Post updated: March 2021America still has nudist colonies, but alas, more and more people are getting creative, so it was time to update this post again!

As we were nearing the end of a five week nakation in Europe, I found myself asking the same question I do every year about this time as we prepare to return to our everyday lives in the eastern United States. Really? Aren’t there places we can replicate the European naturist experience at home? I keep reading that more Americans than ever are open to the idea of social nudity. But unless you get on The Big Nude Boat or travel abroad, where do you find this on American soil.

What naturism in America used to be. Huh!

Every time I bark up this tree, I draw the ire of those lovingly devoted to their local nudist clubs, who feel understandably irritated when I suggest that despite all the cultural barriers that make social nudity unfathomable to the average American in the first place, the movement is further hindered by the fact that we in the US make that initial experience with social nudity nearly insurmountable.

No doubt, my opinion on this matter is very much tainted from experiences that took place about twenty years ago, when our children were young and we were trying to replicate the family naturist experiences we had enjoyed in France. But now that our children are grown, and we are aging into the more typical demographic of American nudist places, I’m still baffled at the antiquated policies and traditions associated with the typical “nudist resort.”

Just WOW!

But let’s go back to those days when we were seeking out a family naturist destination. It went something like this…

  • In the first case, we had planned to visit a well known “nudist club” in the northeast. Having called a couple days in advance, we were given directions from a surly woman on the phone who gave us instructions to stop in a small town, with the directive to call from a designated gas station pay phone (cell phones weren’t common then), at which point, we’d be given the last set of directions to their gate. As we drove into the hills of western of New Jersey, the weather started to turn and a thunderstorm moved in. We never found the pay phone, the sky turned dark, and we ended going to a movie instead. Mission aborted. (Remember, we had cranky kids in the backseat of the car.
I’m guessing that naked beauty contest wouldn’t fly with most Millennials.
  • Shortly thereafter, we visited a club in the Mid-Atlantic region. They were a bit more forthcoming about their location, but once we had been given the tour of the grounds, we were briefed on their membership policy, which would require us to purchase an annual membership after the third visit. At around $500 a year in 1999 dollars, that was more than we could afford, especially with three young children, knowing that with a two hour drive in each direction, we would probably only visit two or three times a year at best. Strike Two!
  • We finally found a “nudist park” closer to home, and kindly enough, they would allow unlimited visits without a membership for something around $50 per day. Again, in 1999 dollars!) They had a couple pools, a snack bar, and a lot of folks with old travel trailers embedded into campsites that made something of a small village where pedestrians would give way to golf carts; the preferred mode of local transportation. On our second visit with kids, one of the older residents was being celebrated, or more accurately, roasted. It seems the night before, he’d had a bit too much to drink and ran his golf cart into a tree on the way back to his trailer! That was a tricky one to explain to our 10-year-old. We didn’t go back.

I wonder how many are still residents at Olive Dell Ranch?

When one compares this with oh so many places in France, Spain, and Croatia, where one can camp for about $10 a day, with all the amenities you would expect at a National Park campground in the US, it causes me to ask – how do Americans get beyond the concept of the “Nudist Colony.” (David Sedaris provides a vivid experience he had at a nudist colony – well worth the read, just for the laughs. And sadly accurate.)

By contrast, there are some valiant attempts out there to normalize all this for Millennials, most notably with activities organized by FYN (the Florida Young Naturists), with a concerted and focused effort to create events that seem relevant to the under 60 crowd, (Under 35, to be exact!) while not requiring a credit check and two months rent to gain admission. More recently, a couple from Brooklyn, Adam and Lea, created an organization called Just Naked, working fervently to normalize nudity by hosting “just naked events.” Or how about Liz and Blake with their podcast from Olive Dell Ranch called Our Naked Story? And in another recent initiative, Justin and Mandy have started a new website called Skinny Dippers as they’re working to establish the Global Naturist Alliance. Maybe that will turn a few heads in a new direction.

