Gay Cape Town: Equality on the sea

Cape Town is magical: Think San Diegos beaches, San Franciscos boho culture, New Orleans resilience--all in a unique African context thats both exotic and welcoming. Since 1994, when South Africa adopted its democratic constitution, equality has been the law of the land, partly in tribute to gay freedom fighters like Ivan Toms, Justice Edwin Cameron and Afrika Tatamkulu. You can marry your partner here--or hook up at a club in the Sea Point or Waterkant gayborhoods. There's also the Western Cape wineries to check out and, for the adventurous, extreme pastimes like bungee jumping or shark-cage diving.

The Southern Hemisphere seasons are reverse of the West, so keep that in mind when planning a trip to take in a great event such as the Mother City Queer Project, held every December. The best way to get there is to fly direct to Johannesburg, then catch a two-hour connecting flight to the Mother City. Check South African Airways website and affiliated travel agents like Torontos Lion World for best-value fares.

Partly because the vibe is casual, and partly because huge disparities remain between rich and poor, youll feel most comfortable if you dress down (at Toms funeral last year at Cape Towns Anglican cathedral, the casket bore a rainbow flag and only the pallbearers wore ties). So leave the fancy watch and glitzy brands at home. Bring your fat pants, though, because the food is great, and leave luggage room for local buys such as sexy Baie Nice briefs to show off at one of the three gay beaches and the ubiquitous street-vendor wares.

Restaurants to check out