Beaches / Birding / Kayak & Canoe / Southwest Florida

Lovers Key State Park: Great beach, kayaking and manatees in winter

Lovers Key beach near Fort Myers Beach is full of shells, birds and beauty

Lovers Key State Park birds

The beach at Lovers Key is a magnet for birds.

Lovers Key State Park kayakers

Kayaks and manatees are both drawn to the waterways at Lovers Key

Lovers Key State Park bridge

One visitors described manatees that seemed to play tag under this bridge at Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key osprey nest

An osprey and its nest along the Lovers Key beach

~The best known destinations in southwest Florida are two popular islands — Sanibel and Captiva.  But there are many other wild and natural spots to discover including the very lovable Lovers Key.

Lovers Key State Park is worth exploring for two major draws: A 2.5 mile beach lined with natural vegetation that is perfect for beachcombing and bird watching, and mangrove-lined waterways that are major draws for both manatees and kayakers.

Lovers Key is on the barrier island immediately south of charming Fort Myers Beach.  Like its surroundings, the land that is Lovers Key was destined for development. Canals were dredged and mangroves uprooted, but the state acquired the land in 1983 and today you’d never guess the landscape has been altered.

Admission to Lovers Key State Park is $8, but if you just want a chance to spot manatees in winter, here’s a good tip. The manatees love to congregate in front of a viewing deck right inside the park entrance — and before you have to pay admission.  So you are welcome to pull in and check whether any manatees are hanging out. On our winter visit, we spotted two, but a chatty British couple gazing into the water told how they have come every day of their vacation and on some days had seen eight manatees in this spot.

Lovers Key beach has that hard-parked white powder sand that makes Gulf beaches so different from Atlantic ones. Shells are numerous and the bird life is extensive, including two bald eagle nests.  Osprey nest in trees directly next to the beach, and we saw so many osprey we lost count.

Lovers Key also has two trails, each just over two miles, that are good for hiking or biking (on fat tires.)  The trails are nothing special; we preferred the walk on the long, barely populated beach. That beach, by the way, is a most popular place for weddings, including in an attractive gazebo.

Lovers Key State Park is a stop along the Calusa Blueway and a good place to start your paddle to Mound Key State Archaeology Site, an island reachable only by boat built by Calusa indians starting 2,000 years ago.

One of the key advantages of Lovers Key State Park is a concessionaire who offers a wide range of rentals– standup paddleboards, kayaks, paddle boats, even bikes. The company, Lovers Key Adventures and Events, also sells bait, ice cream and runs a variety of kayak tours, including to Mound Key. (If you rent one these items or take a tour, the company gives you a credit for your $8 entry fee.)

Here’s more information about Lovers Key State Park:

Mound Key State Archaeology Site
Lovers Key State Park official site
Friends of Lovers Key
Boat rents and other services at Lovers Key


More things to do near Fort Myers Beach area:

Lovers Key State Park driftwood

Bleached tree roots along Lovers Key beach

Lovers Key great blue heron

Great blue heron poses at Lovers Key.

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