that late, great, gay magazine; img src)