Extant theory suggests that the existence of gay space is an important (or even critical) element of gay people's holidays. However, more knowledge on the roles that gay spaces play during the holidays is needed. Drawing on interviews with 53 gay tourists, this paper suggests that the roles gay spaces play differ across gay tourists. Some interviewees enact gay spaces as ‘sanctuaries’, at which one can feel free and openly show one's sexuality. Others feel that gay spaces resemble ‘zoos’, i.e. tourist attractions at which straights gaze upon gays. Finally, some tourists find that gay spaces are too male oriented or even men's turfs. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.