Those efforts notwithstanding, I had another wave of despair as a nudist club we’ve thought about visiting passed through my Twitter feed today. I clicked though, thinking maybe we could make a call on them before the weather turns. It looks welcoming enough online. Maybe that could be our naturist branch office not so far from home. But alas, it turns out things are even more restrictive than they were 20 years ago. A visit would require me to fill out an application form with personal information so they could conduct a complete background check before inviting us for an initial visit with an obligatory tour of the property where they can tell us how to behave in a nudist park. (We’ve been naturists for almost 30 years, but of course, they don’t know that.) I believe the first visit was free, but after that, it would be about $50 a visit. Their comparatively liberal policy would allow up to four visits in a season before being requiring us to “submit an application to the membership committee for consideration.” Really? After all that, we might get voted out? Wow.

Naturists of yore…

I really don’t fault the nudist clubs (Colonies? Resorts? What do we call them now?) for maintaining such strict policies. I’m sure the cost of maintaining these places is exorbitant, especially when the season is short and the capacity is limited. And indeed, Americans have a bizarre perspective regarding nudity. OK on cable TV. Expected in Netflix or HBO movies. And let’s face it… a trip to the Jersey shore is sure to be more revealing in a variety of ways than one would ever hope for, despite the excessive use of Lycra and nylon intended to hide those bulges, nips, and tucks.

The European alternative.

A final illustration to drive home my point. Some friends of ours – a group of five young women – recently visited a naturist resort in France. While there, they had lunch at the restaurant, used the pools, hung out on the beach with numerous naturist families, and even made the 30 minute naturist trek to the neighboring beach to find yet even more naked people enjoying the day in the sun and the sea – many of whom were in their own age demographic. The cost was about $8 per person for the day! I’ve tried to imagine how that might have played out had they tried to replicate that experience here in the States. What it might have cost, and whether they would have wanted to return once they had been.

Perhaps Just Naked, FYN, Skinny Dippers,or other “enlightened 20/30/40-somethings” will usher in a new era that reaches beyond the walls of the nudist colony. It seems our naked future depends on it!

35 thoughts

  1. As I have been reading some of the history of nudism in the US I think efforts to piggy back on the sexual revolution may have created a long lasting legacy of association which makes the broader acceptance of simple nudity more difficult to promote.

    1. This is a great article with beautiful photos. The social history of naturism could make the world a better, more respectful, more enjoyable, and more FUN planet if people accepted the reality of freedom from artificial barriers.

  2. Much the same in the UK where people cant get passed the stupid joke “Carry On” mentality !

  3. As long as ignorant writers use the term “colony,” probably not. Nudists and naturists have never lived in colonies. That’s a hater term coined by the 1930’s media to belittle, shame, and make fun of nudists. There are dozens of nude beaches, a tiny big of research shows that. Check for example, or You might be interested to learn that even promoting nudism in Arkansas, is illegal and can get you fined, or even jailed. Blame the christian baptist right.

    1. Hi Jim. Interesting. I don’t actually know the evolution of the term “colony” in terms of nudists, but certainly know that even those who practice nude recreation, the term remains very much in the vernacular of the average American – and therein lies the problem.

      And indeed, there are many excellent resources for people seeking clothing optional outlets, including the two you listed. I have found VivreNu in France and Naturist Corner in Britain to be among the very best, even in terms of giving information related to US destinations.

      Didn’t know about the rules governing the promotion of nudism in Arkansas, though I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve got to say, I would hold the religious right responsible for MANY of the countries “challenges” right now, not the least of which is quasi-puritan ideology that seems to have little or nothing to do with realities of the 21st century.

  4. I would like to try promoting nude events at locations that do not have permanent residents. Most nudist locations have well established social groups that by their nature exclude newcomers. This situation is the same at clothed campgrounds. A simple day gathering at an appropriate site would allow friends and newcomers to mix meet and have fun. Sort of a naked company picnic. Keep it simple and keep it inexpensive

  5. Oh, I see your rant (post) only now, after a year of turmoil, while you are probably already down under and relaxing again. Merry Christmas to you and you family anyway from Germany, wherever you are.

    I am trying to establish something similar as FYN and YNA, starting with an event similar to the international naturist sports week. Who are the friendly people I should I best get in touch with to get some of their good advice on organizational and promotional matters? Best, M.

    1. I would start with Felicity Jones and Jordan Blum with YNA. You can find their contact info on the YNA website, and they’ve always been very attentive to responding to me. Great people. Great organization. Good luck!

