Lovers Key State Park
Lovers Key State Park is a place away from time. White sand beaches, playful dolphins, and an island that used to be accessible only by boat. While now you can get to the park by car, Lovers Key is still a piece of old Florida, preserved.
Lovers Key State Park is actually made up of four islands: Black Island, Lovers Key, Inner Key and Long Key. It covers 712 acres and includes canals, beaches and tidal lagoons fringed with mangroves.
Let's take a look at the park itself.
Stuck in the Middle With You
Lovers Key State Park is located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico. To the immediate north is Ft. Meyers Beach, to the south Bonita Beach. Both beach cities are quite built up these days, although not quite rivaling the condos of the Florida Southeast coast. This means that Lovers Key is a welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle of life.
Lovers Key is named because they say lovers used to go to the island when they wanted seclusion from the rest of the world.
Come on over - relax and enjoy natural Florida!
Be on the Lookout For...
Dolphins and manatees are sometimes spotted in the waters around the island. Manatees tend to be seen more often in the winter months, when they move into shallower water for warmth.
Two birds that are worth seeing are bald eagles and roseate spoonbills. Oh, and you are likely to see ospreys near the waters -- they are fun to watch fishing for their dinner.
What Is There To Do at Lover's Key State Park?
So what else is there to do at Lovers Key State Park, aside from animal/bird watching? How about:
Don't Walk (or Bike) Away!
There are roughly eight miles of trails in the park, although only one 2.8 mile trail is really named.
In total, there are roughly 8 miles of trails on Black Island. If you would prefer to ride the trails, bicycles can be rented from the park concession. Call (239) 314-0110 for information about availability and rates. Naturally, you are also welcome to bring your own bicycle.
Swim the Gulf
The Gulf of Mexico is one the west side of the island, while Estero Bay is on the east. Swimming is best in the west, in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico (and besides, that's where the beaches are). The Gulf is usually pretty calm, which makes for great swimming. While in theory you can swim in Estero Bay, you'd probably have to take a boat to get to a swimming hole. Your very best bet is the 2.5 miles of sand beach on the west side of the island.
A word of caution -- there is absolutely no swimming in the canals. Trust me, the water is much better in the Gulf. The canal water contains runoff from residential and/or commercial areas and alligators tend to think the canals are theirs.
She Sells Sea Shells
Shelling is great in Lovers Key State Park, along the Gulf beaches. And especially with all the recent storms out in the Gulf of Mexico, there are more shells than usual. Please remember that the taking of live shells is prohibited. Hey, we have to leave some for the next generation of shellers!
Ride the Waters
There are plenty of canoeing and kayaking available at Lovers State Park. You can bring your own or else rent one from the park concession.
If you have a motor boat with you, there is a boat ramp on the Estero Bay side of the island. Please be aware that the draft is pretty shallow all over. There is no marina.
Fishing is fine in Lovers Key. The best fishing is in Estero Bay, where you can find sea trout, snook, redfish, and tarpon. If you have a cast net, there are some mullet just waiting for you. I don't ever think I've been to Southwest Florida when I haven't seen loads of mullet jumping.
You will very likely need a Florida saltwater fishing license. Click for current rules and regulations for saltwater limits.
There are two basic tours offered by the park concession. The most popular is the sunset eco-tour aboard the Nautilus II. These depart on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.
The other tour of note is the Sunday morning Dolphin Cruise and Shelling Excursion. Get up early, it leaves at 8:15 AM.
Reservations are recommended, especially in season (roughly November through April). Call the park concession at (239) 314-0110.
Picnics (What Did You Bring Me to Eat?)
There are plenty of areas for picnicking in Lovers Key State Park. Tables are available throughout the park, as are some grills. Bathrooms and water are available, and there is also a park concession with drinks, food and (my favorite) ice cream.
However, I do suggest that you bring your own food and drinks. You may end up picnicking away from the concession and it would be a real pain to carry the food and drinks all over without spilling them (I hate it when that happens). If you are just passing through, though, the concession may be just what you are looking for.
There is a pavilion available for rent. Contact the park concession at (239) 314-0110 for reservations.
A Notice About Water, Weather and Insects
As always when in natural Florida, be aware of the strong sun, plentiful insects and possible rainshowers. Make sure to bring sunblock, sunglasses and at least have some insect repellent available. You may not need the insect repellant, but better to have it and not need it than to have your day ruined.
One thing that I keep forgetting is some sort of sunblock for your lips. Nothing worse than chapped lips at the end of the day (except maybe a bad sunburn).
Personally, I'd also bring a hat of some sort -- for one, it helps keep the sun off your face. Two, it helps to keep your scalp from getting sunburned. I can't count the times I've been burnt along the part in my hair!
Time and Place
Lovers Key State Park is open year-round from 8 AM to sunset. The entrance and other fees are as follows:
Lovers Key State Park's address is 8700 Estero Blvd., Ft. Myers Beach, Florida 33931 Their phone number is (239) 463-4588.
To get to the park, take exit 116 off I-75 and Lovers Key is 10.5 miles west. If you are coming north or south along the coast, State Road 865 runs through the park.
Lovers Key State Park is located in Southwest Florida. The closest cities are Ft. Meyers and Bonita Beach, and the closest airport is Ft. Meyers.Florida Parks page
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