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Northern New England isn't yet the hotbed of gay culture that, say, Provincetown, Massachusetts, has become. But plenty of gays and lesbians live and travel here, and find these three states accepting of their culture. (Urban areas are a lot more welcoming than small or rural ones.)

Vermont has traditionally been the most open-minded of the three states; it has been a major destination for gay and lesbians who want to marry here since state law acknowledged civil unions in 2000. A local backlash (marked by TAKE BACK VERMONT signs) has arisen in response to passage of the law, but these opponents have so far failed to get the law repealed.

For information on Vermont civil unions, consult the state-run website www.sec.state.vt.us/otherprg/civilunions/civilunions.html.

A number of hotels and inns in the region, ranging from small B&Bs to the larger resorts, welcome gay and lesbian travelers and their friends for civil unions, and a growing number of these inns are actually owned by gay or lesbian couples. Check online ads and advertisements in gay and lesbian community newspapers and magazines for more information.

Ogunquit, on the southern Maine coast, is a hugely popular destination among gay travelers and features a lively beach and bar scene in the summer. In winter, it's still active but mellower. One good place to learn more is from the website www.gayogunquit.com, with information on gay-owned inns, restaurants, and nightclubs in the town.

For a more detailed directory of gay-oriented enterprises in New England, including some coverage of northern New England, track down the Pink Pages, published by KP Media (tel. 617/423-1515; www.pinkweb.com), which also maintains a good website.

There are also plenty of nationwide resources to help plan gay travel. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) (tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/776-2626; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators.

Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Above and Beyond Tours (tel. 800/397-2681; www.abovebeyondtours.com) are Australian gay-tour specialists. San Francisco-based Now, Voyager (tel. 800/255-6951; www.nowvoyager.com) offers worldwide trips and cruises; and Olivia (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) offers lesbian cruises and resort vacations.

Gay.com Travel (tel. 800/929-2268 or 415/644-8044; www.gay.com/travel or www.outandabout.com) is an excellent online successor to the popular Out & About print magazine. It provides regularly updated information about gay-owned, gay-oriented, and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every important destination worldwide. British travelers should click on the "Travel" link at www.uk.gay.com for advice and gay-friendly trip ideas.

The Canadian website GayTraveler (gaytraveler.ca) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world.

The following travel guides are available at many bookstores, or you can order them from any online bookseller: Spartacus International Gay Guide, 35th Edition (Bruno Gmunder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide) and Odysseus: The International Gay Travel Planner, 17th Edition (the Damron guides; www.damron.com), offer separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.