  6. “despite all the cultural barriers that make social nudity unfathomable to the average American in the first place, the movement is further hindered by the fact that we make that first naturist venture nearly insurmountable.”

    A very shrewd observation. My “local” (two hour drive) nudist camp of choice is a lot like the one you described with the golf carts. I happen to like it, but I reached a conclusion a few summers ago – as much as I like spending weekends there, there are so many other resort destinations I’m missing out on just because I prefer to vacation au naturale. I definitely support more options – what you’ve described of Europe sounds delightful. But I’m firmly in the camp of advocating for a more liberal nudism, that’s not owned by resorts, but can be practiced in homes and gardens and state/national parks the country over without fear or threat of police sanction. It’s not something that will come easily, but I want it badly enough to work for it.

  7. Naturism is truly healthy for us all. Nudity starts at home with our families. Nude yoga, meditation in the nude, vacuuming rooms in the nude, doing simple house chores in the nude are all good activities that parents and children can share together. We learn what is necessary to protect our bodies especially when cooking. A cooking apron is necessary and can be removed when the meal preparations are completed.

  8. Yes, American nudist clubs are restrictive, perhaps overly so for most, but as your article pointed out, mostly for good reasons. I took my kids to nudist clubs when they were little (their mother didn’t mind my taking them, but she refused to go) and was at peace doing so knowing those clubs ran thorough background checks that severely lessened the chances of them being preyed on by pedophiles. Still, those same restrictions prevented me from joining these clubs, since I was a married man whose wife was not visiting with him. In order for me to join she would have to join and accompany me. I have long yearned to start a club in my area simply so I could follow less restrictive policies and charge less, but alas I lack the funding, as kids always have an emergency I help financially with, or a wedding that drains my bank account. Still, my greatest desire is simply to see laws changed so that simple, nonsexual nudity is legalized in public. Then I can live my life nude, as I choose, anywhere and everywhere without being arrested for it.
    #bodyfreedom #nudeisnotlewd #nudepride #bodypositivity

    1. Thanks for your comments Jake. Actually, I don’t know what I find more distressing about the situation: the necessity for extensive background checks, or the restrictive environment this has led to in places where those must be enforced. But in either case, I would say it’s become a huge liability for the naturist cause. The last time we visited a nudist club in the US, the entrance process was almost as complicated as signing a mortgage. I get it, simply for the need to avoid potential litigation, but it’s a sad sign of the times, all the same.

    1. Wow! Nudist ghetto. I must definitely cringe every time I see the words “nudist colony” used in the mainstream press, which is more often than not the case. Funny how that connotation has changed since we were the “British colonies in North America.” We think of them an pioneers and explorers, but when it comes to naked people, (as you point out) we’re equivocated with lepers. The nomenclature most certainly does NOT help the cause.

  9. My experiences have been similar. The nudist colony industry in the US is their own worst enemy, and generally not good for nudism.

    AANR publishes a list of Nudist Rights. Their #3 affirms a right to be naked on Private Property or in your own home. The concept of a universal human right to be naked is not what the resort owners who run AANR are willing to broach. Some young people are doing more to push nudity in public but the nude industry in America is opposed to public nudity. Naked people will have to change that.

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  12. Your difficulty finding the nudist colonies reminded me of my own experience when my children were young. One nudist place in South Carolina had to come and interview us at the gas station/phone before we were told the directions — and being mid-week we were the only people there and never saw the manager again. Another had a locked gate. We had to leave our car at the gate and walk about 1/4 mile to their compound and then find someone who could give us the lock combination. Hello? Are they afraid to be seen naked?

    A few years later my wife divorced me and I became the “dreaded single male.” OMG! I had been the President of an AANR travel club, and now I was not welcome at many nudist places.

    Besides their difficulty to find, their locked gates, their restrictive policies, their lack of amenities or other human interaction, and their high prices, the American nudist organizations have a very negative policy about promoting general nudity. AANR and its member clubs/colonies promote only nude in “appropriate” places, meaning their expensive pay-for-play colonies. That is a sharp contrast with British Naturism (BN) that has crusaded for nude freedom throughout the UK. I have given up on them and become a Free Range nudist. I go naked on public lands and trails, drive naked, garden naked, and get seen naked by strangers often. American nudist organizations badly need to get off their century old “high fence” attitude and go public.

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