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.
The park 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 is $8, but if you just want a chance to spot manatees, 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 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.
The 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.
The park 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 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.
More things to do near Fort Myers Beach area:
- Koreshan State Historic Site: Wacky Florida history; lovely spot preserved
- Fort Myers Beach is a charming seaside getaway
- Clam Pass Park, a Naples beach where you ride the tide
- Kayaking Imperial River in Bonita Springs
- Kayak Sanibel and Captiva
- What makes Sanibel so special
- Bicycling Sanibel Island